Workforce Diversity in America

Workforce Diversity in AmericaThe United States of America is a magnificent synthesis of different races, religions, and cultures of the colonists that settled here centuries ago. Certainly, the nation has grown into a versatile land built on diversity of immigrants in the recent decades. America is the third most distinct nation when it comes to diversity right after India and China. Here’s one little example of it - the American cookpot which as diverse as its population (hello chicken tikka masala!) and there’s another one - your workplace.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau on racial and ethnic breakdown of the most recent decennial census data demonstrates that those self-identified as White represented 75.1 percent of the population, down from 85.9 percent in 1980. Black represented 12.3 percent, Hispanics at 12.5 and Asian Americans 3.6 percent of the population. In July 2011, it was found out that 50.4% of babies born in the US accounts for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and mixed race rather than White. This basic information alone can paint the picture clear and make it obvious about how much ‘diversity’ contributes to an already complex scenario that exists in today’s workplace. Diversity no longer attributes to race, religion, and cultures. There are some more attributes of diversity of the modern 21st century based on:  cultural exposure of individuals, ideological views, gender identification, disabilities, and economic disparity and many more.

Management of Multicultural Workforce

Business leaders today need to not only focus on leveraging the benefits that result from a multicultural workforce, but also curtail the negatives posed by them. It is important in any organization to create an environment where multicultural diversity thrives to its fullest, where leaders go beyond simple acknowledgement of cultural diversity to adopting active diversity management. There’s more to managing diversity than the Federal and State legislatures and policies.

Gardenswarz & Rowe model includes 25 dimensions of diversity including:

Organizational dimensions: business unit, tenure, level, work location

External dimensions: geographical location, education, marital status, religion

Internal dimensions: race, sexual orientation, disability, age

Diversity management is a comprehensive process and ought to be seen and presented as a profitable asset that needs to be fostered and utilized. From multiple points of view, what comes before embracing diversity are the many issues that exist in today’s international business.

Below are a few approaches that are more likely to be adapted into any business size to encourage the presence of a harmonious and diverse workplace:

Conducting training programs - These are intended to incite gratefulness and knowledge of the attributes and advantages of multicultural workforce. It can be done via employee orientation programs, for acquainting employees to the organization’s standards of how the employee from a different cultural-ethnic background should be treated. Through skill-building, to provide information on the cultural norms of ethnic groups and know-how on how it may affect communication and social conduct. Creating awareness on the importance of a diverse workforce, shedding light on important demographics and how it benefits the organization.

Respecting individual differences – Speaking of workforce diversity, the way millennials perceive is not how the baby boomers or an older generation does. Diversity doesn’t do justice if is used only to describe race, ethnicity and cultures. It also applies to personality, aptitude as well as competence in some cases. Leaders today fail to recognize the importance of one minuscule aspect prevalent in today’s workforce and in some cases, simply relate work performance or behavior to ‘because he’s Jewish’ or ‘but, she’s a woman’ and pull the curtains to a full show on ignorance that can rot an entire system. In fact, inclusion of diversity no longer applies to only employees. It means incorporating it in every aspect of the organization.

Acknowledging social events - What other great opportunities to get to know diverse individuals than corporate-sponsored social events? It could be picnics, pride parades, Christmas parties, pink ribbon events, bowling leagues, etc.

A Diverse Team that Stays Together Achieve Better

According to a new study, by NPR (National Public Radio), a diverse workplace may eventually create better results.

The study looked at the work of scientific researchers and found that papers composed by multicultural groups were referred to in other research more frequently than those composed of homogenous groups. In the world of research where citations are the ultimate metric of quality, the results of the study gave business leaders something to think about. The same study additionally found that groups with members from parts of different geographic areas – perhaps three or more cities, created better papers than those with members from the same region. The diversity here acts as one of the main harbingers of success for bringing valuable insights from a variety of racial, ethnic, sexual and personality types.

"It's a matter of looking at individual teams and making sure they're different perspectives, different points of view, different backgrounds," NPR's David Greene says.

In a recent research conducted by Harvard, headed by Organizational Behavior professor Roy Chua, multicultural teams bring numerous benefits to an organization, given the working environment is harmonious.

Chua recommends that today’s leaders of diverse teams ought to urge practices to keep potential friction within the team low. Harvard's Working Knowledge website points out what that process may look like:

Chua theorizes that managers could diminish the impacts of ambient cultural disharmony by encouraging employees to recognize their own particular presumptions of different societies -for instance, by keeping a social diary in which they record their thoughts and perceptions. In the working environment, leaders can make cultural "awareness moment," as HBS Associate Professor Tsedal Neely proposes, by setting up site visits between workers working in different environment, or by swaying them to work side by side to watch how social contrasts can impact work propensities.

A team with a diverse workforce equals individuals with a variety of religions, causes, needs and holidays close to their heart. Arrangement of a flexible work schedule works the best in such scenarios, permitting individuals to schedule holidays or leaves as per their needs.

How Diverse is Silicon Valley?

Google, Facebook, Apple and a few other tech giants in Silicon Valley fought an 18-month battle with San Jose Mercury News over diversity disclosures in 2010. At the end of it, some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley recently released diversity data for the first time. The results however, are nothing to be euphoric about. Apple is the most recent to put out racial and gender diversity data. Tim Cook wrote in a letter going hand in hand with the report: "As CEO, I'm not fulfilled by the numbers on this page,” it read.

  1. Laszlo Bock, Google's senior VP of individuals operations, wrote in a blog entry that opened a wide-discussion on the issue, "Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity."

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in an interview recently said, the social media giant still has a long way to go.

Twitter's announcement stressed that the whole business is marked by dramatic imbalances in diversity and we are no exception."

Yahoo, EBay were amongst those companies which showed some really impressive numbers in terms of workforce diversity. Technology industry, as a matter of fact, has found new lows when it comes to employee disparity at its worst right from giants to start-ups and venture capital firms. Gender is part around 70-30, comprehensively for men, at Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter.  Racial data were released in the U.S., where Hispanics and blacks together make up 9 percent as a rule at these four organizations. Women have 16 percent, Hispanics and blacks are largely absent at 6 percent of those employments at Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter worldwide.

A note of dissatisfaction practically screams from these reports. Could this be a wake up call? May be. The attributes of diversity go hand in hand with business goals. When lack of cohesion originating from workplace diversity is not paid attention to, it leads to an inability to work together on goals, support each other’s ideas, gain agreement on decisions and ultimately the inability to take a united action. As most firms by now have started acknowledging that diversity indeed is a core business necessity. Diversity means acknowledging, understanding, respecting and celebrating the differences that stand between individuals. The dynamics of a workforce can change to an astounding degree if it promotes inclusiveness.

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