Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Diversity Management : Time for A New Approach

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Diversity Management : Time for A New Approach

Article excerpt

There are now more new faces and diversity among the workforce than ever before and this trend is expected to continue into the 21st century. Managers in public and private organizations are searching for and experimenting with various approaches to more effectively deal with increasing workforce diversity. This article briefly reviews the history of diversity management and calls for a new agenda that encourages more collaboration between scholars and administrators, increased researcher on-site observation of workplace reactions to diversity management initiatives, more informative and rigorous case studies, and more third-party evaluations of diversity management initiatives.

The concept of diversity management has become deeply rooted in the federal government and has received bipartisan support from both major political parties. Broadly defined, the term diversity management refers to the systematic and planned commitment by organizations to recruit, retain, reward, and promote a heterogeneous mix of employees. Theories and techniques of diversity management have been developed and enthusiastically supported by a growing number of chief executive officers, training specialists, diversity consultants, and academics. The 1998 summer issue of Public Personnel Management presented a diversity symposium that included theories, case studies, and examples of diversity management that supports the vision that if managed well, diversity can help improve organizational effectiveness.

A powerful federal support center for encouraging diversity management was the Department of Labor's Glass Ceiling Commission, which is now officially closed.[1] Despite the avalanche of government, corporate, and individual support of the value of managing diversity, there continues to be a clear failure to display rigorous systematic empirical support of its outcomes. There is also reluctance to address a number of dilemmas of diversity management, such as the backlash against a commitment to diversity, the disappointment and anger of women and minorities, and systematic resistance within organizations to value differences.[2] Too much of the available literature on diversity management uses anecdotes to support the power and potency of programs, techniques, or what is designated the "demographic imperative."

One result of attempting to convince, enforce, and promote diversity management on a foundation of anecdotes, moral protestations, or a limited number of research studies is the chilling of interest among researchers and administrators in the subject. This article first briefly highlights the concept of diversity management. Second, some of the hyperbole and a sample of the limited number of sound research findings surrounding diversity are presented. Finally, a new course of action to increase the study of diversity management initiatives scientifically is presented. We firmly believe that unless a new course of action is undertaken, diversity management will remain underresearched and underappreciated by the society in general and administrators specifically. This is especially problematic in an increasingly heterogeneous nation such as the United States.

Diversity Management: Narrow and Broad-Based Views and A Framework

There have been two countervailing points of view about the cultural integration of the diverse population of the United States. One view is referred to as the "melting pot" and proposes that people of different races and ethnicity should blend together and assimilate into a common national culture. The other view is designated as the "multicultural society" and suggests those of different ethnic groups should retain their cultural patterns and coexist with each other.

The view of the dominant or Caucasian race has generally been that the melting pot is what is best. However, throughout the history of the United States there has been a strong undercurrent of multiculturalism. …

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