Article (August-2017)


Diversity in the workplace

Dr. Anupriyo Mallick

Designation : -   Assistant Professor and Head HR and OB

Organization : -  Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM), Kolkata


Since the 1960s, the idea of a monoculture has been losing out to a pluralistic society resulting from cultural integration. Globalisation has shrunk boundaries and increased the rapidity of communication. The changes wrought as a result are evident in every aspect of lifestyle, be it fashion trends, eating habits, entertainment or recreation. Indeed, diversity adds spice to life.

Management gurus regard diversity in an organisation as a good thing because it encourages teamwork among employees. Diversity in an organisation occurs when the organisation hires people from different backgrounds and when the demographics vary considerably with differences in age, sex, culture and physical capabilities.

Organizing such a mixed bag of human resource into a cohesive work force is a tough managerial task. For one, cultural ethnicity issues need to be handled with care and sensitivity. People from different parts of the world need to come together for various operations. With such a diverse pool of resource and talent, maintaining equality is a Herculean task.

In this milieu, it becomes the responsibility of the organisation to subtly coach its employees to accept the changes around them. Informal get-togethers help employees build up a rapport outside the office, which would also aid organizational goals.

Progressive companies all over the world recognise the advantages of integrating a culturally disparate workforce. In today's global marketplace where companies are constantly interacting with clients from all walks of life such diversity is a definite advantage for an organisation.

So, contrary to the earlier ethnic - centric business outlook, where orientation and operations were marshalled from the parent company, modern multinationals have incorporated geocentric orientation into their organisation.

The entire organisation is viewed as an independent system operating from different locations. All relationships between headquarters and the subsidiaries are collaborative, encouraging communication from both directions and at all levels. Furthermore, managers of different nationals occupy key positions.

MNCs have recognised the business opportunities in many different countries. Moreover, multinational firms benefit by being able to establish production facilities in countries where their products can be manufactured more effectively and efficiently. Companies with worldwide operations sometimes have access to natural resources and materials that may be available to domestic firms only. Then there is the advantage of recruiting management professionals from a global talent pool.

The pros of diversity can be categorized thus:

Increased creativity: When different people work towards a common goal, there is no dearth of ideas that are thrown up. Coming from diverse backgrounds, employees can offer insightful alternatives to a problem.

Increased productivity: Diversity in workforce kills monotony and brings certain freshness to the work atmosphere. Every employee motivates the other with his/her different style of working.

Better negotiation skills: Every culture has its own philosophy on negotiation. Americans hate it, they rarely, if ever negotiate. But when they have to work with people of different cultural they realise the art of negotiation, which it should be a win - for - all situation and so on. Diversity fosters such learning.

New business processes: With a disparate workforce, companies need to adopt newer business skills and processes. A cross - cultural workforce improves these.

New language skills: Diversity can improve employees' linguistic skills, thus breaking down barriers of language and communication. Not only that but the colossal sums spent on hiring interpreters can also be reduced. Learning new languages gives employees an insight into other cultures.