Workplace Diversity

While diversity is often viewed in relation only to race, ethnic and gender differences, in the case of the workplace, diversity can cover all aspects in which people are different, including age, gender, ethnicity, language, cultural background, religious belief, sexual orientation and family responsibilities, as well as educational level, work and life experience, personality and marital status.

As a result of globalization, nations have become a mixture of different cultures, religions and languages. The diversification of communities has inevitably affected the workplace and has posed challenges to managers and leaders. It is important for organizations to capitalize on diversity. The successful management of diversity represents an important competitive advantage. Businesses which want to secure a strong competitive position on the market need to take advantage of the opportunities offered by diversity.

Among the opportunities arising from workforce diversity is the utilization of a pool of different ideas created by the various backgrounds and perspectives of employees. By combining the various approaches and points of view, managers can tap this new source of innovation and put it into practice. A diverse workplace also supplies organizations with a wider range of solutions to all kinds of problems. The variety of individual talents and experiences in a diverse workplace provides managers with more flexible ideas, which can help the business adapt to changing markets and consumer demands.

The variety of viewpoints offered by different employees can prove to be a valuable source of ideas for new products and services. A wider range of products and services, in turn, will allow businesses to meet the needs of various customers and do this more effectively, while also meeting their own strategy needs. A workplace that reflects the diversity in society will provide the employer with better understanding of its clients and allow it to offer more adequate services. Moreover, a pool of talents and skills created thanks to workplace diversity will make it possible to reach consumers in more markets around the world and help the business on its way to globalization.

By integrating diversity at all levels and in all organizational processes, businesses can create a balanced and productive workplace, which will help them in attracting and retaining talented and skilled employees. Better hiring practices will in turn lead to savings in recruitment as well as training costs, while also allowing organizations to maintain knowledge and expertise. Among the challenges presented to the owners and managers of diverse workplaces is the need to make sure different employees are able communicate and fully understand each other, to make teamwork possible and avoid confusion. This can be very difficult in multilingual and multicultural environments in particular.

Organizations also need to makes sure they have the right management team and strategy in place. Leaders and managers will need to ensure that diversity policies are effective and they will be responsible for their success. Diversity also needs to be visible in leadership positions.

Organizations can conduct a survey of their employees, which will help them in determining challenges and potential obstacles to diversity. Knowing what kind of hurdles to expect will help business leaders adjust their strategy and create the right diversity policy for their workplace. In addition, after introducing some changes and taking certain steps towards diversity, businesses can reassess their strategy and determine the success of the implementation of diversity into their workplace plan.

Workplace Diversity: Selected full-text books and articles

Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy
Cynthia Estlund.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Managing Diversity--The Courage to Lead
Elsie Y. Cross.
Quorum Books, 2000
Language Diversity in the Workplace
Rodríguez, Cristina M.
Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, Summer 2006
Diversity and Discrimination: A Look at Complex Bias
Kotkin, Minna J.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 5, April 2009
Spirituality, Inc: Religion in the American Workplace
Lake Lambert III.
New York University Press, 2009
The Influence of Organizational Diversity Orientation and Leader Attitude on Diversity Activities
Buttner, E. Holly; Lowe, Kevin B.; Billings-Harris, Lenora.
Journal of Managerial Issues, Vol. 18, No. 3, Fall 2006
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Managing Diversity in Public Sector Workforces
Norma M. Riccucci.
Westview Press, 2002
Gender, Diversity, and Trade Unions: International Perspectives
Fiona Colgan; Sue Ledwith.
Routledge, 2002
Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations
Marilyn J. Davidson; Sandra L. Fielden.
Wiley, 2003
Discrimination at Work: The Psychological and Organizational Bases
Robert L. Dipboye; Adrienne Colella.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Achieving Diversity and Reducing Discrimination in the Workplace through Human Resource Management Practices: Implications of Research and Theory for Staffing, Training, and Rewarding Performance"
Building on the Promise of Diversity: How We Can Move to the Next Level in Our Workplaces, Our Communities, and Our Society
R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr.
AMACOM, 2006
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