Diversity Initiatives in the Workplace
Definition of the Topic
The question of diversity is increasingly important nowadays due to the need in variety and understanding that different people, experience and products create added value to the business. The notion of diversity can be described from different angles. There can be diversity in the level of professionalism of the employees, their experience, gender, nationality and age as well as the diversity of products and services that the company delivers. When speaking about diversity, we speak about tolerance and acceptance of the differences of other people and their behavior. Diversity initiatives may be treated as one of the tools for overcoming the discrimination and persecutions at the workplace.
The importance of the diversity initiative at the workplace has historic prerequisites, when the rights of women were infringed and they couldn’t work, vote or apply for top-management positions. In some countries only several years ago women earned less than men on the same positions only due to their gender. There are still such countries as Iran, Iraq, Morocco and others, where there is a tradition that women should not work, but take care of children and fulfill household duties. Those are the men who are breadwinners in the family.
David A. Thomas and Robin J. Ely define three perspectives that make diversity initiatives of high importance in business. These perspectives are: discrimination-and-fairness paradigm, the access-and-legitimacy paradigm and learning-and-effectiveness paradigm (Thomas and Ely). Diversity initiatives help to incorporate the word of the law in the business processes, gain diverse experience and share best practices, and challenge the set processes in order to improve them and make more efficient. For instance, the representatives of other nationalities may share the knowledge of their native market, which will help immensely in the framework of globalization and companies’ willingness to expand.
In terms of gender diversity, the company can face many benefits when hiring both men and women, as they may have completely different visions of the world, products and business strategies. In the 21st century, women and men have equal opportunities to receive higher education, so both genders can contribute owing high level expertise and knowledge. According to the various researches, women are good workers in some areas of work and men are skillful in others. They have different manner of thinking that is why women see the problems in a more holistic way, while men’s vision is linear; women are more persuasive and, usually, they are better team players, while men can easier adopt technologies and are better negotiators (Gannon). If all the members of the company are of the same gender, stick to the same point of view and have the same set of skills and knowledge, they become a homogeneous group that represents one entity, which cannot generate variety due to its nature.
Application of Topic
The topic of diversity becomes very important for the international companies due to the variety that lie in their structure. Such companies operate on different markets all over the world and their employees are the representatives of different nationalities, beliefs, gender and experience. Moreover, the international companies provide their employees with the possibility to change the country of their work within the organization, which facilitates diversity in each office.
Let’s discuss the examples of diversity initiatives implementation in the international companies. The first case, which is worth analyzing, is that of the Coca Cola Company.
The Coca-Cola Company's global diversity mission is to mirror the rich diversity of the marketplace we serve and be recognized for our leadership in Diversity, Inclusion and Fairness in all aspects of our business, including Workplace, Marketplace, Supplier and Community, enhancing the Company’s social license to operate. (The Coca-Cola Company)
In the framework of the diversity program, the Coca Cola Company hires the representatives of different ethnicities (e.g. Hispanic, African American, Asian, Caucasian etc.), genders, sexual minorities and so on. The company provides equal access of all the employees to information and studying opportunities in order to exploit their talents to the maximum and to encourage their professional growth, so they could make a decent contribution into the development of the organization.
The Coca Cola Company is diverse by its origin as it operates in different countries of the world, so it is natural that it should support and encourage the diversity of its staff. This diversity initiative brings added value to the company, as the representatives of one nationality with the expertise in a certain sphere of work or market can bring their best practices to another market or department.
The diversity initiative in the Coca Cola Company was implemented on all levels of the organization and due to the fact that the top management was also involved in this process, it was successfully escalated. The proof of this success is a long list of Diversity Awards and the fact that the Company has been listed in Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity for 12 years in a row. It also receives top rating in Human Rights Campaign Best Place to Work (The Coca-Cola Company).
One of the best practices that the Coca Cola Company can share with the other companies is the survey that they constantly conduct in order to find out whether their employees are happy with the place of their work and if they have any suggestions for improvement of their working environment. In such a way, every employee can speak up, while all the opinions are considered and everyone has an opportunity to change the company for the better. This survey is also a tool for creating the atmosphere of openness and mutual understanding in which everyone feels at ease to express themselves and provide their own ideas for improvement. Such an environment generates creativity as well.
Another case to be analyzed is that of Ericsson. This company considers the diversity to be its competitive advantage. They value their employees with different personal styles, knowledge, experience, strategic visions, backgrounds, nationalities, races, genders and beliefs, stating that they help the company embrace the fast changes of the business environment. Such people generate added value themselves.
The company has developed its own Wheel of Diversity that consists of such segments as personal experience, situational and organizational experience, core and language. These segments represent the main areas, where the diversity should be reflected. Ericsson has also elaborated their commitment to diversity across such five areas as:
- Equal opportunity in employment, development, compensation and all other personnel activities.
- Attraction, development, retention and promotion of diverse talents.
- Global and local establishment of diversity plans.
