What does workplace diversity look like?

10 Sep

Human resources managers can build employee engagement with better diversity planning.

Human resources professionals are at the forefront of employee management, acting as the gatekeepers in creating a high-impact and effective workforce. However, many organizations are still grappling with the role diversity plays in developing the strongest talent pool possible. One of the main issues facing HR is specifically defining diversity and accurately measuring it. At the same time, companies still struggle with implementing policies that allow for a wider range of ethnicities, races and gender distribution in the workplace.

What does diversity mean?
Traditionally, diversity has been recognized as the way a firm includes and engages workers from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as maintaining a fairly even balance of male and female employees. However, in a recent post for the SAP blog, contributor Susan Galer cited research from The Economist Intelligence Unit that may expand the very idea of diversity.

According to the report, a greater number of companies look at the role employee values play in changing the workplace dynamic. Much of the focus is on the idea of a multigenerational workforce in which it's difficult to discern whether younger employees feel they're part of the organization. In effect, HR professionals and management now have the task of evaluating workers based on their level of assimilation into a company's culture and understanding motivated them to join an enterprise in the first place.

Some of the biggest challenges lying in wait for HR managers stem from this idea. According to the EIU study, 60 percent of human resources executives highlight a demonstrable lack of interest in adhering to organizational values as a major characteristic in today's workplace. At the same time, more than 50 percent of these respondents said value-based conflicts among employees from different generations is a hurdle that needs to be overcome.

Exigent challenges
Meanwhile, there are residual issues resulting from traditional diversity initiatives that human resources professionals need to address to ensure stronger employee engagement. Fortune Magazine recently wrote that workers who were perceived to be hired specifically for diversity purposes are seen as less qualified for their positions.

"The Academy of Management Journal" recently released research which found this stigma to be present in more companies than many would assume. David Mayer, who teaches management at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and is one of the authors of the study, explained this issue has a fairly easy solution. One idea involves being overt in explaining to coworkers that a minority employee was hired in purview of his or her qualifications, experiences and education. Mayer explained this information can be delivered in the form of an internal email sent out to various departments. If a company has an enterprise social network, it can easily and quickly introduce new hires – regardless of their age, gender and race – so that existing members of the organization know who's coming on board.

Harvard Business Review echoed this sentiment, explaining that diversity initiatives don't always go far enough. Human resources managers should work to foster inclusion among workers from different backgrounds. A few strategies to reach this goal is to make sure minority employees are part of discussions related to their duties and roles within the organization. Also, ensure everyone has equal access to training and development opportunities so that all employees can expand their skill sets, and workers have more chances to interact with each other.

Globalization has made it possible for businesses to attract and recruit workers from a diverse array of cultures and backgrounds, but it requires significant effort to make certain all employees function as team members.

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