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Workplace diversity could mean different things to different people and organizations. We typically refer to workplace diversity as the variety of differences between people in an organization. businesses are realizing that diversity encompasses not only some general differences, but all the differences that individuals bring to the workplace to include but is not limited to, race, gender, ethnic group, age, education, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, and background (Greenberg, 2004).

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The objective of this paper is to explore the implementation of diversity programs in the workplace and to look some challenges and benefits of creating and maintaining a diversity program. You will find in this research, some information on the background need for diversity in the workplace and the changes in the makeup of our workforce today that presents a critical need for diversity training. There is some discussion of the roles of Human Resource Management and Managers, in the implementation of diversity programs and a review of the results of having or not having a program in place.

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Lastly we’ll discuss some organizations that have existing diversity programs in place and examine their effectiveness. We need diversity programs in our workplace today not only because of the obvious identifiers of workplace diversity but also to include the less obvious identifiers which include individual’s socioeconomic status, educational background, language/accent and appearance (Denecke & McGuire, 2005). Most people may not think of these as traits that should be identified when looking at implementing diversity programs but good Human Resource Managers should take nothing for granted and look at the whole individual.

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Some of the goals of traditional diversity training have been focused on improving acceptance and understanding of people who are from different backgrounds, have different experiences, capabilities, and lifestyles but the most prevalent goal is to minimize discrimination and harassment lawsuits (Mathis & Jackson, 2009). Diversity training is largely a Human Resource Management issue, but managers and supervisors must also take part in the process in order for diversity programs to be successful.

As the diversity of our workforce continues to increase at a rapid pace, public managers are facing pressure to create organizational cultures that permit employees from different backgrounds to succeed (Pitts, Hicklin, Hawes, & Melton, 2010). Globalization has had a huge impact on the need for diversity training in our workforces, and the need for diversity training is just as important today; if not more; as it was in the years pass because of the simple fact that today’s workforce is very different from the workforce of the past.

The source of the workforce in the United Stated has changed over the years. In my own experience I have seen households where women are working outside the home and sometimes the men have been the parent to stay home and tend to the house and kids. The U. S. workforce is still changing to include even more women and minorities. In fact, an article published in the Portland Business Journal, estimated that women, immigrants, and people of color would make up 70% of all new work force entrants by 2008, and male who were not minorities would make up only 30 percent (Denecke & McGuire, 2005).

Doughty (2007) sites in his article, implementing diversity comes from long-term cultural change that is inclusive, not exclusive, with leadership showing how diversity benefits everyone. He adds, it is not top-down and reactive, but, rather, opportunity-driven and proactive. Instead of a quick-fix it is a comprehensive systemic approach. With that said, it is important that HR Managers and organizational leadership reach to each and every member of their organization and help their people understand how their role in the successful implementation of a diversity program benefits the entire organization as a whole.

According to Denecke & McGuire (2005), there are six steps you can take to improve the diversity of the workforce of your company.

* First, increase executive management’s awareness of, and involvement in, work force diversity issues. Require that they recognize the corresponding legal and business risks of failing to do so.

* Second, monitor and act on work force data. Create and maintain a validated employment database and analyze trends and issues concerning hirings, promotions and pay equity for all employees, especially women and minorities. Third, set aggressive but achievable annual targets for diversity hiring and promotions by managers. Consult benchmarking standards such as Fortune magazine’s “50 Best Companies for Minorities. ” Consider the use of “diversity scorecards” to track progress.

* Fourth, eliminate miscommunication and ensure close coordination among recruiters, hiring managers and human resources personnel. Make sure your hiring managers know your business objectives, and set realistic expectations for all concerned.

Most importantly, identify and implement lessons learned from each hire – what worked and what didn’t.

* Fifth, develop a fair and effective employee complaint resolution process. What you don’t know will hurt you. Review your complaint process to ensure thorough and comprehensive complaint investigation. Assign a trained professional to respond to complaints and require prompt and thorough investigation. Determine supervisory and employee training needs. Consider alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration or peer review. Last, ensure equitable hiring, compensation, discipline and promotion practices.

Discipline supervisors and managers who fail to consistently enforce your policies. Some of the challenges of workplace diversity according to Greenberg (2004) include: lack of effective communication, which can lead to confusion, lack of teamwork, and low morale; resistance to change, the implementation of diversity in the workplace policies, and successful management of diversity in the workplace. “Diversity alone is not sufficient for your organization’s diversity management plan.

A strategy must be created and implemented to create a culture of diversity that permeates every department and function of the organization”. According to a report released by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the American Institute for Managing Diversity Inc. , most organizations have an awareness of diversity in a general sense and believe that diversity in the workplace is important, but less than one third of those organizations have adopted an official definition of workplace diversity.

