Academic journal article Management Revue

Diversity Management in Ageing Societies: A Comparative Study of Germany and Japan **

Academic journal article Management Revue

Diversity Management in Ageing Societies: A Comparative Study of Germany and Japan **

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

The demographic change in industrialized countries worldwide has led to a shift in the age structures of labour markets, resulting in a shortage of human resources and an increasing demand for highly skilled employees (Frank & Taylor, 2004). In response, organizations have started to modify their human resource management (HRM) practices to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce such as females, foreigners, or older workers whom we refer to as workers aged 50 and older (Kooij, de Lange, Dikkers, & Jansen, 2008). However, according to Cox (2001) diversity can be defined as a "double-edged sword" as it can be both a performance barrier and value-adding activity (Cox, 2001, p. 4). Thus, in order to fully exploit the opportunities of diversity while avoiding potential disadvantages (Cox, 1993; van Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007), organizations need to actively manage diversity (e.g., Thomas & Ely, 1996). The idea of managing diversity refers to a systematic approach of managing and involving diverse employees such as targeted recruitment initiatives, education and training, career development, or mentoring programs in order to increase and retain workforce heterogeneity in organizations (Cox, 1993). Similarly, age diversity management refers to HRM practices, which are adjusted to an age-diverse workforce (Boehm, Kunze, & Bruch, 2013). While prior empirical research has greatly enhanced our understanding of the effects of diversity management and age diversity management in particular (Bieling, Stock, & Dorozalla, 2015; Boehm et al., 2013; Rabl & Triana, 2014), the vast majority of prior studies was confined to single country studies, mostly in the U.S. and Western Europe (see Drabe, Hauff, & Richter, 2015; Muller-Camen, Croucher, Flynn, and Schroder, 2011 as exceptions). However, prior research suggests that the design, implementation, and success of diversity management vary across countries (Ferner, Almond, & Colling, 2005; Peretz, Levi, & Fried, 2015) due to institutional and cultural differences (Lauring, 2013; Stoermer, Hildisch, & Froese, in press). Thus, more comparative research is needed to better understand how companies understand diversity management and which practices companies implement in different contexts.

Our study contributes to diversity literature in two ways. First, we extend prior research by conducting a comparative, empirical study on diversity management. This enables us to examine commonalities and differences of the implementation of diversity management in the light of the institutional context of the respective countries. We provide a special focus on the issue of age diversity management in a comparative setting. We chose Germany and Japan as examples because of important commonalities and differences between them. On the one hand, their populations are among the oldest worldwide with a median age of about 46.1 years (second only to Monaco with 51.1 years; CIA, 2015b, United Nations, 2013a, 2013b), and are thus affected by an aging and shrinking workforce. On the other hand, although the two countries are comparable in terms of wealth (Drabe et al., 2015), and confronted by similar demographic challenges, there are institutional and cultural differences that might affect how organizations respond to these challenges. First, Germany and Japan differ significantly regarding their societal diversity: while Japan still remains a rather homogenous society in terms of its ethnic background (Mackie, Okano, & Rawstron, 2014), Germany has become a diverse, immigrant society (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 2005). Second, relevant in the context of age diversity, the cultural attitudes toward age and aging differ profoundly (Oetzela et al., 2001). East Asian societies such as China, Japan, or Korea, have a notable tradition of respect toward seniority (Sung, 2001). In contrast, older people in European countries, such as Germany, often encounter negative stereotypes such as tardiness or lack of motivation (Krings, Sczesny, & Kluge, 2011; Kunze, Boehm, & Bruch, 2013). …

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