Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Challenges and Benefits Essay
Introduction Canada has prides itself in immigration, which is one of the biggest sources of its population growth. In order to sustain the growth it is a key that we foster an environment that is comfortable for all. We see the effect of this diversity mostly within our workforce. This has then caused a unique environment within the workforce that seeks and demands a climate that encompasses all the differences. Diversity can take many forms namely age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, mental and physical capabilities and ethnicity and culture are the main areas of diversity and have a continuous impact throughout our lives.
Due to increasing difference in Canadian population and competition coming from nearly every continent, companies and organizations need to focus on diversity, because this will help them also better to understand their diverse customers. “Managing and valuing diversity is a key component of effective people management, which can improve workplace productivity”. Working with people within the 21st century then requires a lot of sensitivity and respect for diversity.
In order for this to be achieved, it is imperative that both the staff and supervisors recognize, learn and promote diversity in the workplace to all employees. Interacting with people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs requires effective management within the diverse workforce populations. Diversity can aid in bringing awareness of different cultures, races and age difference into a mix, but can have negative effects if people are not well prepared in how to work in that environment.
In view of this, this paper will conduct a research on the importance of diversity in the workplace. This paper will identify the importance of diversity in the workplace and address benefits and challenges of managing diversity. Define Diversity “Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status”.
Cultural diversity could be seen as a process that creates a work environment to include everyone, understands that each individual is unique, and recognizes cultural differences. Diversity is a mixture of people with different backgrounds, cultures and races in an organization, people that not only identify themselves, but respect and accept others. “True diversity goes a step further to include differences that are not visible to the eye – differences in the ways people approach their jobs. The two are, of course, linked: a person’s background and circumstances will inevitably affect their work style and ethic. Employers must expand their ways of looking for new employees if they want to be competitive, and try to find the best applicant by focusing on diverse candidates. An organization would not only benefit from the diverse workplace, but it will be able to reach and better understand the diverse clientele. Benefits of diversity in the workplace “Diversity is beneficial to both associates and employers. Although associates are interdependent in the workplace, respecting individual differences can increase productivity.
Diversity in the workplace can reduce lawsuits and increase marketing opportunities, recruitment, creativity, and business image”. Diversity should be discussed among individuals and organizations, people should be encouraged and promoted to value the differences each one of us has and appreciate them. We all have and bring different ideas that could benefit any organization, especially immigrants that could contribute international skills, languages and experience, which will help an organization achieving its goals.
The advantage of speaking more than one language, the experience from all around the world and the understanding of different cultures are just few of the positive objectives a company could achieve from. Not knowing the “Canadian way” should not be a limit for a newcomer in Canada, and everyone should be treated equally, no matter what color is their skin, how heavy accent they have or what their believes are. For Marc St-Amour “our company is about people. We may sell a piece of furniture at the end of the day, but I need people to build it. Paying attention to diversity means I select the right people. Challenges of managing diversity in the workplace Managers and staff need to value multicultural differences and management must learn the managerial skills needed in a multicultural work environment, which is one of the challenges for any large or small company. Stereotyping is a common process we see today, placing people into groups based on age, race, gender, etc. does not help managers to broad their understanding of diversity and the importance of achieving company goals; It also creates tension between employees and is unhelpful for work interaction and group projects.
Creating successful strategies how to choose the right employee, research, and set realistic goals can be time consuming, but managers need to focus and realize that people with different experiences from different parts of the world could create successful organizations, and working in diverse environment would helps organizations to attract and retain the best talent. Another challenge for many companies is how to start – recruit and keep staff from diverse cultures.
Before recruiting diverse individuals, an organization must value and recognize diversity and has an idea what advantages and disadvantages may occur when working in diverse workplace. Complying with equal opportunity, anti-discrimination and hiring regulations are important factors that need to be followed. Employers have to pay close attention with the hiring process – “if an employer can not prove that the job can only be performed by an individual from a specific ethnic community, then it is illegal for an employer to conduct outreach to any specific ethnic group because it leads to discrimination”.
Screening candidates because of lack of Canadian experience or education limits the company options, and this could hurt the business. By not having information about certain education in other country and rejecting a candidate will limit the options to find the best talent. There are agencies that can be used to verify and confirm the education. “When sorting through resumes, employers are making split-second decision based on subconscious stereotypes that they may not even be aware of”.
Recruitment and selection of personnel can be difficult: based on the provincial human rights code there are certain questions that an employer should never ask (marital status, age, background, etc. ), but many employers still use similar questions when selecting candidates. Some positions require definite gender, preferences usually are given to women, aboriginal people, visible minority and people with disabilities (especially in civil service commission), but the job advertisement should note the preferences, and skills and experience should be considered.
Managers might find the recruiting process challenging sometimes when high volume of resumes are received and many applicants meet the company requirements. When the education is completed in another country different than Canada and the name do not sound foreign, managers tend to group the applicants and most likely will call for an interview the applicants with job experience and education accomplished in Canada not giving the opportunity to immigrants.
There are different ways to examine skills and language proficiency: written test, case scenarios, and the most common is an interview where the candidate may be asked to explain how he or she dealt in a certain situation. “Unfortunately, an applicant’s name matters considerably more than his or her additional education, multiple language skills and extracurricular activities”. Awareness and diversity training programs Diversity training for managers to explore people’s attitude and learn about different cultures and traditions would be one of the first step to improve diversity understanding and learning about other people’s values.
Providing more training to current staff, assigning team work, including people from different cultures, and organizing activities to promote other cultures are few of the requirements to encourage diversity in the workplace. “Employers can put themselves in a position of competitive advantage when they recognize the value of international experience, and when they understand that a skilled immigrant’s strong track record of performance in another country will likely be repeated in Canada. ” Employers would never know what an immigrant could bring to the table unless they have hired them in the company.
Often companies may offer different support for immigrants and newcomers, such as programs to help improving communication skills in employee own time, mentoring programs that would increase efficiency of work within the organization, language classes, coaching, performance management and more. By providing proper employee orientation, promoting diversity, treat everyone equally and respect each employee’s background and culture in the workplace leaders and managers will prosper more in their organizations and company goals will be achieved easily. References: Black Enterprise (2001).
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