Workforce Diversity in Practice

In practice, employers use various means to manage diversity. Baxter Healthcare Corporation started by adopting a strong company policy: Baxter International believes that a multi-cultural employee population is essential to the company’s leadership in healthcare around the world. Baxter then publicized this philosophy throughout the company. It then took steps to foster diversity and to manage it. These steps included evaluating diversity program efforts, recruiting minority members to the board of directors, formally interacting with representative minority and networks, and offering diversity training programs.

Other employers facilitate the organizing of minority employees’ net works to help retain managerial level minority employees. The networks aims are to help minority employees better connect to each other and to provide mutually beneficial information, social support and mentoring. Minority employees usually organize these intra- company minori0ty networks themselves, although management typically provides ongoing support in terms of things like meeting space and printing.

Diversity’s Benefits:

Does it pay to invest the employer’s time and resources in broadening its diversity and in getting its employees to work together more harmoniously? The obvious answer would seem to be “yes”. IBM created several minority task forces focusing on groups such as women and Native Americans. In the ensuring 10 or so years, the task forces have expanded IBM’s multicultural markets. For example, one decided to focus on expanding IBM’s market amongst multicultural and women owned businesses. They did this in part by providing much needed sales and service support to small midsize business a niche well populated with minority and female buyers. As a result, this market grew from $ 10 million to more than $ 300 million in revenue in just three years. Longo Toyota in El Monte, California, built its competitive strategy on diversity. With a 60 person sales force that speaks more than 20 languages, Longo’s staff provides a powerful competitive advantage for serving an increasingly diverse customer base. Longo’s human resource department has much to do with Longo’ strategic success. A survey of 113 MBA job seekers concluded that women and ethnic minorities considered diversity management to be important when accepting job offers. On the other hand, a recent study found few positive or negative direct effects of diversity on performance, so having an effective diversity program seems to be the key.

How can one tell if the diversity initiatives are effective? There are some common sense questions to ask:

1) Are there women and minorities reporting directly to senior managers?
2) Do women and minorities have a fair share of the job assignments that are the traditional stepping stones to successful careers in the company?
3) Do women and minorities have equal access to international assignments?
4) Is the employer taking steps (including development oriented performance appraisals and providing development opportunities) that ensure female and minority candidates will be in the company’s career development pipeline?
5) Are turnover rates for female and minority managers the same or lower than those for white male managers?

Some employers encourage diversity through affirmative action programs. In this context, affirmative action means making an extra effort to hire and promote those in protected group, particularly when those groups are under represented.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Versus Affirmative Action:

Equal employment opportunity aims to ensure that anyone, regardless of race, color, disability, sex, religion, national origin, or age, has an equal opportunity based on his or her qualifications. Affirmative action goes beyond this by having the employer take actions (in recruitment, hiring, promotion, and compensation) to eliminate the present effects of past discrimination.

Affirmative action is still a significant workplace issue today. The incidence of major court mandated affirmative action programs are down, but courts still use them. Furthermore, many employers must still engage in voluntary programs. For example, Executive Order 11246 (issued in 1965) requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to improve employment opportunities for groups such as women and racial minorities. EEO 11246 covers about 26 million workers – about 22% of the US workforce.

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