Magoosh GRE

The benefits of promoting diversity and equal opportunity

| March 31, 2015

As Gary Hammel said in his Keynote address at the CIPD Annual Conference in October 2004: ‘the one certainty in business today is that change is the only thing that is constant but he warned is itself changing’.
1. Write a full synopsis highlighting the benefits of promoting diversity and equal opportunity.

Society within the UK is changing alongside its economy. As a result of this it has been said that employers have had to think in a more creative way in order to react to these changes. The issue of an ageing population and the increase in the ratio between women and men has meant that the demographics of the working population is also changing at a rapid rate. Alongside these issues is the growth of ethnic minorities within the workforce.
Partly as a result of this increasing change, the UK has introduced various legislative changes inn order to make things more equal for all concerned. Large corporations were committing themselves in theory to equal opportunities. However, in practical terms the amount of inequality and discrimination going on is still the same. Arguably, this is shown by issues such as the gender pay gap as well as segregation in all its forms. It is also shown by the Workplace Employment Relations Survey done by Cully et al (1998) which showed that there was only a 64% take up by companies on the equal opportunities issue.
In fact, according to some studies equal opportunities legislation has actually made it harder to ensure that career doorway is open for everybody.
It has also been noted that diversity and equal opportunities are not necessarily treated the same. Diversity is seen as being productive for certain companies while equal opportunities are perceived as being costly. This is all dependent on the approach that companies take. Those who are proponents for diversity level the criticism at those who take the equal opportunities approach to employment as not being so concerned with the cosmopolitan nature that can make a diversity-approach company so productive.
On the other hand, the diversity approach tends to be more proactive in its approach and can benefit any given company’s business strategy while the other approach is seen as being reactive and defeats the objective at times.
Conversely, critics of the diversity approach such as Kirton and Greene (2000) state that this particular business model fails to ‘recognise the value of the stake holder and ethical cases that should underpin future policy and practice’ (Kirton and Greene: 2000: 7). However, other critics like Amartya Sen (1999) suggest that ethical analysis should centre on what people do and not why. In so doing, benefits of diversity take-up would be examined.
Within the model that is being suggested by Anderson and Metcalfe’s (2003) study, the benefits and the disadvantages of diversity will be included as well as its justification. If diversity is managed correctly, the disadvantages of it should diminish and would contribute to the performance of the business . In order to do so it has been suggested that employers look at their working practices and ethos and change what needs to be changed.
Furthermore it has been suggested that despite the results of Anderson and Metcalfe’s (2003) study merely states the relationship between diversity and business benefits there is seen to be an increasing amount of other evidence which backs it up. Many of these studies also indicate a link between diversity and bottom-line benefits including staff retention. Some of these studies have been made by the EU, Personnel Today and by a woman’s group. They have all basically stated that diversity is good for companies if it is institutionalised and freed from policy bureaucracy.
However, it has also been said that in order for the diversity approach to work it needs to have a method of measuring it which is different from the norm. The balanced scorecard approach, as it is called, ensures that diversity is measured as to how it contributes to company finances. It has three sections to it which are customer focus, business processes and innovation and learning.

Customer Focus
Aberdeen City Council serves a community which is increasingly ageing at one end and has a talent pool which is continually diminishing at the other. As a result of this, Aberdeen City Council has maintained an ‘age-neutral’ employment strategy. This means that they are encouraging applications from all ages and as a result has benefitted from an improved public perception of them. Tesco have adopted a similar principle by employing all ages as have other employers. Marks and Spencer’s have ensured that all disabled people know that they are around by working in partnership with Disabled Go. As a result they have improved disabled staff training as well as employment opportunities for disabled people. By doing these things they have ensured that everyone is included.

Business Process Improvement
There are practical examples of this working in terms of business processes. There is Barclays Bank who removed the upper age limit for those working for them. As a result their staff retention went up and the overheads regarding staff training was reduced. Nationwide have continually changed their working practices which include job-sharing and compressed working weeks have ensured that Nationwide have retained their personnel. This has increased staff morale and have meant that staff turnover is low.

Creativity and Innovation
Again, there are more practical examples of the diversity scorecard approach working within companies. For instance, BAe have maintained a campaign called Respect at Work which has encouraged respect for others. In doing so, they have ensured that individuals feel more comfortable at work and have enhanced productivity by 22 per cent. BP have employed a mentoring programme where senior executives have had to pair up with junior executives to ensure that senior executives know what it is like on the shop floor as well as to increase communication between levels of management. On the other hand, Bernard Matthews have introduced other cultures into its factories which has led to a significant increase in immigrant workforce. As a result of this, the company made sure that the immigrants fitted in with the culture by enabling them to take English lessons as well as making sure that English bank accounts are set up.
All in all, companies are beginning to find ways in which diversity can be maintained and where employees begin feel more valued within the workplace.

