Magazine article Industrial Management

Technology Transfer in a Culturally Diverse Workforce (Part 1)

Magazine article Industrial Management

Technology Transfer in a Culturally Diverse Workforce (Part 1)

Article excerpt

The pure economics of today's business should be a major incentive for organizations to conduct self-assessments of their ability to maximize their human resources and technology. A paradox that companies face regardless of size or type is a decline in basic employee skills as jobs become more high-tech. American business and industry will need fewer sets of hands but a greater mastery of communication and mechanical skills. Employers increasingly find they need workers with analytical skills, independent judgment and ability to work closely with others in complex operations.

Cultural diversity affects both the present and the future profile of our workforce. Diversity occurs at all levels o every organization and has increased in recent years. If technology is to take its rightful place in the future of the U.S., the issue of effective technology transfer in the environment of a culturally diverse workforce must be addressed.

A U.S. Department of Labor' s (Bureau of Labor Statistics) report (February, 1993) forecasts that the U.S. economy is likely to add 24.6 million jobs by the year 2005. This same report states there will be an uneven distribution of this new employment. Most of the new jobs--23 million--will come from service industries such as transportation, communications, utilities, retail trade and finance. Manufacturing employment is expected to drop 3 percent during this same time period. Most of this loss will involve production jobs falling victim to economic trends and new technology.

The American Society for Training and Development also forecasts that by the year 2000 more than 65 percent of all jobs will require some education beyond high school. Another twenty-three million people will be employed in professional and technical jobs--the largest single occupational category that requires ongoing training.

THE EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER

In the early 1900's American business was composed primarily of large manufacturing corporations. In the "smoke-stack" era, big business and industry were focused on producing and selling products. The workforce was viewed as one collective body and managed as just another resource at the disposal of big business.

The 1940s saw a shift in the makeup of the workforce with an increasing number of women entering the market. At the same time there were large numbers of malfunctions and failures in military products. This meant companies were required to use better production equipment that failed less frequently and required less maintenance. As a result, there was a noticeable dependency on transfer of technology information as new technologies were developed and applied at an accelerated pace to support the war effort.

During the post World War II period, American businesses realized that technology could contribute to its financial well being. New technologies were being developed and the balance of business power was shifting.

In the 1960s, the U.S. was unaware of several potential opportunities. Organizations were still reliant upon the smokestack mentality of the early 1900s. Managers failed to recognize the value of human resources and the contributions that could be made by individuals. This lack of understanding and isolation cost the country years of progress in technology, education and human potential.

In the 1970s and the 1980s U.S. business and industry became knowledgeable of quality improvements, technology transfer and international marketing. Unfortunately, little planning was done to integrate human resources and technology

THE MELTING POT THEORY

Eighty-five percent of new entrants into the U.S. workforce by the year 2000 will consist of minorities, immigrants and women. Minorities and ethnic groups in the U.S. have been viewed as blending into a melting pot society, but the 1990s have shown that more and more cultural groups desire to be productive, contributing members of society--while maintaining their ethnic and cultural identity. …

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