Article summary of Diversity initiatives in the workplace by Stephan & Stephan - Chapter


Diversity initiatives in the workplace

Diversity initiatives are starting to become an accepted part of the business world in the United States and in other countries. Nevertheless, there are still many problems within organizations in the field of diversity. An example of this is that women and minorities often have the feeling that there is a glass ceiling in their company. A promotion is not far away, but a thin glass ceiling prevents them from doing so. The glass ceiling can, for example, be a prejudice against women, so that women end up in less senior positions. If companies do not combat diversity problems, this can have adverse consequences: they can lead to lower production, conflicts, lawsuits and the wasting of valuable talent.

Women are more often dissatisfied with their job and are more likely to leave than men. The reasons for this are the lack of career opportunities for, for example, promotion and dissatisfaction with their progress.

It is often argued that women and minorities are collectivists, and therefore more group oriented than white men in their attitudes towards work and interpersonal relationships. The result is that women and minorities bring more interpersonal skills to the workplace, which can have a positive effect on the productivity and effectiveness of an organization.

Management diversity and valuing diversity

Managing diversity and valuing diversity are approaches that enhance diversity in the workplace. Management diversity has to do with the changing structure and functioning of organizations by an increasing number of women, minorities and other groups. This can be introduced at all levels of organizations in the workplace. Changes are made by diversity initiatives in the field of business policies and procedures by promoting fairness and equality. Attempts to manage diversity affect employee recruitment, promotion, reward systems and benefits, and conflict and dispute handling procedures. It seems that there are many advantages to integrating diversity. Examples are improved productivity, better interpersonal skills and mutual relationships at work and an increased capacity to function in various markets. Managing diversity also includes providing sanctions for discriminatory behavior.

The valuation of diversity relates to the changing attitudes, feelings and behavior of individual managers and employees in order to increase awareness and sensitivity to diversity problems. Attempts to greater appreciation of diversity take the form of creating mentoring programs, conflict resolution training and diversity training. Diversity training programs are designed to raise awareness of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and sexual differences and to help people with their skills to use this knowledge in practice. Videos, lectures, discussions, role plays, simulations and other experimental techniques are usually used.

In practice, managing and valuing diversity are often combined in organizations, and they are presented in many different ways. People often do not want to participate in diversity training when it is mandatory, but most exercises are interpersonal and do not really give the impression that they are mandatory. Research into diversity training is only just being used. The few studies that have been done about it indicate that they can be very successful in changing attitudes and behaviors, but often do not use their full potential.

If attempts to manage diversity are successful, it is probably due to the normative culture of the organization. An organization tries to promote a culture. This way it can promote changes in subjective norms and attitudes. These changes should ensure equivalent behavior.

Managing diversity can also bring dissonance. Changed behavior based on dissonance is more effective when the behavioral changes occur voluntarily. Dissonance-based behavioral changes are most common on the basis of a democratic workplace. Valuing diversity can influence attitudes and behavior by changing people's tendency to continuously conform to authorities. Valuing diversity can also include factors that regulate intergroup behavior. Diversity training programs provide knowledge about other groups, which can ensure that prejudices and stereotypes are less frequent. It can help to create insights that lead to people regulating their intergroup behavior.

Diversity training programs must address a few problems. Organizations can sometimes be negative about changes in procedures and employees sometimes have negative attitudes and behaviors that are dragged into it and that are very difficult to change. Some organizations have emphasized too much that the training courses are for white men and not for minorities and women. This allows these white men to feel attacked and afraid that they will be kicked out of the company. Good diversity training emphasizes the training of white men as well as that of minorities and women. For carrying out diversity training programs, it is useful for the trainers to conduct a cultural audit to determine the needs of the organization.

Diversity trainers themselves must also be well trained, because giving diversity training can be very complex. Diversity trainers must determine how much they will tackle and how they will distribute the training. For example, legality problems or social skills training. Trainers have to decide how much the training will include, how they will approach the culture of an organization and to what level they want to change it. It is suggested that diversity programs should last longer. It might also be better if diversity programs were part of a larger plan to learn to value and manage diversity. Diversity trainers should also be encouraged to evaluate their programs. Often the programs are not evaluated because it takes time and money, and it reduces the time that employees could work on the company. Another reason that the diversity programs are not evaluated may be that the researchers are afraid of the results and that they must start again.

Some diversity training programs are primarily theoretical in nature and others are a pragmatic selection of techniques. An example of a theory-based program is the multicultural diversity-competence approach. This approach has its origins in anthropology, based on the idea that culture is at the basis of all group differences. An example of a pragmatic selection of techniques is a short training program developed by the National Multicultural Institute. The program is designed to give participants an insight into their personal cultural perspectives, to increase their cultural identity, to make clear that many problems are caused by cultural differences and to learn the skills that participants can use in the workplace.

Effects of diversity initiatives

There have not been many studies into the effects of diversity initiatives, because the concept of diversity initiatives is still relatively young. The results of the few studies that have been done show that:

  • The training needs time to be effective, but the effects disappear after a long period.
  • Training on awareness has little or no effect on men, but does have a positive effect on women.
  • People think diversity management is more important than before the training.
  • Compulsory programs are often more effective than voluntary programs, despite the fact that people are less willing to cooperate. This is because people with a high appreciation for diversity often participate in voluntary programs, but with them it is actually no longer necessary. People who are obliged to participate often have negative feelings about diversity, but no more or at least a lot less after training.
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