Diversity management in the workplace has been one of many organisational issues due to factors such as globalisation and the emerging age, cultural and individual differences that emerge as a result of this new challenging world. The purpose of this essay is to explore the topic of diversity as it relates to the workplace by discussing perspectives from human resource management (HRM) perspectives and to investigate the barriers to workplace diversity. Through the discussion, the advantages of diversity will be discussed with an importance on the implications for the HR function of the organization. There is an intense need to identify the external and internal factors that influence the HRM functions and practices. The essay also identifies how successful companies like Telstra, ANZ bank and many others have managed the impact of various internal and external factors to become one of the leaders in their industry. Human resource management has achieved significant importance in recent years both in terms of theory and practice in corporations today that cannot be ignore as the importance of managing human capital in order to achieve their goals and objectives.
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Workplace diversity relates to the presence of differences among members of the workforce (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). By creating diverse workforce organizations, they are able to make the ideas, creativity, and potential contributions inherent in a diverse workforce (Aghazadeh, 2004). Diversity in the workplace includes culture, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, physical abilities, social class, age, socio-economic status, and religion (Sadri & Tran, 2002). These individual characteristics shape an individual’s perception about their environment and how they communicate (Kramar, 1998).
The action attempts to monitor and control diversity in an organisation and in doing so, senior management can affect the hiring and promotion of individuals (Sadri & Tran, 2002). An organisation assumes new individuals or groups will adapt to the standard of the organisation, and will not resist due to fears of reverse discrimination (Sadri & Tran, 2002). Valuing diversity can allow an organisation to focus the benefits of the differences, therefore developing an environment where all individuals are valued and accepted (Sadri & Tran, 2002). Those members who feel valued to their organisation tend to be harder working, more involved and innovative (Agahazadeh, 2004). Valuing Diversity can affect employees’ attitudes positively, however resistance can be experienced due to a fear of change and individuals discomfort with differences (Sadri & Tran, 2002.) Finally, managing diversity is when organisations build specific skills and create policies which obtain the best values of each employee, which will create new ways of working together (Sadri & Tran, 2002). It will provide an opportunity for organisations to manage a workforce which highlight both organisational and individual performance, whilst still acknowledging individual needs (Kramar, 1998).
Although diversity has always existed in organisations, individuals tend to limit their diversity in order to conform to the rule of the organisation and fit into the stereotype of the typical employee (Kramar, 1998). Mismanagement of diversity as a result of unfavorable treatment can inhibit employees working abilities and motivation, which can lead to a lowered job performance (Aghazadeh, 2004). If an environment works well for employees, diversity will work against the organisation, hence the lack of an enabling environment (Kramar, 1998). These fundamental components of workplace diversity can be further viewed through the varying perspectives of union groups, HRM professionals and organisations. Management aims to maximise the contribution of all staff to work towards organisational objectives through forming guiding teams for diversity, training to improve languages and celebrating success. Unions however, implement diversity differently (Barrile & Cameron, 2004).
There are many HRM perspectives that relate to diversity management in organisations. Most of these HRM perspectives lead towards the contention that a successful diversity management policy can lead to a more competitive, functional organisation. In light of the perspectives and rationales discussed in the HRM literature, there a range of implications for HR managers concerning diversity in the workplace. Management of diversity relates to equal employment opportunity, but effective diversity management goes beyond the basic requirements of an equal opportunity workplace (Barrile & Cameron, 2004). It is important for HR to determine an effective diversity management policy to be able to encourage a more diverse workplace. The most important job for senior HR managers is to consider how diversity will benefit the organisation and how to define its role in the context of the organisation (Kreitz, 2008). An organisation’s diversity policy should aim to establish an heterogeneous workforce that is able to work to its full capacity in an environment where no member, or for that matter group of members, have an advantage or disadvantage based on their individual differences (Torres & Bruxelles, 1992, as cited in D’Netto & Sohal, 1999).
In exercising their role, HR managers must constantly apply the principles of diversity in order to maximise and sustain the benefits of a diverse workforce. This means HR managers need to be able to link recruitment, selection, development and retention policies to the overall diversity policy of the organisation (Yakura, 1996). Furthermore, the they should be carried out with a direct link to the overall business goals, the various shifts in the labour market as well as the more contemporary effects of globalisation (Cunningham & Green, 2007). There are three initiatives that an organisation should utilise to increase the efficiency of its diversity policy. Firstly, there is a need for HR, when recruiting, to increase the representation in the workplace of historically excluded groups (Conrad & Linnehan, 1995). Secondly, the diverse workforce needs to have the necessary empowerment to influence, or at least have input to organisational decision making (Cunningham & Green, 2007). More strategic implications for diversity management exist that recognise the emergence of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM). Such implications include building diversity strategies into an overall future success plan, integrating diversity practices with senior management practices and encouraging career development opportunities for all employees (Cunningham & Green, 2007). Ultimately, managing diversity should promote competitive edge in the organisation by recruiting the most appropriate people for the job regardless of their perceived differences (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999).
