The Importance of Managing Diversity in the Workforce

1. Introduction:

The composition of the workforce has been changing rapidly in recent years and is expected to continue to do so. The changes are due to several factors, such as an aging population, declining birth rates, increased life expectancy, immigration and changes in social attitudes. These trends have led to a more diverse workforce in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, culture and religion.

Diversity can be defined as the presence of individuals with different characteristics within a group or organization. Diversity is often thought of in terms of differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion and disability. However, it can also include other characteristics such as nationality, education, sexual orientation and marital status.

Managing diversity is the process of creating an environment in which all employees feel valued and respected, and where everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the organization’s success. A diverse workforce can bring many benefits to an organization, such as improved decision making, creativity and innovation, improved customer service and increased productivity. However, managing diversity can also bring challenges, such as the need for more effective communication, greater understanding and respect for others’ cultures and beliefs, and the need to challenge negative attitudes and behaviours.

2. What is diversity?

In order to manage diversity effectively it is important to first understand what diversity is and why it is important. Diversity can be defined as the presence of individuals with different characteristics within a group or organization. Diversity is often thought of in terms of differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion and disability. However, it can also include other characteristics such as nationality, education, sexual orientation and marital status. (Amir & Kramarz 2008)

Diversity is often thought of as a negative thing, but it can also have positive effects. For example, a group of people with different skills and abilities can complement each other and make better decisions than a homogeneous group. (Williams & O’Reilly 1998) In addition, a diverse workforce can bring new perspectives and ideas to an organization which can lead to increased creativity and innovation. (West & Felstead 2000)

3. The importance of managing diversity

The changing demographics of the workforce mean that organizations need to manage diversity more effectively in order to remain competitive. A diverse workforce can bring many benefits to an organization such as improved decision making (West & Felstead 2000), creativity and innovation (Williams & O’Reilly 1998), improved customer service (Bell & Lewis 2003) and increased productivity (Cox 1993). In addition, a diverse workforce can help an organization to understand and respond better to the needs of a diverse customer base. (Bell & Lewis 2003)

However, managing diversity can also bring challenges such as the need for more effective communication (Amir & Kramarz 2008), greater understanding and respect for others cultures and beliefs (West & Felstead 2000), and the need to challenge negative attitudes and behaviours (Bell & Lewis 2003). These challenges can be overcome by implementing policies and practices which value diversity and promote inclusion such as flexible working arrangements, training on cultural awareness and unconscious bias, mentoring programs for minority groups,and anti-discrimination policies.(Bell & Lewis 2003)

4. Attitudes to diversity in the nursing workforce

The nursing workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, with a growing proportion of nurses from minority groups. (Aiken et al 2002) This trend is expected to continue as the demographics of the population change and immigration rates increase. (Aiken et al 2002)

There is evidence that nurses from minority groups face discrimination in the workplace. (Aiken et al 2002) For example, a study of black and minority ethnic (BME) nurses in the UK found that 60% had experienced racism at work in the form of offensive comments or behaviour, and 30% had experienced racial harassment. (Reason & Reynolds 2000)

There is also evidence that nurses from minority groups are under-represented in senior positions. (Aiken et al 2002) For example, a study of BME nurses in the UK found that only 3% were in management or senior positions, compared to 11% of white nurses. (Reason & Reynolds 2000)

These findings suggest that there are negative attitudes towards diversity within the nursing workforce. These attitudes can lead to discriminatory behaviours which can result in inequality and a lack of opportunity for nurses from minority groups.

5. The costs of managing diversity

There are a number of costs associated with managing diversity. These include the costs of implementing policies and practices which value diversity and promote inclusion, such as flexible working arrangements, training on cultural awareness and unconscious bias, mentoring programs for minority groups,and anti-discrimination policies. In addition, there are the costs of managing conflict and dealing with complaints of discrimination.

6. The benefits of managing diversity

Despite the challenges, there are also many benefits to managing diversity effectively. These include improved decision making, creativity and innovation, improved customer service, increased productivity and a better understanding of the needs of a diverse customer base. In addition, a diverse workforce can bring new perspectives and ideas to an organization which can lead to increased creativity and innovation. Finally, managing diversity can help to create a more positive image for an organization, which can attract more customers and investors.

7. Conclusion

The composition of the workforce is changing rapidly and organizations need to manage diversity more effectively in order to remain competitive. A diverse workforce can bring many benefits to an organization, such as improved decision making, creativity and innovation, improved customer service and increased productivity. However, managing diversity can also bring challenges, such as the need for more effective communication, greater understanding and respect for others’ cultures and beliefs, and the need to challenge negative attitudes and behaviours. These challenges can be overcome by implementing policies and practices which value diversity and promote inclusion.

FAQ

Some common attitudes towards diversity can include feeling threatened or uncomfortable around people who are different from oneself, feeling that diversity is a negative thing, or feeling that diversity is something to be celebrated.

These attitudes can be effectively managed by increasing exposure and interaction with people who are different, developing an understanding of the benefits of diversity, and implementing policies and practices that support inclusion.

The benefits of managing diversity effectively include improved communication and collaboration, increased creativity and innovation, expanded markets and customer base, and enhanced organizational reputation.

Some challenges associated with managing diversity can include resistance from employees, lack of understanding of the benefits of diversity, and difficulty implementing policies and practices that support inclusion.

Some best practices for managing diversity in the workplace include valuing differences, encouraging open communication, providing training on cultural competence, and establishing policies and procedures that promote inclusion.