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CULTURAL DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACES TODAY



Kirjoittanut: Jignaben Patel - tiimistä Kaaos.

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 CULTURAL DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACES TODAY by Manpreet Kaur and Jignaben Patel

Introduction 

An organization is not just about the equipment, walls, and other tangible resources; it is about individuals with a heterogeneous background, qualities, and culture, and also of different gender, ages, geographical locations, and qualifications. With globalization’s advent, the work culture is now open to each country as the interdependence between nations is increasing. Thus, cultural diversity within the workplace today is increasingly becoming significant as more companies within the global workforce are embracing it. To be competitive and survive in the cutthroat global landscape, it becomes significant to map an organizational culture strategically. As a result, cultural diversity in the workplace has become a global trend and, in the recent past, has been a primal concern for HR managers of organizations across the globe. Some of the effects of cultural diversity are associated with performance outcomes, as per past reviews. Consequently, there are more suggestions regarding the need to study the way organizations are managing their cultural diversity. 

Cultural diversity and its features 

Cultural diversity is a multidimensional and complex concept with varied definitions. Nevertheless, in simple terms, it refers to identities like ethnicity, religion, race, gender, nationality, and other different dimensions derived from membership in groups or teams that are socio-culturally distinct, implying they collectively share values, norms, or traditions which are different from those of other teams (Siddiqui et al., 2020). According to Noamesi and Tetteh (2015), diversity differentiates a particular group of individuals from another along secondary and primary dimensions. On the one hand, the primary dimensions are those human-selected features that influence people’s identities, such as opportunities, values, and perceptions of others at the workplace and ourselves. These include race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, self-image, and people’s fundamental worldviews. These features have the most effect on groups in society and the workplace.

On the other hand, the secondary dimensions are those that shape a person’s experiences, values, and expectations. These less visible dimensions exert a more beneficial influence on a person’s identity and add a more refined richness to diverse primary dimensions. They entail religion, geographic location, educational background, family status, work experience, first language, work style, organizational level and role, military experience, communication style, and income. These dimensions impact people’s self-definition and self-esteem (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). Noamesi and Tetteh (2015) further add that there are also tertiary dimensions, as Arredondo (2004) posited, which comprise historical moments experienced. The authors argue that the tertiary dimensions form the core of a person’s identity and lie deep below the surface. They are the vast array of qualities underneath that provide diversity’s real essence to be tapped into, as they have recently recognized. These include values, group norms, feelings, beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and feelings (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). 

Noamesi and Tetteh (2015) assert that diversity has many dimensions, as defined above, which work together to generate unique blends of people’s profiles, including differences and similarities. These dimensions influence and interact with one another and are displayed or emerge differently in various contexts, circumstances, and environments, making management and analysis complex. Hence, the dominance and position of every dimension are dynamic and not static, which increases the complexity of diversity.

Notably, according to Siddiqui et al. (2020), the different noticeable features of cultural diversity include; first, it is perceived as a double-edged sword in a company. This implies that if managed judiciously, it can reap the best result for a firm; otherwise, it can become dangerous for a company’s existence. Second, cultural diversity is regarded as a much broader concept than equal opportunity or participation. Third, cultural diversity does not only include demographic profile and age but also entails perception, religion, personality, and educational background. Also, cultural diversity is an ongoing and inclusive process, including non-visible, visible, intangible, and tangible components. Besides, it applies not only to a specific level or department but to a whole level and each company (Siddiqui et al., 2020). 

The importance of cultural diversity management 

Siddiqui et al. (2020) assert that “cultural diversity is the need of the hour.” It becomes impossible to grow an organization without having a culture that is different yet united, flexible, and dynamic. A diverse workplace assists in creating a congenial and harmonious working environment for workers and the limitations of one culture are set off by the other. Thus, cultural diversity management in the workplace today is essential as it is linked to numerous advantages that help organizations thrive in the cutthroat competitive business environment. Substantial literature claims that diversity is associated with performance advantages over homogenous work structures (Mateescu, 2017). Anjorin and Jansari (2018) support that valuing and managing diversity is a crucial element for the effective management of people that can, in turn, enhance workplace productivity. Thus, there are many benefits that organizations can obtain from diversity management. 

