Equal Opportunities and Managing Diversity

Workforce diversity recognizes the reality that individuals differ from one another in several ways, visible or invisible, which could be in terms of gender, age, marital status, social status, color, disability, culture, religion, etc. However, it also differs from country to country.

Gender equality is the ancient and most common diversity issue all over the world. In spite of that, most men and women are at a disadvantage in the areas of job and training, salaries and wages, and are limited to certain occupations without any reference to their capabilities and skills. Nowadays, the diversity of the workforce makes the business environment more challenging with uncertainties and competition. Hence, the organizations are well aware that they need a skilled workforce to have a competitive benefit in order to respond quickly and flexibly according to the changes that are taking place in the business environment.

Bolton and Houlihan are of the view that a diverse workforce of skills, languages, experiences. Cultural understanding helps an organization to operate on a global level by providing its services to the customers and having a variety of viewpoints, this also improves the success of an organization and increases the competitiveness as well as increases the effectiveness and efficiency.

Equal opportunities and managing diversity approaches have various strengths and weaknesses along with some similarities and differences. At times they also do contrast each other.

Equal Opportunity Approaches

There are various views as to what constitutes equal opportunities. This approach refers to combined efforts, equal participation, and shared responsibilities regardless of the ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality of the individuals. The social groups are under the protection of the law; hence, staff and customers have the legal rights to be treated fairly and equally. An equal opportunities policy can be referred to engaging in the employment practices and procedures that do not discriminate provides equality between people of different groups to gain full, productive and freely opted employment.

Managing Diversity Approaches

The diversity approach emerged from the USA during the late 1980s, it is a means of providing both business and social justice incentive to bring equality within the organizations. Unlike the equal opportunities approaches, whose objective is to have a workplace where individual’s sex and race is of no great significance than the color of their hair in deciding the treatment that they deserve, the main idea behind managing diversity approach is to be able to encourage organizations so that they can recognize differences.

Managing diversity is usually considered as proactively capitalizing on the different skills, qualities, and point of views that are there in a diverse workforce. It refers to the realization of the potential each employee has where specific group based equal opportunities need to be seriously questioned, particularly affirmative action and targets. Diversity approaches that help in encouraging the managers to ignore the realities of inequalities and discrimination will mean that the status quo is maintained.

There are differences between people, and in line with the diversity, the approach is looked as crucial issues for the management to respond to. Although these differences are not seen as distributed thoroughly as such, while the intention of the approach is providing an environment in which everyone feels valued, the specific significance is not given to the social group equality as an objective of organizational policies. Managing diversity policies tries to discover individual needs and desires which would help individuals to work more effectively and respond through, for instance, career management or benefit schemes.

Comparing and Contrasting the Strengths and Weaknesses of Equal Opportunities Approach and Managing Diversity Approach

Managing Diversity has become a strategic business issue throughout the world though it has its origin in the USA. The ACIB, that is, the Australian Centre for International Business shows that diversity helps in improving the quality of management’s decisions and provides innovative ideas and superior solutions to the problems of the organization. Managing diversity is premised on the recognition of diversity and differences as the positive attributes of the organization, rather than seeing it as problems to be solved. It is found that a diversity of workforce has a greater quality solution to brainstorming tasks, more cooperative behavior is displayed and can help in increasing efficiency, effectiveness and success of the organization. Managing diversity can effectively contribute to the success of the organization by increasing the diverse markets and enhancing the image of the organization. Hence, giving diversity value may become a source of competitive benefit, may increase the quality of the life of the organization and ultimately turn out to be good for the organization. The popularity of the approach comes out of these positive arguments.

Diversity management refers to an alternative model to traditional equal opportunities policies and practices or the second generation of equal opportunities. In opposition to the negative perspective of discrimination against staff in equal opportunities approach, the emphasis of diversity management is on a positive perspective of differences among all individuals. Diversity management not only recognizes but also values and harnesses differences of the workforce, like individual characteristics, orientations, religious beliefs, backgrounds, so that individual talents are being fully utilized and the goals of the organization are achieved. While equal opportunities approach is derived by legislation, diversity management is driven by the organization case.

Managing diversity seeks advantage of the growing cultural pluralism that is the outcome of the internationalization of the business, development of the world markets, increasing workforce mobility, and the increase in awareness of individual differences. Equal opportunities start externally and are enforced through legislation, on the contrary, diversity management starts internally, as the result of the efforts made to create an atmosphere of equality and a fully inclusive organizational culture at the workplace.