Some other named obstacles to diversity management that came from respondents of this report were: the field is not well-defined or understood; it focused too much on compliance and places too much emphasis on ethnicity and gender (Radwan, 2008). In Marilyn Loden’s book “Implementing Diversity”, she goes through the process of identifying diverse types of people that exist in an organization. She doesn’t use the traditional characteristics of diversity; color, gender, age, ethnicity, orientation, or religion.

Instead, she breaks people into distinct groups: innovator, change agent, pragmatist, skeptic, and traditionalist (Doughty, 2007). I feel that these, in addition to the traditional characteristics of diversity are important to identify in the process of creating a diversity training program because these characteristics will help you to know and see the people in your organization as the individuals that they are. Another point sited from Loden’s book is the difference in these personality traits.

Innovators and change agents, who are usually in the minority, are the sparkplugs and accelerants to change in an organization; while the pragmatist and skeptics can be resistant to change, and traditionalists are those people who would pull back when it comes to innovation and change (Doughty, 2007). The success and competitiveness of an organization depends on their ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits of creating and maintaining an effective diversity training program (Greenberg, 2004).

While some organizations dread diversity as something mandated by law, they have no choice but to tolerate it. Others recognize the business and competitive advantages and opportunities that diversity brings to their organization (Mahin, 2010). When an employer refuses to embrace a diverse work force, they open themselves up to the risks of discrimination lawsuits. Employment discrimination is the second-largest source of federal civil litigation with approximately 21,000 lawsuits filed annually.

Approximately 80,000 workplace bias claims are filed annually with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with race discrimination claims leading as the most frequent, followed by sex and gender discrimination claims (Denecke & McGuire, 2005). Having a diverse workplace and implementing an effective diversity training program makes organizations stronger, more competitive and better equipped to understand their customers. The failure of an organization to recognize the value of diversity is a missed opportunity to take part in good business sense (Mahin, 2010).

In addition to making good business sense, having diversity in the workplace and a program in place to monitor and maintain it, increases a company’s competitiveness in new markets; it expands their market share through access to new markets; it deepens customer loyalty while increasing shareholder value; enhances the employee talent pool; increases creativity, production and revenue; all while improving recruitment and morale of the organization.

Take Allstate for instance; they are the prime example of how having a diverse workforce can benefit a company by attracting a new customer base. Their efforts to hire Hispanic agents allotted them ownership of 70% of the Hispanic market share (Denecke & McGuire, 2005). The bottom line, diversity is a good way to multiply your return on investment. What company wouldn’t want that? According to Mathis & Jackson, (2009, p. 110), A crucial component to the success of diversity in the workplace is commitment throughout the organization, beginning with top management.

An example of an organization that has not only utilized diversity but made it a core value and part of its business objectives is NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. They are engaged in recruiting diverse individuals and integrating them through multiple diversity training efforts. Another company, PepsiCo, has developed and implemented a diversity and Inclusion Council so that diversity initiatives are included in all of their strategic efforts. But they don’t stop there.

PepsiCo have diversity events from celebrations to newsletters; all of which contributes to their success with their employees, managers, and customers (Mathis & Jackson, 2009, p. 111). According to Denecke & McGuire (2005), companies throughout the nation are implementing programs and finding different ways to create a diverse workforce. One example is Starbucks Coffee Co. who requires it’s suppliers to be either 51 percent women or minority owned, or to be socially or economically disadvantaged (the authority being the U. S. Small Business Association). Starbucks also requires that their suppliers be certified by one of the many public agencies like, National Minority Supplier Development Council, the National Women Business Owners Corporation, or the Women’s Business Enterprise National counsel. So what exactly does it mean to have workplace diversity? I think Mahin (2010) sums it up perfectly stating that diversity is more than a moral or legal issue; but it is also an economic, political and a competitive advantage issue.

More than anything, Mahin notes, diversity is an issue of opportunity. It can be an opportunity gained or opportunity lost depending on the attitudes and hiring practices of the employer. When HR managers and organizational managers care enough about their people and the success of their organization to dedicate time and funds to maintaining and nurturing the diversity of their workforce, they maximize the opportunities to be gained. In addition, the moral and legal issues will naturally fall under the same umbrella.

As HR Managers and organization leaders, we should make it our practice to always hire based on skill, experience, talent, enthusiasm and attitude without regard to gender, age, religion, race, physical ability, nationality or any other difference. We will then have a naturally diverse workforce that can deliver the goods, provide the services, offer new ideas and talents, and keep our organization open-minded and fair in its dealings. Diversity then becomes part of our business culture, and we become an employer of choice who recognizes diversity as opportunity (Mahin, 2010).

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