The climate ahead signals change for all businesses regardless of their size. It is one under pressure by the constantly shifting economic trends, human demographics and markets. The end result is expected to shake even the smallest of the business unit and threaten the existence of many. Businesses must change their business operational systems and focus on diversity for survival in this competitive environment.
This is because 2008 figures state that “women and minorities represent 70% of the new labor force and 2010 34% of the US workforce will be non Caucasian” (Heathfield, 2009). In addition to this, Heathfield (2009) illustrates that “In the next decade, it is estimated that 75% of new workers will most likely be from Asia and the US and Europe combined will provide only 3% of the world’s new labor force”. These statistical figures are not petty issues of ethnicity and race but represent the demographic structure of the business world today that is envisaged to revolutionize spending patterns and markets.
Our business community and culture has for decades embraced the fact that good business should conform to standard ethics in business management (Esty, Griffin, and Hirsch, 1995; Beale and Cox, 1997). Appreciating diversity in organizations demand that each individual form a bigger part of the business entity yet they must work together knowing that their objectives and goals are far greater than their differences. It is a major component of business life and forms the very foundation of business stability. Our role in this chain is to facilitate and accelerate the rate at which diversity happen within our businesses.
Diversity defined, explained and its role expounded
The successful design, development and implementation of management decisions in regard to managing diversity in their workplaces are very complex and at times daunting tasks for many managers. Usually, managers will be faced with daily diversity problems that require the application of tools that will ensure for the successful operations irrespective of the sectors they manage such as the identification of the objectives of the organization, alternative means of achieving the stated objectives and the selection of the means that accomplish the objectives in the most efficient manner.
According to Greenberg (2005), “Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization that encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more”. Diversity opens the only way through which businesses are going to survive in these tough economic times. The reality of equality at the workplace regardless of sex has been a major issue in many business organizations the world over. Issues of race and disability and equality at the workplace are not ideas being prompted by philanthropists but surface up as a result of demographic and economic realities.
This is because the current existing business models have no structures that adequately address workplace diversity. The fact on the ground is that minorities account for trillions of dollars worth of the economy (Sonneschein, 1999). Their spending power is expected to double in the next few years and move higher above the traditional consumers. Businesses are realizing the reality that in order to survive, compete and expand, it must make inroads into these neglected traditionally markets. Doing so defines diversity.
Challenges of diversity
The common challenge that arises from diversity is that different people within an organization have different backgrounds (Konrad, Prasad and Pringle, 2006; Jackson, 1993). Something that can be considered as normal by a group of employees with a similar background may be considered totally abnormal by a different group and this issue is normally poignant when one group forms the majority. “Prejudice is a preconceived judgment about an individual or group of people” (Certo, 2008). Minority groups within the workplace always find themselves isolated due the majority domineering lifestyles. The best model that can be used for the analysis of workplace diversity is the use of communication. Organizations that have fully embraced the concept of diversity differentiate themselves from the rest by the levels of communication. “If you’re not as caring toward others as you could be, you need to get the focus off yourself because communication is the key to bridging the gaps between different lifestyles” (Certo, 2008).
In the appreciation that challenges in managing diversity arise from the fact that employees come from different backgrounds, the biggest threat to achieving best results in the management of diversity constitutes the problem of communication, resistance to change and the challenge of the implementation of diversity in the workplace policies.
An organization must institute management techniques that have the capacity to overcome cultural and language barriers that constitute the major bottlenecks to effective communication. Ineffective communication results to a state of confusion, lack of employee motivation, lack of employee commitment and the low morale (Albreicht (2001). A workforce that comprises of individuals from different backgrounds must coexist in an atmosphere that enhances both respect and understanding. The culture of communication within an organization remains the central factor in determining the levels of workplace diversity management. To effectively manage communication, Greenberg (2005) illustrates that “Perceptual, cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programs to succeed.”
Resistance to change
Human beings have always had the tendency to resist change more so when it touches on the culture and the way things are done. In the organizational context and diversity management, a section the employees will definitely resist change and refuse to quickly adapt to the social and cultural make up their changing workplaces. “This is because of the mentality of we have always done it this way and this has the capacity to silence new ideas and inhibit progress on the achievement of diversity” (Greenberg, 2005).
Implementation of diversity in the workplace policies
According to Greenberg (2005), “This can be the overriding challenge to all diversity advocates and armed with the results of employee assessments and research data, they must build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of diversity in the workplace for their particular organization.” This is because the implementation of diversity in the workplace policies has the capacity to influence the culture of organizational management.
