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Making Differences Matter – Review



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    Making Differences Matter Abstract and background of the article In order to investigate that what will it take for organizations to reap the real and full benefits of a diverse workforce, a research effort taken by the article author’s team. In order to understand three management challenges for Diversity, it conducted its research over a period of six years. The challenges undertaken were: a) How do organizations successfully achieve and sustain racial and gender diversity in their executive and middle management ranks? b) What is the impact of diversity on an organization’s practices, processes and performance? ) How do leaders influence whether diversity becomes an enhancing or detracting element in the organization? This research done with involvement of three organizations that had attained a high degree of demographic diversity, a small urban law firm, a community bank and 200 people consulting firm. It also studied nine other companies in varying stages of diversifying their work forces. The group included two financial services firms, three Fortune 500 manufacturing companies, two midsize high technology companies, a private foundation, and a university medical center. Diversity initiatives to date have been guided by two perspectives. 1) The discrimination and fairness paradigm and (2) Access and legitimacy paradigm. This research has emerged with the third paradigm for managing diversity, and recommended abandoning old and limiting assumptions about the meaning of diversity in order to realize the true potential of diversity in a powerful way to increase organization effectiveness. The article cites several examples of how connecting the new definition of diversity to the actual doing of work has led some organizations to markedly better performance. Their leaders realize that increasing demographic variation does not in itself increase organizational effectiveness.

    They realize that it is how a company defines diversity and what it does with the experiences of being a diverse organization that delivers on the promise. Overall it talks about following three paradigms. • The Discrimination and Fairness paradigm – Assimilation – members treat one another the same • The Access and Legitimacy paradigm – Differentiation – place different people by demographic characteristic match with important constituents and markets • Learning and Effectiveness Paradigm – Integration – internalize differences among employees so that it learns and grow because of them

    Present scenario on Diversity at workplace Generally, companies concern themselves with diversity as they believe that a more diverse workforce will increase organizational effectiveness, claiming that diversity will be good for business, but many attempts to increase diversity in the workplace have backfired resulting in heightening tension among employees and hindering a company’s performance. This article discusses why diversity efforts are not fulfilling their promise and presents a new paradigm for understanding and leveraging diversity.

    Apart from increased profitability it goes beyond financial measures to encompass learning, creativity, flexibility, organizational and individual growth and the ability of a company to adjust rapidly and successfully to market changes. However, it requires a fundamental change in the attitudes and behaviors of an organization’s leadership. The Discrimination and Fairness Paradigm This has been the dominant paradigm in the way of understanding diversity. This being a traditional affirmative action efforts and go beyond a simple concern with numbers. Issues |Observations | |Measuring progress in |By how well the company achieves its recruitment and retention goals | |diversity |Not measured the degree to which conditions in the company allow employees to draw on their personal assets | | |and perspectives to do their work more effectively |Diversification |Staff gets diversified | | |Work does not | |Place of success |Companies which are run by leaders who value due process and equal treatment to all employees with strict | | |hierarchies (Army) | | |Open environment flat structure organizations are not successful | |Limitations |Color blind & gender blind ideal | | |Diversification of the work force to influence the organization’s work or culture | | |Prevents genuine disagreements about the work definition when honest disagreements are accompanied by tense | | |debate | |Organizational thinking |Undermines the organization’s capacity to learn about and improve its own strategies, process, and practices. | The article cites example of a female employee, who observed that company’s advertising strategy is not appropriate for all ethnic segments in the marketplace might feel she is violating the code of assimilation upon which the paradigm is built. If she were to defend her opinion by citing her personal knowledge of the ethnic group the company wanted to reach, she might risk being perceived as importing inappropriate attitudes into an organization that prides itself on being blind to cultural differences.

    Presenting the case of Iversen Dunham, an international consulting firm that focuses on foreign and domestic economic development policy, where race relation had become a divisive issue despite this firm had begun its diversity efforts early in 1970’s. By year 1989, this company had among project leaders and professionals comprised of 50% women and 30% people of color apart from a strong contingent of foreign nationals. But, this company had complains of racial discrimination. Also, it’s getting pulled away from its original culture and its mission. The Access and Legitimacy Paradigm This was predicated on the acceptance and celebration of differences. With increasing multicultural country, the new ethnic groups are quickly gaining consumer power.

    This is forcing companies to have demographically more diverse workforce to help them gain access to these differentiated segments. The paradigm has therefore led to new professional and managerial opportunities for women and people of color. In their pursuit of niche markets, access and legitimacy organizations tend to emphasize the role of cultural differences in a company without really analyzing those differences to see how they actually affect the work that is done. The main limitation of this paradigm is that under its influence the motivation for diversity usually emerges from very immediate and often crisis oriented needs for access and legitimacy.

    But, after achieving the goal, the leaders seldom go on to identify and analyze the culturally based skill, beliefs, and practices that worked so well. It leaves some employees feeling exploited and their experience is limited or specialized. Example of Access Capital International shows the success the company achieved by employing European MBA graduates for sales for its expansion in Europe market. But, it failed to learn from them the exact difference they were making for their success even after several years. The Emerging Paradigm: Learning and Effectiveness Paradigm Under this paradigm, the organizations are tapping true diversity benefits.

    They recognize that employees frequently make decisions and choices at work that draw upon their cultural background – choices made because of their identity group affiliations. The companies have also developed an outlook on diversity that enables them to incorporate employees’ perspectives into the main work of the organization and to enhance work by rethinking primary tasks and redefining markets, products, strategies, missions, business practices, and even cultures. This article identifies eight preconditions for making the paradigm shift that help to position organizations to use identify group differences in the service of organizational learning, growth and renewal. In the example of First Interstate Bank, it demonstrates a paradigm shift in progress.

    This bank operates on minority community client base. It involved the career path for people without degrees, issue with old junior staff, who was not having college degree, but over the years become experience enough to handle higher responsibility. This is case of managing diversity, not based on race or gender but on class. In other examples, where this shift is completed, company leaders have played a critical role as facilitator and tone setters. Their actions are in general involved Making the mental connection, Legitimating open discussion, Work against forms of dominance and subordination that inhibit full contribution, Making sure that Organizational trust stays intact.

    Finally, a shift towards this paradigm requires a high level commitment to learning more about the environment, structure, and tasks of one’s organization, and giving improvement generating change greater priority than the security of what is familiar. This is not an easy challenge, but unless organizations take this step, any diversity initiative will fall short of fulfilling the rich promise. Diversity Challenges in Indian Industry India is a country with a number of regional states, cultures, languages, religion, social casts, urban/rural divide and political unions. These factors brings is a diverse set of values and discipline in living and work ethics of people.

    Also, women social behaviour is hugely impacted based on their background of these factors. Thus, organizational environment in Indian workplace has to take into account these factors, while designing a role and job description of an employee. For example, working hours and dress code for women employee at workplace, religious festivals in a particular region and holidays, dress codes for a particular community, public social behaviour etc. There is also political affiliation challenge faced due to regional diversity in people migrating from one state to other states of India, which has put employee’s security at risk in some industries in some states.

    Making Differences Matter – Review. (2018, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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