What Differences Make a Difference?


Workplace place diversity is a subject which has gained prominence over the years. This has been orchestrated by dramatic changes which have taken place with time owing to different approaches which have been embraced with regard to the right approach to be taken in this light (Mannix & Neale 2005). Since that time, workforce diversity has increased starting with the United States of America and then flowing to the entire world. Essentially, organizations have opted to embrace this diversity owing to the benefits which have been associated with diversity (McCuiston, Wooldrige & Pierce 2004).

The focus on diversity is important because of the benefits diversity brings to the workplace. Current approaches focus of the benefits brings to the workplace. Current approaches focus on diversity not as something we have to manage, but as a key element of the “Global War for Talent” (Mannix & Neale 2005).

Types of diversity

The benefits of diversity are achieved by acknowledging the strengths diversity can bring to organizations. Research shows that organizational creativity and innovation is enhanced by heterogeneity. This organization shall be hosting an international event which shall bring people cross across all cultures across the globe (Sartorius, Merino & Carmichael 2011). Thus it is important to ensure that majority of the expectations are met in one degree or the other. Based on this, we end up asking ourselves, when you need to understand something you have never encountered before, such as another culture or an emerging market, would you turn to people who are the same as you or would you want to access to co – workers familiar with those cultures? These examples show the benefits available when people bring different worldviews, cultural background, and personal experiences to the workplace. Essentially, there are several types of diversity. These include:

Race and ethnicity: such heterogeneous perspectives can be gained from multicultural workforces with a rich mix of racial and ethnic diversity. This is because, as racial diversity is increasing in the workplace, attitudes towards diversity are changing as well. Essentially, the younger generations are infusing the workplace with an appreciation for differences (Shen et al. 2009). Young people want to join a diverse workforce because they feel can learn from those different backgrounds. This cannot be ignored especially when organizing for international events which bring to the fore the differences which the world has at one point.

Gender: women are also brining a different set of skills and styles to the workplace. Given their unique experiences in organizations, women learn to do more with less, are resourceful, and bring an interpersonal style conducive to teamwork and innovation. This style includes listening skills, collaborative approaches to problem solving, and ability to multitask and synthesize a number of viewpoints effectively and quickly.

Age: generational mix within an organization provides an excellent example of diversity in action. For example, one thing that the young people can bring to the workplace is their appreciation for gender equality and sexual, cultural and racial diversity. This kind of diversity helps to create a harmonized approach towards organization and planning of international events.

Disability: this is an issue which cannot be debated upon. This is especially so because the event at hand is aimed at providing the people with disabilities the opportunity to showcase what they are capable of achieving (Konrad, Pushkala & Judith 2006). Thus, it is important to also have them take an active role in the planning and organizing of the event. This will bring to the fore some of the issue which might be affecting them to the table for deliberation. Eventually, this will ensure that the task set is achieved to the maximum. Work force diversity and individual outcomes

Today, there are many individuals who view that overt prejudice against women and minorities as socially and organizationally unacceptable. They believe that organizational decision – makers hold the same beliefs and therefore view discrimination as an outdated issue. This is because ‘modern racists’ believe that discrimination is a thing of the past, they may believe that women and minorities are using unfair tactics to demand for workplace advantages (Konrad, Pushkala & Judith 2006). Regarding the workplace relations, modern racism does not result in hate towards minorities and women, but rather discomfort, fear and avoidance by majority members, which lessens majority members’ commitment to the diverse group and organization. Some studies show that individuals have more favourable attitudes towards diversity when their work groups are more demographically diverse. Kossek and Zonia (1993) found that regardless of one’ individual demography, faculty workgroups with gender diversity had more favourable attitudes toward organizational efforts to increase diversity, relative to individuals in other units with less diversity (Konrad, Pushkala & Judith 2006).

Consistent findings showed higher demographic similarity between superiors and subordinates on age, race or gender correlates with HR outcomes such as higher ratings on performance, organizational citizenship, and lower role ambiguity and conflict. Overall, increasing workforce diversity seems to be associated with more favourable attitudes toward diversity and better performance ratings and wages. The effects of diversity on individuals are often intertwined with effects on groups.

Workforce Diversity and Group Outcomes

Results from studies examining effects of diverse group attitudes and performance are mixed. This has been orchestrated by the fact that more diverse groups had better quality solutions on a brainstorming task, relative to homogenous groups, and displayed more cooperative behaviour.

Workforce Diversity and organizational outcomes

A workforce that is diverse may increase customer demand for related products and services. Resource based strategic theory predicts that firms with greater cultural diversity will be better able to mirror increasingly diverse product markets and have more complex inimitable social resources. Catalyst conducted a study linkage between the gender and diversity of top management and business performance in Fortune 500 companies. After controlling for size and industry, the study showed that firms with higher top management gender diversity had 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders than other firms (Konrad, Pushkala & Judith 2006).

HRM strategies to change individuals

Workplace diversity generally impacts organizational – level outcomes indirectly through effects that begin at the individual level. Diverse training is the most prevalent individual – level intervention. In essence, training programs aimed at changing employees’ attitudes (affective and cognitive) and behaviours to ‘value diversity’ and reduce subtle relationships (McCuiston, Wooldrige & Pierce 2004). There are three main types of training objectives. Programs fostering assimilation provide education about the norms and goals of the dominant culture and might target minorities. Programs focused on accommodation emphasize adjustment of the majority to the changing workforce. Programs emphasizing multiculturalism (where members of two or more cultures are allowed to retain key aspects of their cultures) involve a bilateral process jointly focused on the majority and minorities. Training topics should include stereotyping, prejudice, communication styles and attitudes towards diversity (Konrad, Pushkala & Judith 2006).


Creating a positive climate of diversity in which people listen to each other’s perspectives, understand cultural differences, and work to accomplish team goals may be one of the most important aspects of leadership in a rapidly changing society. To remain competitive, organizations and companies must train the employees to work with diverse people and to understand uniqueness’s within people. Training has an important role in ensuring that educational opportunities exist for leaders and staff to explore the many aspects of workforce diversity and its impact on output and effectiveness. Although training may take different forms, the end result needs to foster understanding, acceptance, and receptivity to others and to varying points of view. Consequently, demographic diversity and knowledge and skill diversity will foster individual creativity by brining dissimilar ideas and perspectives to individual employees. Creative ideas will be formed when the employees exposed to dissimilar ideas of their colleagues attempt t integrate them into novel and worthwhile ideas.


List Konrad, A, Pushkala, P & Judith, P 2006, Handbook of workplace diversity, illustrated edn, SAGE. Mannix, E & Neale, MA 2005, ‘What Differences Make a Difference? The Promise and Reality of Diverse Teams in Organizations’, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol 2, no. 6, pp. 31-55.

McCuiston, VE, Wooldrige, BR & Pierce, CK 2004, ‘ Leading the diverse workforce. Profit, prospects and progress’, The Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol 25, no. 1, pp. 73-92.

Sartorius, K, Merino, A & Carmichael, T 2011, ‘Human resource management and cultural diversity: a case study in Mozambique ‘, International journal of human resource management, vol 22, no. 9, pp. 1963-1985.

Shen, J, Chanda, A, D’Netto, B & Monga, M 2009, ‘Managing diversity through human resource management: an international perspective and conceptual framework’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol 2, no. 20, p. 235–251.

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