Globalization has been happening over the last few decades and this has resulted in large immigration of populations from one part of the globe to other parts. The rate at which people are emigrating from their places of birth into other countries is unprecedented. This high rate of immigration has made people move into countries that have different cultures and way of life from their country of origin (Hollenbeck, Noe, & Gerhart, 2018). In the United States, for example, people from different continents and with different cultures such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America are moving into the country and even though they are being integrated into American society, some of them hold on to their cultures and find it very hard to accept or assimilate into their new society.
According to a recent demographic analysis conducted by Bryman (2016), the United States will no longer have any single race or ethnic group that will be considered a majority by 2060. This shift towards a society that is more diverse with regard to the population will have monumental impacts on its workforce in business organizations, as well as, government, and non-governmental organizations. It is also important to mention that organizations face the same difficulty and many of them are taking measures that can help them manage a diverse workforce.
Workplace diversity refers to the variation of differences in people working in a company. It may sound simple, but diversity in the workplace encompasses different aspects such as gender, race, ethnicity, personality, age, cognitive style, organizational function, tenure, education, background, religion, and sexual orientation of staff members (Bryman, 2016). It also involves how different people perceive themselves and how they perceive others in the workplace. These perceptions affect people interactions and if they are not handled intelligently, they may lead to conflicts. For a wide range of employees with different cultural backgrounds to function effectively at their places of work, it is important for the human resource professionals to deal effectively with different interactional issues such as adaptability, communication, and change (McIlwraith, 2016).
It is important to mention that, business organizations that recognize the importance of managing diversity in the workplace effectively are bound to gain some competitive advantage over other players in their industry when it comes to recruiting and hiring employees. This is because different people have different talents hence an organization with a diverse workforce is bound to tap into this pool of talent to further its bottom line. For this reason, it is vital for a business organization to ensure it has a diverse workforce. This can be attained if the management team has a deep understanding of what inclusivity and diversity entail and how this can be attained in a business setting (Bryman, 2016). Diversity at the workplace refers to a wide range of differences between individuals in a company. It does not only include how individual employees identify themselves but also how their colleagues perceive and think of them.
As the contemporary workplace becomes more diverse with a set of people from different cultures and with different beliefs and orientations, business organizations are putting more emphasis on their employee’s intercultural competence in their place of work. Today, business organizations are looking for technical skills and experience in their employees, as well as, the ability to speak different languages, understand, respect, and demonstrate the ability to live with people from different cultures without any conflict.
McIlwraith (2016) conducted research recently and determined that many business organizations are facing a major challenge in finding employees with adequate intercultural skills to interact with people from other cultures. As a result, many business organizations are forced to provide all their employees with a comprehensive training program that can help them develop these skills. This research went on to show that business organizations need to work together to strengthen the development of intercultural skills at the workplace, to meet the growing globalization. Workers should be encouraged to take programs that will help them develop a deeper understanding of how to learn, communicate, and work with different cultures. These skills are vital in an organization for a number of reasons. Firstly, they give their workers a good understanding of their place of work and their colleagues at work and help them have a wider perspective of the world. This makes it possible for them to work and fit seamlessly in different work environments without suffering culture shock, while at the same time enhancing a deep awareness and understanding of their own culture and practical skills (Bryman, 2016).
A good intercultural training program can, therefore, play a major role in acculturating employees to understand how people from different cultures behave and thereby increase their cultural competency at their workplace. For this reason, an organization management team should develop a training program focusing on the improvement of intercultural skills as culturally intellectual employees benefit the employer in the long run. A majority of business organization in the United States have expanded their reach in the global market and even if their core workforce is based back in the United States, these organizations have to fight for their space with international organizations. For this reason, its workforce back in the United States needs to have a solid understanding of how to interact and work with people from different cultures across the globe. This also applies in their operations in the United States, because the country is more multicultural than it was decades ago and for these reasons, these organizations find themselves with diverse workforces in terms of culture, race, and gender among others. For example, organizations located in New York might have a heavily diversified culture because New York is made up of people from all over the world. These people find themselves working in the same organization and it would be very chaotic if they did not have the cultural competency to work with each other. To have cultural competency in the workplace, employees should master different aspects of interaction.
The Importance of Personal Space
When conducting any formal undertaking with people from diverse cultures, employees should seek to understand the concept of personal space. People from diverse cultures perceive personal space differently and it is the duty of employees to know and appreciate these differences (McIlwraith, 2016). For example, many cultures across the world such as people from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa are comfortable with closer physical proximity, while people from Western Europe and America value personal space very much and they would feel uncomfortable or intruded if someone gets too close to them (McIlwraith, 2016).
The Importance of Greetings
Greetings are one of the most important aspects of every culture. When people meet the first thing in the morning is to greet each other and when they are leaving in the evening they also say greetings or do a simple goodbye gesture. For this reason, it is important for employees working in diverse workforces to know how different people like to be greeted. Learning how to greet a specific person in their respective culture is important to success in business operations. For example, it is customary in Japan to bow to all the people you are engaged in business while in China people only bow to the people they respect. Latin America, on the other hand, has greetings characterized by kissing both cheeks as part of their greetings in both formal and social situations. Greetings determine the tone of a business transaction and in many instances, a business transaction can be successful or fail just because of a badly executed greeting. For this reason, it is vital for a business organization to ensure that their employees are culturally competent, especially those who travel to different parts of the world looking for business opportunities for the organization.