ANZ ORG —check anz, 2008
ANZ Bank has responded to the common trends of the Australian workforce with programs to attract and retain a diverse environment that reflects their customer base (ANZ, 2010). An organisation is focused on creating an inclusive culture where all employees are able to contribute, as they believe that diversity and inclusion are essential for high business performance (ANZ, 2010). By managing diversity within the organisation, ANZ is provided with the best talent and a wide variety of experience to achieve success within a global workforce.
These organisations have made efforts to create a diverse working environment through varying HRM practices. For example, HRM within ANZ created the “My Difference” survey which surveyed more than 13, 500 employees (ANZ, 2010). Within this survey, HR is able to develop a demographic picture of the workforce and gather feedback on how their employees perceive diversity and inclusion within the organisation. ANZ also founded the Diversity Council, which introduces policies and sponsors events to create a more inclusive culture (ANZ, 2010). The council attempts to increase awareness by supporting events like the Australian Open where it is considered one of the world’s premier sporting events (ANZ, 2010). It’s known as the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific where the Australian Open has a strong Australian heritage, as well as having widely recognised appeal as a regional event in New Zealand, the Pacific and Asia. ANZ will sponsor the Australian Open for 3 years from 2010 (ANZ, 2010).
HR in ANZ has implemented a range of human resource strategies. Disability awareness, plans in the companies outline strategies to increase support and inclusion for customers and staff of the organisation, which include premises being wheelchair accessible (ANZ, 2010). Besides that, in order to promote age balance, mature age employees are offered flexible working conditions to suit their changing lifestyle (ANZ, 2010). Culturally the banks have planned to help indigenous Australians improve their wellbeing and money management skills. ANZ celebrates cultural diversity by holding “Annual Cultural Week” (ANZ, 2010).
Diversity within an organisation can be difficult and expensive to accomplish. Substantial barriers exist in both overcoming laws related to workplace diversity, the actual process of implementing it within an organisation and also the internal characteristics of the individual.
The current legislation related to workplace diversity essentially creates an environment in which employers cannot recruit purely on the basis of a desired attribute. The main acts concerned are the Racial Discrimination Act (1975), the Sex Discrimination Act (1984), the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1984), the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act (1991), the Disability Discrimination Act (1991) and the Workplace Relations Act (1996) (Williams, 2001.) These laws essentially shape a scenario for employees where if a desired attribute is sought after, the job must be made appealing to that particular group of people without impairing the opportunity for any other group to obtain the position under the requirements of the legislation.
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If a diversity program is unlikely to be profitable it will not be implemented (Bilimoria, Joy, & Liang, 2008). The monetary benefits such as new customers, better culture and strategic advantage involved in implementing such diversity need to outweigh the costs by gaining diversity at the expense of skill involved in pursuing it. The HR department within the organisation has a difficult task in convincing senior management that a diversity program can be beneficial to the organisation (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999).The argument often provided by senior management against workplace diversity is that it is disruptive to productivity and causes imbalance in the workplace (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). As a result, the HR function need to be able to present the many advantages of diversity, and provide strong strategic reasoning to ensure that an effective diversity management is implemented.
An organisation may also have barriers in their practices, culture and policies (Bilimoria, Joy, & Liang, 2008). Resolving these issues has benefits for both the legality of the operating of the organisation and the multiplicity of their workforce. If senior management participated in only male orientated social events, such as attending football match, it may alienate women who generally may not participate in such events. Policy can also break both legality and potential for diversity by enforcing requirements such as 10 years continual service to an organisation in order to receive promotion into senior management. This continual service factor discriminates against women who are likely to have children, as it will exclude many from the opportunity to obtain the job. However, it is the individual differences within each person that provide the biggest challenge to achieving diversity.
Individual differences amongst people are a major hurdle to workplace diversity, as most people feel comfortable when working in homogeneous groups (Kreitz, 2008). The presence of diverse others places employees outside of their comfort zone and makes people resist embracing the presence of others. Furthermore, research by Kreitz (2008) shows that humans, and organisations as well, are in nature highly resistant to change, further complicating the successful implementation of diversity. Another individual, and highly problematic, barrier to diversity is the language barrier that exists to culturally diverse others. This prevents, and in some cases discourages, the full integration of cultural differences within organisations (Kreitz, 2008).
Diversity is clearly beneficial to the organisation. Managing diversity should involve utilising the cultural differences in people’s skills and embracing the diverse range of ideas and skills that exist in a diverse workplace in order to ultimately give the organisation a competitive edge. Benefits to diversity clearly outweigh the costs and evident advantages to workplace diversity are supported by various union groups and HRM practitioners. In order to be successful, diversity must be implemented within a strict legal framework and overcome hurdles relating to the practices and policies of organisations, as well as internal, individual barriers.
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