First, multicultural companies have an advantage concerning retaining and attracting the best talent. Minorities and women’s capabilities provide a broader labour pool base for organizations. Accordingly, companies that are capable of attracting and retaining qualified minority group members and believe in them through equitable and fair career advancement treatments gain a competitive advantage in the global market and derive high-quality dividends from human resources (Mateescu, 2017). Moreover, Anjorin and Jansari (2018) add that diversity management results in equality in the workplace, hence leading to a company that can attract and retain a qualified workforce. Second, a diverse workforce facilitates smooth and quick decision-making as the unique and different employees come up with a different and unique way to handle a set of issues that in any way improve the problem-solving ability of workers (Siddiqui et al., 2020).

Third, diverse culture enhances creativity and innovation in the workforce, which in turn, give a bunch of creative individuals for the work of the company (Siddiqui et al., 2020). This is because a diverse work group brings their different skills, expertise, and experiences leading to different unique ideas that enhance creativity and innovation in an organization (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). 

Fourth, attracting and managing a diverse culture help organizations to become competitive in the global market as it makes it easier to serve an increasingly global market because these companies have deeper requirements for insight into the political, social, cultural, and economic environments of foreign nations (Anjorin & Jansari, 2018). Also, competitiveness increases with diversity because workers can comply with the rapid global business environment changes and gain organizational flexibility. Additionally, the diverse workforce brings their own individual talents, skills, and experiences to adapt to the demands of customers quickly and further serve customers on a global scale (Mateescu, 2017). 

Another advantage of cultural diversity in the workplace is that diverse groups can improve their performance and productivity due to the heterogeneity of homogenous groups. Through the introduction of an organizational culture where the talent of all workers is realized, there are vacant flexible working provisions, and workers are valued, developed, encouraged, and motivated to progress in the company, the result is reduced absenteeism that further results in increased productivity (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). 

Challenges of cultural diversity management in the workplace 

Management of diversity in the workplace also comes with many challenges or disadvantages. For instance, the first challenge is that a diverse culture can lead to dysfunctional conflicts that, in turn, can result in confusion and frustration, particularly in terms of complexity and uncertainty (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). Conflicts emerge mainly due to ignorance of diversity. Combining various cultures in a workplace can lead to workers finding it difficult arriving at agreements, which in turn can result in negative dynamics and cultural clashes (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). Siddiqui et al. (2020) additionally state that when people with different mindsets, perceptions, and thinking not agreeing with one another upon decisions, it can lead to a damaging effect on the interpersonal relationship among people. 

Third, certain people may feel threatened when working with individuals from diverse backgrounds like culture, sex, or age. As a result, if diversity is effectively managed, it may limit the productivity of individual workers who feel threatened and hence result in poor organizational performance (Siddiqui et al., 2020). Additionally, this may result in low cohesion and communication breakdown. 

A diverse culture may also result in a lack of acceptance because of prejudiced feelings and offensive comments, which in turn generates negative dynamics such as stereotyping, ethnocentrism, and culture clashes in the workplace. Besides, these ethnocentrism, prejudice, and stereotyping can make minority group members feel less valued than majority-group members (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). Also, implementing diversity in an organization’s policies may require more work for the people advocating for and championing diversity. This is because diversity results in the difficulty of collaborative efforts for everyone involved to understand and act on them in the same manner. Therefore, an organization must develop and implement a customized strategy to maximize diversity effects in the workplace to benefit them using research data and workers’ assessment results (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). 