This challenge is more profound when the implementation of diversity within the workplace touches on the changes that revolve around the roles and responsibilities of managers. To effectively implement diversity in the workplace, Greenberg (2005) illustrates that “Armed with the results of employee assessments and research data, they must build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of diversity in the workplace for their particular organization.”
The role of managers in managing diversity
The globalization of the economy means that managers are faced with the challenge of meeting the demands of the workforce (Stockdale and Crosby, 2004). Managers play the most critical role in managing organization’s diversity. It is imperative that managers must have the ability to successfully manage diversity in the workplace, carry out an assessment of diversity within the workplace and lead in the development of the diversity workplace plan.
In fact diversity training alone cannot guarantee the successful implementation of diversity within an organization’s policy. This fact is well buttressed by Greenberg (2005) in explicitly stating that “Diversity training alone is not sufficient for your organization’s diversity management plan and the strategy must be created and implemented to create a culture of diversity that permeates every department and function of the organization.”
A Critical Evaluation & Comparative Analysis
In the analysis of the responses retrieved from the interview, the first process in the decision-making process will entail the identification of the problem within the workplace in regard to achieving better management practices. Furthermore, the responses revealed that successful identification of a problem that has a capacity to create conflict within the workplace will encapsulate trying to delineate answers to questions such as what could be the causes of the problem within an organization, “where this is happening, how it is happening, when it is happening, with whom it is happening, and why it is happening” (McNamara, 2008).
In essence, this should be followed by an “in-depth analysis of the delineation of the complexity of the problem, verification of the understanding of the problem; prioritization and understanding the role to be played towards the redress of the problem” (Dennis, 2007).
The next step in the decision making as revealed by the interview responses should then assess the potential causes of a problem within the workplace setting.. In some instances, it may be important to get the opinions of other parties to the problem such as the supervisors, clients, top management among others, so that a clear understanding of the precursors to the problem are identified and analyzed. This should be followed by “the development of a clear problem description that essentially answers the problem causes in terms of what is happening, where this is happening, when, how, with whom and why” (Kerzner, 2006).
The next important step in the decision making process that ensures smooth organizational running addresses the identification of the alternative approaches to resolving the problem. This process should ideally be inclusive of the major parties to the problem and will involve holding a brainstorming session where the possible solutions to the problem are all presented and analyzed. Armstrong (2008) has advised against passing judgment on the possible solutions as presented at this stage in order that all possible solutions are presented.
The selection of the best alternative to resolving the problem is the next stage and is essentially where the possible solutions advanced are analyzed and dissected in details. In the selection of the best alternative, “one should consider the approach that is likely to resolve the problem in the long run, the most realistic solutions, the resources available, time and the risks associated with each alternative” (McNamara, 2008). This should be followed by the development of an implementation plan of the approach that has been identified as the best alternative. The fifth stage entails planning the implementation of the best action plan.
This involves assessing how the situation will be once the problem has been solved. Essentially, this will entail a careful consideration of the best way to implement the new policies and procedures, what resources are desirable in terms of people, facilities and finances, time, who will drive the process, and the person in who will be responsible for the success of the plan. It is imperative that the action plan is communicated to all the stakeholders who will be affected by the new changes that will undoubtedly arise.
The next effective process in the decision making process as per the records retrieved from the responses will be concerned with the monitoring of the action plans that have been put in place. Here, the development of the success indicators should be delineated which should entail what are the results expected as seen from the indicators, whether the time budgets have been met, and the alternatives to resolving issues arising in the implementation processes.
The final stage will be the verification of whether the problem has been resolved or not. In this regard, an assessment of whether the envisaged objectives have been met as earlier planned should be conducted. It is imperative that mechanisms of alleviating future occurrences are also put in place. Finally, “an assessment of what has been learned from the above experiences are done involving evaluating the success levels in addressing the challenges faced, new knowledge, skills and attributes” (Armstrong, 2008).
In conclusion, it can be noted that effective management and decision making is a multi-faceted issue and difficulties abide in the identification and management of all potential difficulties and the ramifications that are associated with the successful redress of problems. Organizations attempting to find and understand decision making difficulties and may not find the issues presented here in the interview responses as all-inclusive as there is a whole cocktail of issues that must be paid cognizance for efficient decision making in regard to people management.
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