There are various objectives that an organization wants to achieve with the help of effective HR diversity management. At the apex is compliance with the legal equal opportunities requirements. Other objectives included are mainly creativity, employee attraction, flexibility, diverse teams focus at achieving higher innovation and creativity, helping them to outperform homogenous teams. While there is evidence that short term progress is affected by the conflicts and miscommunication, by having a wider range of perspectives to problem-solving, diverse team enhances speed and innovation and produce substantially greater quality solutions over the whole cycles of development.

Moreover, by giving equality to employment relations, organizations tend to attract and retain an adequate and qualified workforce. The benefits of effective diversity management inculcate reduced turnover, absenteeism and attracting the best individuals as the labor market shrinks. For companies that are willing to take an extra step in accepting diversity and equality, it can bring a variety of advantages and taking up these ideas will refer that there is no separate or particular way of treating the employees, as each employee has its own personal needs, values, and beliefs.

Acceptance and respect are included in the concept of diversity. It is about understanding the difference and uniqueness of each and every individual. Diversity helps in exploring these differences in a safe, encouraging and nurturing the environment, and also improves the understanding of different groups. Both the principles work hand in hand to strengthen each other so that integration can be achieved.

Why is it crucial to recruit and retain equal genders?

Many scholars are of the view that the organizations measure the identity profile or demographics of defined workgroups, the dominant culture of the organization, and the perceptions of several employee groups in order to identify cultural barriers that may hinder the effective employees’ participation. Critical analysis of the HR diversity practices that are currently used, like recruitment and selection, jobs entry criteria, selection tools, and diversity training programs are also crucial. This type of analysis helps in overcoming unfairness, removes the glass ceilings and eliminates tokenism and resistance.

Gender Equality Duty was initiated in April 2007 following a binding duty on employers to treat men and women equally, it does not mean necessarily treating them same but identifying their needs and addressing them. Every organization must realize the need for eliminating favoritism and prejudice, and should promote equal opportunities between both men and women.

Recruitment and Selection

To demonstrate equal opportunities and managing diversity approaches, recruitment policy is away. Both EO and MD approaches provide their requirements that all the decisions that are taken within an organization related to the employment must be based upon individuals’ merit and skills, and must be objective-based. The policies and procedures of the organization focus on encouraging employees to contribute their best. Organizational programs specifically those which are related to recruitment, promotion, working conditions, performance management, training can reflect the contribution of EO and MD approaches to the programs to equalize gender inequality.

Managing growth in workforce diversity and increasing the representation of women and minorities is a critical strategy of recruitment and selection of HRM in almost every firm. Human resource managers generally tend to bring people into the organization and promote those employees who are fit or who have values similar to that of decision-makers or gatekeepers. Human resource managers and professionals who conduct the recruitment and interviews the job seekers in a multicultural workforce needs to be well aware of the ways in which the interviewers’ beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes affect the interview behavior.

The organizations need to assure that the employment policies and practices provide developmental opportunities, career planning, reduction of work-family conflict, and mentoring for the gender groups that are disadvantaged.

Working Conditions

Effective diversity management needs a culture of inclusion that helps in creating a work environment nurturing teamwork, the participation of the employees and cohesiveness. Diversity culture should be emphasized in the vision of the organization, its mission, and its business strategy and the HRM strategy. The formation of a diversity culture needs a significant commitment of resources and leadership. Formalizing HR diversity policies is also crucial.

Majority of the people would accept that there are differences between men and women, and between those who are from different ethnic groups, this is likely to affect their work opportunities. For instance, studies show that women, irrespective of they work or not, spend the majority of their time on domestic work. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have uninterrupted working lives and work full-time. So there may be a job that is provided to men and not women, but it is unlawful.

In relation to gender equality, such an approach to managing diversity stresses the requirement of policies which respond to gender-based differences between the employees. This may include having jobs that are part-time or on a job-share basis.

Training, Promotion and Career Development

High-quality diversity awareness training is one of the many HR functions that enhance the effective integration of diverse group members. Awareness training helps in building a common understanding of the value of diversity, assisting in developing social cohesion so that it improves individual and organizational outputs.

