Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Diversity Management Practices in Select Firms in India: A Critical Analysis

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Diversity Management Practices in Select Firms in India: A Critical Analysis

Article excerpt

Diversity Management: What & Why

Diversity and inclusion are being increasingly recognised as strategic components of business, and the need to deal with these issues in an appropriate manner is being felt widely around the world. The thinking is driven by the assumption that a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture makes organizations "more innovative, agile, and attuned to the need of the customers" (Cox & Blake, 1991). It is usually believed that a heterogeneous workforce is a rich seedbed for ideas (Johansson, 2005).The need for diversity is also being driven by factors such as "talent non-availability, changing demographics, customer expectation, globalization of business, sustainability and an imperative for innovation' (NASSCOM, 2011) which stem from the dynamics of the changing business environment around the world.

One of the largest under-represented groups that organizations have tapped in recent years has been women. However, the approach underwent a change in the light of increasing talent complexity. Rather than focusing on women alone, today, organizations are aiming at taking optimum advantage of the complete talent pool available to them which includes people from multiple generations, PwDs (people with disability) and smaller groups of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) (Saikia, 2012). Business leaders are now emphasizing on diversity and aiming at boosting organizational effectiveness through a diverse workforce (Thomas & Ely, 1996). They are seeking to build a diversity-sensitive workforce which would be comfortable with diversity tensions. It is being increasingly felt that it is not just enough for leaders to possess these capabilities themselves; they must also develop them throughout the organization (Goldsmith, 2010) and thus they are encouraging their employees to understand each other and be sensitive towards each other's needs and capabilities. The ability of a diverse group of people to build strength and unity through their diversity is the power that propels organizations towards new dimensions of performance.

However, the challenge of managing diversity is immense. Employees do not usually set aside their cultural values, lifestyle preferences and differences when they come to work. The real challenge, therefore, is to make employees develop an accommodative attitude to wards people from different backgrounds by addressing their diverse lifestyles, needs, aspirations, interests, capabilities and work styles (Robins et al, 2009). There is also an additional issue of impact of diversity on human resource management practices, which have to accommodate all demographic and social factors. The issue of cross cultural communication is important too while dealing with diversity.

Diversity Management Practices of Indian Organizations

Cultural diversity is the hallmark of Indian society and very few countries in the world are as diverse as India. At the governmental level, there have been affirmative efforts (in the shape of caste and region based reservations) right since independence to strike a balance in terms of different castes and communities in the governmental workforce. This had often led to accusations of trumping merit in the name of balanced social development. Therefore, in the private business houses there has been a conventional distaste for ensuring diversity through affirmative action. Diversity initiatives within the private organizations thus largely imitate global practices to ensure a diverse workforce.

Business houses in India turned their attention towards diversity management initiatives only during the last decade. Various organizations have now started linking 'diversity' with their strategic objectives. Especially, the issue of gender diversity, which is narrowly defined as more women participating in the workforce, has been a new trend with organizations going overseas and looking for global reach. …

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