2. Provide a summary of issues arising and faced by the organisation whilst promoting diversity.

The hurdles presented to a corporation striving to encourage diversity are numerous. Most of these critiques centre around how diversity management is implemented in practical terms. Wrench (2007) maintains that:

Most of the research which supports the claim that diversity is beneficial for groups has been conducted in a laboratory or classroom setting. Laboratory studies neglect the variable of time and research in short-lived groups is not a strong foundation for judging the effects of diversity in a real organisation (Wrench: 2007: 89).
In other words, there are issues with the real-time validity of the experiments carried out and that because of this they do not necessarily represent the realities of diversity within the working environment.
Another critique levelled at diversity employment practices involves the segregation of different departments. Wise and Tschirhart (1998), as cited by Wrench (2007) argue that:
Managing-for-diversity practices cannot be informed by results of studies that link characteristics of people in an organisation with outcomes, without paying any attention to the interactions of these people and the causal connection of the interactions to the outcomes. For instance, they argue, members of different racial or ethnic groups may be found in the same organisation, but they have little interaction as a consequence of occupational segregation or other factors – the overall diversity of the workforce has little relevance to task outcomes (Wrench: 2007: 90).
In other words, occupational segregation, or classification and departmentalisation according to job role, means that people of diverse race, creed and gender are separated out. This means that there is not as much social cohesion within the working environment between groups of people. Nakagi (2011) suggests the following as a reason:
The notion of intersectionality….remains far less developed in studies of organisations, perhaps because it, in some ways, challenges any simple approach to or prescription of promoting diversity. Perhaps a key issue is that diversity can mean almost anything to anyone, and for that reason it can function as an empty, and perhaps profoundly ideological signifier, while the concept of intersectionality complicates and demystifies ideology. Thus, the notion of the ‘gendered intersectional corporation’ is not, or at least rarely, discussed’(Groschl: 2011: 133)
Intersectionality or intersectional discrimination, is defined by the Australian Human Rights and Rights Council as meaning that:
A person may be subject to discrimination based on several aspects of their identity. In the case of women, it means that the way in which women experience life…differs according to a variety of factors, including gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, age, language, and religious beliefs (Dasvarma and Loh: 2002)
Within the same speech, the United Nations use the analogy of a traffic intersection to explain the concept of intersectionality:

To use a metaphor of an intersection, we first analogise the various axes of power, for instance, race, ethnicity, gender and class, as constituting the thoroughfares which structure the social, economic, or political terrain. Racialised women are often positioned in the space where racism or xenophobia, class and gender meet. They are consequently subject to injury by the heavy flow of traffic along these roads (Dasvarma and Loh: 2002).
It could be said, then, that intersectionality is a concept that has its roots in feminism but addresses the idea that individuals can be divided and subdivided into more than one category of people. In itself, this represents a challenge for those who are discriminated against in terms of ethnicity and gender. This also represents a problem for the diversity management model of human resources because it would make it harder to categorise and for the employee to be comfortable within a potentially biased working environment.
Other challenges with diversity and equal opportunity is suggested by D’Almeida (2007), citing Briscoe (1997) who suggests that:
Individuals with effective cross-cultural communication skills were better able to understand and manage organisational functions and culturally diverse interactions within organisations. These abilities to communicate at different levels with diverse groups of individuals influenced the overall behaviour of individuals within organisations….Once the overall behaviour of individuals were influenced positively, leaders within a diverse workforce found that possessing the ability to communicate with individuals of differing perspectives benefitted the self as well as organisations (D’Almeida: 2007: 11).
The challenge is the fact that not all employees are going to have effective cross-cultural communication skills. After all, the workplace is usually cosmopolitan in that it has a mixture of people within the organisation from different backgrounds. This means that the effectiveness of the diversity approach would be very much dependent upon the make-up of the working environment. So it could be argued that results gained from a working environment using the diversity model contrasted with another using the same model would vary according to the willingness and the ethnic make-up of each one.

3. Include a conclusion in which arguments for and against should be given against the case study.

To conclude, this study incorporates the ‘diversity scorecard’ model which is said to connect diversity with successful business results. It has been argued by critics to have many advantages to it which relate to this connection. However, there are also counter-arguments to them.

Firstly, there is the argument that ‘diversity in employment promotes cost-effective employment relations’ (CIPD: 14). It could be said that while this concept would be great to implement in theory that it would not necessarily work in practice despite the claims that there is a ‘discriminatory alternative’(CIPD: 14). As mentioned earlier, members of various social groups would be fragmented into different departments so any attempted social cohesion attempted would possibly be stymied by that fact.