Training design must tightly incorporate the social psychological research on stereotyping and linkages to prejudice reduction. A top-down training strategy must be of significance, providing awareness training first to the senior managers and team-building training at last. Education and training should be designed according to the specific needs of the organization, division, level, team or individuals. Critical to the success of education and training is the crucial step of linking training to the strategic goals of the organization. The external facilitators involved in the diversity training can be of great help for achieving higher levels of productivity in less time given workgroup diversity can lead to higher conflicts among members in the short-term.

Professional development and career planning is another area where discrimination can be witnessed and needs careful attention while designing the policies of diversity management. If the HR practices that concern the career progression do not effectively reflect diversity issues, diverse employees would have negative perceptions about the whole process. Hence, organizations should ensure that equal opportunities should be provided to all employees for promotion and personal development. Both male and female employees should be regularly invited to participate in the panels that evaluate, select and promote managers. The problem of assessing the individuals for promotion who are different can be diminished if some of the decision-makers are non-traditional managers. Sometimes the direct intervention of the top-level executives in the promotion process is necessary to ensure that the diversity goals are not overlooked. Precisely, it means that the candidates must not only be recruited but they must also be adequately prepared to take up demanding managerial assignments.

It is also suggested by scholars that mentoring is another strategy for diversity management. A successful senior mentor is matched with more junior women or minority employees, with the aim to enable under-represented demographic groups to move through the invisible barriers and advance in their careers. Diversity takes individuals as the primary focus of concern and not groups. If someone needs training, it should be addressed regardless of whether they are a man or a woman, and individuals should not be assumed to have or lack specific training needs just because they are a man or a woman. The women who wish to prioritize career should be treated in the same way as men. Those who combine work with family commitments could have a more gradual promotion, space for career breaks and part-time work and still be valued by the organization. Well-designed training can help in achieving a number of objectives. These include giving participants an increased understanding of the rationale for equality initiatives, a higher awareness of their own stereotypes, a better understanding of the importance of different cultures for behavior, and a context within which they can get to know others as individuals and not as embodied stereotypes.

Pay

Pay inequality is a major cause of job dissatisfaction and de-motivation. Hence, it is a major HR diversity issue. While the implementation of equal pay has significantly minimized earning differences between men and women, there is still gender income inequality prevalent as a global problem. Women earn 20% or 30% less than men globally.

Pay equality contributes to effective diversity management and performance of the organization. Diversity management in remuneration needs a complete application of the principle of equal pay and a performance-based pay system. The compensation structure, the wage determinants, and the benefit schemes should be developed not only on common principles but by also considering individuals in terms of their ability, skill, and knowledge. An individual-driven system of remuneration facilitates individual lifestyles and also promotes diversity.

Top management commitment towards diversity should be reflected in the vision of the organization, its mission, and its business strategy in order to remove psychological and operational barriers to managing diversity. If such type of commitment is inconsistent with the current structure of the organization, then a significant change in culture is necessary in order to create an atmosphere of mutual respect among all the employees. The central theme of HRM is devolution of responsibility for people management and as well as of diversity management. Therefore, management should be more involved in the decision-making process so that they can fully understand and effectively implement diversity management.

Although, Connell suggests that focusing on only a social group such as gender at times may cause dangers. Example of disabled black people who struggle with disabled white ones against racism can be seen in the same light. Gender should be included while studying on other groups, like disability, ethnicity, and

Both the approaches, that is, Equal Opportunities approach and Managing Diversity approach seeks the solution for the same kind of problems, like how an individual can be accessed equally and how can structures and cultures that work by favoring some and disadvantaging others be changed or reshaped?

Generally, organizations do not take individual differences into consideration while formulating and implementing training, appraisal and pay policies. Pay inequality, especially based on gender, is still prevalent and is a significant issue in diversity management. Ethnic minorities do not feel comfortable with the open expression of their thoughts and opinions. Most of the organizations do not have effective diversity management practices in operation. The major benefit of implementing equal opportunities is to have greater marketing capabilities and to attract ethnic minority customers by reflecting increasing diverse markets. Hence, most organizations have not developed the requisite diverse workforce nor have launched diversity programs to unveil the potential of the diverse workforce they employ.

Equal opportunities only recognize a set of differences, such as race, gender, and disability and they are imposed by the law and it is mandatory for the organizations to follow it whereas managing diversity is driven by the needs of the organization. Managing diversity approach brings advantage to the business. Due to this, employers tend to use the managing diversity approach.