- Awareness among the employees about diversity and development of the leadership skills to manage diverse workforce.
- Encouraging of the employees to spot the cases of behavior that contradict Ericson’s values and policies. (Karabacakoglu and Ozbilgin)
Judging from the commitment presented above, we can conclude that the company has a 360° degree diversity implementation program with clear rules on all levels of the organization.
Ericson’s two Global Diversity Priorities are to secure a healthy ratio of the representatives of all genders in the company and in its top-management and to increase the quantity of people with different backgrounds in senior management roles (Karabacakoglu and Ozbilgin). As for now, they have succeeded in these priorities’ implementation as the share of women occupying the leading positions has grown up to 12% and the company encourages its employees to have the projects in different countries where it operates. In such a way people get an opportunity to learn new markets and gain new skills as well as challenge themselves in new working environment. All this is a clear benefit of the diversity program.
Regulations and Ethics
American Law protects the representatives of different gender, age, nationality and color of skin and provides them with equal opportunities to get a job and to earn the money in any company they want (“Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law”). So, nobody’s work application can be rejected due to their gender, background or age. The government also protects people with disabilities, so they could also find feasible work and not be discriminated because of being crippled.
Company’s diversity brings not only benefits, but may also generate ethical issues. These issues may arise based on religion (when religious people consider that homosexuality is a sin), gender (in the countries, where historically women did not work and had fewer rights than men), experience (when a less experienced person is hired on the position on which more professional employees work) (Lindblad).
When facing the ethical issue, the managers should apply a tailor-made approach and solve each problem in a particular way depending on the situation. A universal method to prevent those ethical problems is to create and support the atmosphere of mutual tolerance and diversity acceptance. The managers should explain their employees, why diversity is important, what benefits it will bring and why they should change their perception of other people, who differ from them.
Recommendations to Management
In order to promote diversity in the company, the top-management must elaborate a crisp and clear plan of implementation of this initiative. The diversity should be present on all levels of the organization and its implementation should be closely followed up. Shackelford believes that recruitment is the first and very important stage of the process of diversity development. Strategic Approach to Diversity Recruiting should consist of Culture Shift, Outreach, Recruiting, Retention and Management Infrastructure. The cultural shift has to create a corporate culture, where everybody understands the importance of diversity and values it. The outreach should create a positive image of the company for the potential candidates in terms of diversity. When recruiting people, the managers should consider a wide range of candidates with different backgrounds and sets of skills in order to choose the most talented ones. They should also make sure that the HR department does not have any preferences in terms of gender, nationality or university, from which the candidate has graduated, when searching for people for a definite position. Management Infrastructure implies the existence of a clear strategy and plan of diversity implementation, following up on results and making decisions on changes if needed.
Evan M. Roberts considers that successful implementation of a diversity plan should consist of involvement of the firm’s leaders, internal research that can help to evaluate the cultural climate, creation of the Diversity Committee, finding the ways to overcome conflict if any and elaboration of the diversity trainings plan and best practice sharing. All the indicated steps will help to create a clear vision of the possible and existing problems and the ways of solving them.
Results of Recommendations
If the company decides to encourage diversity within its organization and follows the steps described above it will create a strong competitive advantage that will help the company to find quick responses to the fast changing business environment. They will create a various team in terms of experience, skills and knowledge of different spheres of work. Diversity will create the atmosphere of friendship, mutual trust and tolerance that create all the necessary conditions for creativity and brilliant business ideas. Correct diversity initiative implementation implies constant work with the employees of different levels to explain them its importance and to teach them to be tolerant towards others. It will also help to avoid ethical issues and misunderstandings within the teams.
Globalization processes facilitate the importance of diversity initiatives at the workplace. People mobility, more possibilities for the representatives of different genders and ethics in terms of education and fast changing business environment make it crucial for the companies to encourage diversity. The issue of diversity is also covered by the US law. So, it is very important for the companies to obey the law and create such working conditions, where gender, experience, religion, nationality and age diversity are encouraged. The employees with different skills and experience make the company more effective as they can share best practices from the previous jobs or from other markets, transferring unique knowledge or challenging company’s decisions or procedures in order to improve them. If the top management follows all the steps of diversity strategy implementation, no ethical issues connected with diversity should arise and the company will only benefit from this initiative. It is also important to bear in mind that all the members of the company have to understand the importance of diversity and the advantages it has in itself.
Skipping the important steps of the process of implementation of diversity initiatives in the company may cause ethical issues that will create workload for the management, connected with their solving. Besides, the ethical conflicts and the neglected steps may lead to the failure of the initiative’s implementation or to low effectiveness of the project. If the strategy of the diversity development within the company is not clearly defined, the staff will not have a clear vision in which direction they should move in order to achieve desired results. So, if the company wants to successfully facilitate diversity, they should create a clear vision of this project, detailed plan of its implementation and constant follow up on the changes implemented and their effectiveness. If the actions taken are not effective enough, the organization should revise their plan and think how they can make it more effective.