Finally, another challenge of diversity in the workplace is communication barriers. According to Noamesi and Tetteh (2015), for diversity to be successful in an organization, cultural, language, and perceptual barriers must be overcome. Ineffective communication of the key goals or objectives may result in low morale, confusion, and a lack of teamwork (Noamesi & Tetteh, 2015). Siddiqui et al. (2020) affirm that good communication may suffer in diverse groups when team members need to be more fluent in the working language of the group and must always use translators. In this case, the communication speed decreases, and the risk of mistakes increases. Owing to trust issues and inaccuracies of communication, tension level in culturally diverse teams frequently exceeds those found in homogenous groups. For instance, diverse groups frequently exhibit signs of substantial stress, including apathy, bickering, stubbornness, reprimanding, and discussion of single culture-party domination (Siddiqui et al., 2020).  

Overall, all the challenges or disadvantages emerge when there is no effective management of cultural diversity in the workplace. This implies that when cultural diversity is effectively managed, organizations can minimize these disadvantages/challenges and maximize the benefits, making cultural diversity an excellent asset for any organization. 

Approaches and strategies for cultural diversity management in an organization

Anjorin and Jansari (2018) assert that recruiting a diverse workforce is complex, and retaining and maintaining a diverse workforce is even more complicated. However, organizations apply different tools to maintain and manage a diverse workforce. These tools form the best practices for a healthier diverse workplace. These practices include:

Open communication  

This is the first crucial step that has to be followed by taking actions showing the needs and concerns of workers in a workplace. In organizations where employees respect one another, they are more successful in maintaining and retaining the workers (Anjorin & Jansari, 2018). Supporting this point, Amaram (2017) argues that effective diversity management in the workplace calls for open lines of communication that enable the transmission of grievances, new ideas, and feedback. 

Diversity training 

Another approach that organizations use to manage diversity is diversity training. According to Anjorin and Jansari (2018), training assists in creating awareness and helps individuals in an organization develop skills and knowledge. These skills, knowledge, and awareness gained through training can ultimately lead to behaviour change throughout the organization at team and individual levels. Thus, the critical initial content diversity training areas begin with what it is and why it matters (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). This training and education help to make workers more sensitive toward their fellow worker’s feelings (Anjorin & Jansari, 2018). Accordingly, every organization requires its business case and diversity definition. The other two vital fundamental training focus on understanding culture at personal, national, organizational, and team levels and the way it influences behaviour and interactions on the job as well as understanding and managing the phenomena of prejudice, assumptions, and stereotypes (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). Since people have always engaged in the labelling process and prejudgment, there are certain ways to better manage our immediate unconscious assumptions, and assisting workers to learn those ways is part of the training content (Amaram, 2017).).

According to Gardenswartz and Rowe (2019), other than basic diversity training, organizations also include management training on topics like handling conflicts and anger successfully in diverse teams, diverse team building, and providing effective performance reviews across different cultures. However, regardless of the content that an organization focuses on, there needs to be an integration of diversity into the already existing training policies of a firm. For instance, this can be done by weaving diversity training into the current supervisorial training of an organization is a practical approach to leveraging diversity in an organization. This makes the integration of diversity training more effective into all training and makes it appear more application-oriented and relevant. It faces less resistance as it needs to stand alone (Amaram, 2017). 

Providing mentors

To minimize discrimination, some organizations provide mentors. Mentos allocation to employees aids the possibilities of networking that can frequently be missed out for the disadvantaged group such as women, the disabled, and people of colour at work (Anjorin & Jansari, 2018). 

Making managers more accountable 

This can be done by the inclusion of diverse accountability in the job descriptions to assist in intensifying their actions towards a diverse workforce. This can also take the form of linking diversity practices or programs to compensation and performance (Anjorin & Jansari, 2018). According to Mateescu (2017), managers need to manage the differences instead of ignoring or minimizing the differences. This is done through a strategy called synergistic approach, where the managers attempt to minimize cultural differences issues by managing cultural diversity impact instead of eliminating the diversity and increasing the diverse workforce advantages. Overall, under this strategy, the companies train managers and workers to identify cultural differences and how to turn them into benefits. Amaram (2017) further supports that there should be a mechanism for holding managers accountable for meeting the goals of diversity. This needs to be reflected in the process of performance evaluation. The acid test should entail how fast and how much a company breaks the “glass ceilings” to enhance the percentage of women and minorities in higher salary positions through opportunities for career development, and meritorious and mentoring executive appointments (Amaram, 2017). 