Secondly, the idea that ‘diversity enhances customer relations’ means that customers are seen to relate more to employees that are of the same social grouping as they are (Morrison and Morrison: 1991). This may be because they are seen to be speaking the same language and are from the same background. As the CIPD report, citing Stenkevich (2001), suggests, this can:

improve the organisation’s ability to segment and target differential groups more effectively, provide a more accurate means of communication with the target audience, improve customer service and customer interface, proactively foster customer-driven research and development, and also the increase the loyalty and retention of satisfied staff and customers (CIPD: 15)

From this excerpt it may seem as if this particular aspect of the diversity scorecard approach is the panacea that will ensure that diversity takes place in the workplace. However, it could be argued just as well that by ensuring that members of certain ethnic groups/genders/ages deal with the customer equivalent a company may not actually be encouraging greater diversity by doing so.
The third point made by the CIPD report suggests that the diversity scorecard approach ‘enhances creativity, flexibility and innovation in organisations’ (CIPD: 15). The report cites Senge (1990) who ‘argues that the learning organisation, an organisation which can effectively transform itself as its environment changes, exists only when individuals and groups are allowed to think and learn differently’ (CIPD: 15). This view is backed up by Jonsen et al (2011) which state that:
At the group level, it is argued that given increasing environmental complexity, diverse groups are better able to grasp this complexity by bringing to the table different perspectives which are believed to enhance adaptability, problem solving, creativity and innovation and subsequently performance….However, organisational processes tend to systematically reduce rather than exploit the variety of perspectives that different people can bring…Many studies have demonstrated that team members encourage conformity and ignore differences (Groeschl: 2011: 31).
At first glance, Jonsen et al (2011) seem to be suggesting that diversity in the workplace encourages creativity because people from diverse backgrounds are able to come together to find a creative solution to a problem. However, as Jonsen et al (2011) suggest, the tendency is for group members to conform to each other rather than diversify.
Fourthly, there is the idea that diversity can promote sustainable development and business advantage. The concept involves the importation of talent at managerial level in order to freshen up the crative process within a given company. However, this needs to be monitored so that the talent coming in is not made to conform to the existing framework.
Conversely, there are also negative aspects of diversity which has been picked up. It has been argued that ‘cultural relatedness’ within companies can suffer as a result. In this respect, cultural relatedness is connected with a sense of kinship that any given workplace grouping can have with each other. It had been argued by the CIPD report that this aspect of work life would diminish as a result of utilising the diversity approach to human resourcing.
There is also the issue of supporting the flexibility that the diversity approach would need financially. Also and possibly more importantly, diversity has been said to jeopardise workplace harmony. The CIPD report suggests that there is a reason for this which is that managers tend to ‘create rules abd regulations’ (CIPD: 16). Arguably, this would mean that environments which are also meant to be creative and inclusive actually discourage creativity.
Finally, one disadvantage of diversity is that it would possibly more restricted by business needs. Moreover, the need for businesses to ‘utilise low numbers in highly skilled teams..also assumes a mechanical logic in responding to the supply chain’. As a result of this diversity within any given team is restricted so a balance needs to be reached.
To sum up, it could be said that the pros and cons of the diversity method of human resources weigh up with each other. However, it could also be argued that the human benefit far outweighs the cost (both in terms of finance and temporary challenges) as it becomes apparent that looking after the employees also means that profits also increase in the long run. Obviously it could also be said that the diversity approach is not without its disadvantages but these are nothing compared to the benefits of the approach. Overall, it could be said that effective communication is the key to enabling a truly synergistic working environment. D’Almeida (2007) quite rightly suggests that:
The best way to take advantage of culturally diverse groups and keep them in focus was to make sure that individuals understood what was required of them in order to guide such groups and how groups were affected by their decisions (D’Almeida: 2007: 7).
By doing this, it means that individuals are able to work together more effectively despite their backgrounds because they know what their job role is.

Reference List

D’Almeida, C, (2007), ‘The Effects of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace’, Cappella University, UMI
Dasvarma, A and Loh, E (2002), ‘Intersectional Discrimination’, Speech given at ‘Beyond Tolerance: National Conference on Racism’ 12th March 2002, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission,Australia, Available at
Jonsen, K, Schneider, S and Masnevski, M (2011), ‘Diversity – A Strategic Issue?’ , IN: Groeschl, S, (Ed.),(2011), ‘Diversity In the Workplace’, Gower Publishing, Farnham UK
Worman, D, (2005), ‘Managing Diversity: Linking Theory and Practice to Business Performance’, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, London
Wrench, J, (2007), ‘Diversity Management and Discrimination: Immigrant and Ethnic Minorities in the EU’, Ashgate Publishing Company, Aldershot, UK

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