There are a number of approaches and specific steps that can be taken to effectively manage diversity.
- To begin with, a truly multicultural organization must be created.
- After this foundation step is accomplished, then both individual and organizational level strategies and techniques can be employed.
Creating the Multicultural Organization
The foundation and point of departure for effectively managing diversity is the development of a truly multicultural organization. A multicultural organization has been described as one that:
- Reflects the contributions and interest of diverse cultural and social group in its mission, operations, and product or service.
- Acts on a commitment to eradicate social oppression in all forms within the organization.
- Includes the members of diverse culture and social groups as full participants especially in decisions that shape the organization.
- Follows through on broader external social responsibilities, including support of other institutional efforts to eliminate all forms of social oppression.
It is evident that the true multicultural organization is characterized by core cultural values and an ongoing commitment to eliminate social oppression throughout the organization. All members of diverse cultural and social groups are involved in the decision that shape the mission, structure, technology, psychosocial dynamics, and products and services of the organization.
The true multicultural organization as defined is the stated ideal of an increasing number of organizations, although most are still in transition. Moving towards and building a truly multicultural organization is perhaps the most important, but here are also some individual and organization level steps and techniques that can be used to effectively manage diversity. Unfortunately, to date, most of these diversity programs have fallen short of their objectives. Some individual and organizational approaches that may help make managing diversity more effective.
Individual Approaches to Manage Diversity
Individual approaches to managing diversity typically take two interdependent paths: learning and empathy. The first is based on acquiring real or simulated experience; the second is based on the ability to understand feelings and emotions.
Many managers are often unprepared to deal with diversity, because of their inexperience they are unsure of how to respond. To better prepare themselves managers must work hard to learn and experiences as much as they can about developing appropriate behavior. At the heart of this learning process is communication. Managers must openly communicate one-on-one with young and old employees, women, minorities, and those challenged with a disability in order to determine how best to understand and interact with them. In this way mangers can learn more about a diverse group’s personal values and how the individuals like to be treated. Mangers can also begin to develop a personal style that works well with each member of a diverse group.
In this learning process, managers can also encourage diverse employees to give them candid feedback regarding how they are being treated. In this way, when the managers does something that an employee does not feel is proper, the manager quickly learns this and can adjust his or her behavior. This form of feedback is particularly important in helping organizations gain insights to effectively manage diversity.
Closely linked to the individual learning strategy is empathy, the ability to put oneself in another’s place and see things from that person’s point of view. Empathy is particularly important in managing diversity because members of diverse group often feel that only they can truly understand the challenges or problems they are facing.
Empathy is an important way to deal with more subtle problems because it helps the manager understand the diverse employee’s point of view. By learning how to empathize and by offering encouragement, guidance, and after-the-fact backup support, the manager can play an important individual role in more effectively managing diversity.
Organizational Approaches to Managing Diversity
Organizational approaches to managing diversity include a variety of techniques. Some of the most common involve testing, training, mentoring, and programs designed to help personnel effectively balance their work and family lives. The following sections examine each of these techniques.
A problem that organizations have encountered with the use of tests for selection and evaluation is that they are commonly culturally biased. As a result, women and minorities may be able to do the job for which they are being tested even though their test scores indicate that they should be rejected as candidates. Most tests traditionally used in selection and evaluation are not suited or valid for a diverse workforce. As a result, in recent years a great deal of attention has been focused on developing tests that are indeed valid for selecting and evaluating diverse employees.
One way to make tests more valid for diverse employees is to use job-specific tests rather than general aptitude or knowledge tests. People from different cultures (foreign or domestic often did poorly on the traditional tests because they were culturally biased toward individuals who had been raised in a white, middle-class neighborhood. Older applicants may also do poorly on such culturally biased tests. Job-specific tests help prevent diversity bias by focusing on the work to be done.
Besides being culturally unbiased, tests used in effectively managing diversity should be able to identify whether the applicant has the necessary skills for doing job. In some cases carefully conducted interviews or role paying can be used because this is the only effective way of identifying whether the person has the necessary skills.
A comprehensive research study found those firms that adopted diversity training tended to have the following profile:
- Large size
- Positive top-management beliefs about diversity
- High strategic priority of diversity relative to other competing objectives.
- Presence of a diversity manager, and
- Existence of a large number of other diversity supportive policies.
There are two ways in which this training can play a key role in managing diversity. One way is by offering training to diverse groups. Members from a diverse group can be trained for an entry-level skill or how to more effectively do their existing or future job. The other approach is to provide training to managers and other employees who work with diverse employees.
A major problem of training in general, and diversity training in particular, is the transfer problem. Those going through the diversity training may see the value and gain some relevant knowledge, but then do not transfer this training back to the job. A major reason for this transfer problem is a lack of confidence or self-efficacy.
There was a strong positive relationship between the trained participants diversity self-efficacy and the number and difficulty of their stated intentions for initiating diversity goals in their specific environments of insurance and manufacturing firms and a government agency.
A mentor is a trusted counselor, coach, or advisor who provides advice and assistance. In recent years, many organizations have begun assigning mentors to women minorities. The purpose of the mentor program is to help support members of a diverse group in their jobs, socialize them in the cultural values of the organization, and pragmatically help their chances for development and advancement. There are a number of specific benefits that mentors can provide to those they assist, including the following:
- Identify the skill, interests, and aspirations the person has
- Provide instruction in specific skills and knowledge critical to successful job performance.
- Help in understanding the unwritten rules of the organization and how to avoid saying or doing the wrong things.
- Answer questions and provide important insights.
- Offer emotional support.
- Serve as a role model.
- Create an environment in which mistakes can be made without losing self-confidence.
A number of organizations now require their managers to serve as mentors. Examples include Bell Laboratories, NCR, Hughes Aircraft, Johnson& Johnson, and Merrill Lynch.
To sum up, diversity is one of the major dynamic realities facing modernizations. It exists when there is an all-inclusive mixture of differences and similarities in term of age, gender, ethnicity, and/or education. There are a number of reasons for the rise for diversity in organization, including the increasing number of women, minorities, and older employees in the workforce and legislative rulings that now require organizations to ensure equal opportunity to women, minorities, older employees, and those challenged by a disability. There are individual and organizational approaches to managing diversity. Managing diversity is the key for smooth selling of organization affairs. It is a problem that is going to change the dimensions of managerial practices and policies in the time to come.