Systems changes

Another strategy Gardenswartz and Rowe (2019) proposed to help in cultural diversity management in the workplace is through systems changes. The author argues that for effective diversity management, there is more to be done than just sensitivity and awareness among workers. Accordingly, this requires operational practices and organizational systems to change to align with diversity goals. Systems like hiring, recruitment, career development/promotion, and benefits/compensation that affect the way a company treats workers and uses diversity need examination and frequent modification (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). These changes include pay equity reviews, scheduling and benefits adjustment, and promotional processes revamp to ensure equal access and fairness. Also, it entails setting diversity performance objectives for employees, utilizing diverse hiring panels, and requiring consideration of diverse candidates’ slate by managers before making a hiring decision are among the proposed systems changes that organizations often consider (Anjorin and Jansari (2018). Other changes include establishing employee associations, mentoring processes or affinity groups, having more transparent promotional processes and criteria, and expanding outreach efforts in recruitment. All these changes are aimed at enhancement of a company’s ability to retain and recruit top talent and leverage their differences (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). Additionally, organization rites and rituals should provide room for such things as diet preferences, religious holidays, and dress modes, which do not impede organizational activities. These are little things, but they demonstrate support and respect for cultural diversity in the workplace (Amaram (2017). 

Integration

Another strategy is to integrate diversity into all the operations of a company (Mateescu, 2017). According to Anjorin and Jansari (2018), a company knows it is successful in its process of change when it no longer has to make diversity a stand-alone topic since it has become part of all the organizational operations. Thus, the creation of a feedback loop to enable continuous improvement and refinement of procedures and pinpointing new areas for inclusion is essential. This continuous loop keeps both the outcomes and systems viable and crucial while ensuring results and relevance. Overall, diversity management in the workplace is a continually evolving process that aims at ongoing improvement for the organization’s success (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2019). Amaram (2017) supports that diversity should be part of a company’s planned business objective that includes its outreach programs instead of just being a mere technical effort for the fulfilment of affirmative action or the same legally-mandated activity. 

Conclusion 

Managing cultural diversity is now a critical priority area as it holds significance in every business aspect. It has become crucial and a call of the hour for HR managers to prioritize the heterogeneous culture management of an organization. Soon, cultural diversity management will be an essential asset and a competitive weapon for companies, as harmonious, diverse workforce relations pave a path of advantages for a firm. Moreover, it is futile to compete with global competitors in a homogenous, traditional, and monotonous environment. However, the traditional paradigms that overly focus on profitability and efficiency may need to be revised to understand and manage the cultural diversity challenges in the workplace, as this requires new ways of behaviour management. Therefore, organizations should strive to implement the approaches and strategies discussed above to manage their cultural diversity to realize the advantages while also finding ways to handle the challenges associated with diversity management. Overall, diversity management should focus on creating a climate that values and accepts the challenges and opportunities inherent in a diverse workforce. 

References 

Amaram, D. I. (2017). Cultural diversity: Implications for workplace management. Journal of Diversity Management (JDM)2(4), 1-6.

Anjorin, R., & Jansari, A. (2018). Managing Cultural Diversity at Workplace.

Gardenswartz, L., & Rowe, A. (2019). The effective management of cultural diversity. Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence: Exploring the cross-cultural dynamics within organizations, 35-43.

Mateescu, M. V. (2017). Cultural diversity in the workplace-discourse and perspectives. Online Journal Modelling the New Europe, (24), 23-35.

Noamesi, P., & Tetteh, T. (2015). Managing cultural diversity in the workplace (care homes and cleaning services.

Siddiqui, M. A., Ahmad, E., & Shukla, N. (2020). Management of Cultural Diversity at Workplace.

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