Importance of Understanding Social Cues
Nonverbal communication signs play a very important role in communication. For this reason, employees working in an organization with a diverse workforce should be able to read and understand facial expressions, an awkward silence, and genuine or sarcastic laughter. People who are not culturally competent often miss subtle cultural cues hence they may end up misreading a situation. This ends up in misinterpretation of facts, poor business decisions and this is what results in missed opportunities, lost deals, and overall company failure in meeting the bottom line. For this reason, it is important for a business organization to train its employees to be culturally competent, as this will enable them to be versatile and be able to work in any business environment across the world.
What are the Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace?
An organization that embraces diversity in its workforce accrues a number of benefits as compared to an organization that does not embrace diversity. To begin with, business entities that commit to hiring a diverse workforce have a larger pool of applicants to choose from, which is beneficial in that more candidates that are qualified apply hence reducing the time it takes to fill up vacant positions. (McIlwraith, 2016).
It is also important to mention that employees from different backgrounds imbue their places of work with creative new perspectives and ideas that are informed by their cultural backgrounds and experiences (Hollenbeck et al., 2018). This is very important as it provides business organizations with a pool of resources that can advance their innovations, hence improve its products and provide its clients and customers with better experiences. This is bound to bring about new customers and loyalty from existing clients, hence increase profits and ensure they meet their bottom line (Bryman, 2016).
Today, society is more diverse and an organization with a diverse workforce is more capable of serving society better because its workforce has the best dynamics to better understand and appreciate the diverse customer demographics they are serving. The society today is more sensitive and knowledgeable about issues of integration and diversity and they would not want to associate themselves with organizations perceived to be discriminating against some sections of society (Hollenbeck et al., 2018). This is bound to bring about bad or negative publicity resulting in low sales revenues being realized. Another benefit of having a diverse workforce is that it enables an organization to have a better alignment of its organization’s culture with the wider demographic make-up of the United States. This is bound to increase its customer satisfaction by improving the way its diverse employees serve and interact with the much more diverse customers and the public at large.
How to manage diversity in the workplace
Managing a diverse workforce can be very challenging for many managers. It is, therefore, essential that employees and managers of an organization understand how to work in harmony for the benefit of all parties involved. For this reason, managers should take conscious initiatives and steps to enable peaceful coexistence and encourage the heterogeneous group to thrive in the work environment. Without these efforts, diversity at the workplace may turn into a liability rather than benefits that can propel the organization attain its goals and objectives (Hollenbeck et al., 2018).
The first step managers should do is to recognize the importance of communication at the workplace. It is important for all employers to ensure that all employees understand the company policies, safety rules, procedures, communication protocol, code of ethics, and all rules and regulations. By understanding these aspects of the organization, the employees will be in a position to know what is expected of them and how they are expected to act and interact with one another while at their places of work. This understanding is very important, as it will enable employees to embrace diversity and be able to work with one another without having any kind of conflicts (Hollenbeck et al., 2018). It is also imperative for managers to create an effective and clear communication structure and channels in the organization. Employees should also be made to understand all the communication procedures and channels within the organization. Managers should also work to ensure that language and communication barriers are overcome when employees are communicating with each other. A manager can have important work materials like operation manuals translated and have symbols and pictures that can easily be understood by every individual (McIlwraith, 2016).
Managers should view employees as individuals with positive and negative stereotypes. Managers should not make assumptions about employees based on their racial or religious affiliations. It is important for managers to judge success or failure based on what an employee is doing and they should respond firmly and promptly when employees show any form of prejudices or stereotypes. Employees should, therefore, be encouraged to view each other as individuals and judge each other on the work one does and not on personal factors (Hollenbeck et al., 2018). To manage a diverse workforce effectively, it is important for the management team to create inclusive practices and policies. Managers should ensure the organization overall practices and policies are based on inclusivity of every race or people within society and that it does not discriminate or favor certain sets of employees because of their cultural background. For this reason, it is very important for managers to consider how the different policies and practices they make impact their organization. Managers should also encourage interaction between employees with different backgrounds. Through interactions with people from different backgrounds, individuals can understand, respect, and appreciate the differences that exist among people. Employees should be encouraged to collaborate with each other irrespective of one’s ethnic or racial background. This can be attained by creating work groups that reflect the diversity that exists in the workplace. This can help employees value each other as individuals, as well as, expanding their views and experiences on cultural diversity, as they will be able to appreciate the strength of their combined talents and perspectives.
One can state that even though managing a diverse workforce can be very challenging, the benefits that an organization can accrue from having a dynamic and diverse workforce are immense. For this reason, it is vital for organizations to put measures in place to encourage, support, and enhance diversity at the workplace (Hollenbeck et al., 2018). Some business organizations have gone a step further and formed diverse offices that ensures that all aspects regarding the issue of diversity are given utmost importance and that they are resolved quickly. These offices are also charged with the responsibility of ensuring that their organization are complying with all laws regarding diversity.
Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
Hollenbeck, J. R., Noe, R. A., & Gerhart, B. A. (2018). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage. McGraw-Hill Education.
Kirwan, C. (2016). Improving learning transfer: A guide to getting more out of what you put into your training. Routledge.
McIlwraith, A. (2016). Information security and employee behavior: how to reduce risk through employee education, training, and awareness. Routledge.
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