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Posted February 02, 2017 by

Cultural awareness training is too simple to effectively manage diversity

 

For global companies–or any organization–with multicultural and diverse teams, a good manager must be aware of cultural differences, and they must embrace team members’ differences. Differences can lead to conflict, but just participating in a cultural awareness training is probably not the answer. There is more to learn about effectively managing diversity.

Differences can lead to conflict within your team. And that is good. 

A 2014 study published in Securitologia, authored by Dr. Krystyna Heinz, pointed out that “if a company wants to do business internationally, it needs to have knowledge related to diverse management process.” I would add, even a company who only does domestic business needs to have this knowledge, given the increasingly diverse workforce.

Being more aware of different cultural values is the first step (but it’s only the beginning). If you’ve participated in any cultural awareness training, you’re familiar with the iceberg analogy. If you’ve forgotten, I’ll explain. Culture is like an iceberg. The aspects you can see or hear—clothing, food, language, etc.—are only the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of what makes our culture unique is hidden from view. The Heinz study puts it this way: “Culture values are invisible behaviours.” Many cultural values will impact business and relationships at work, for example “family, money, religion, seniority, individualism, hierarchy, and others.”

Your challenge is not to overcome these differences, but to embrace them. These cultural differences may lead to conflict, but in business that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, teams whose members don’t challenge one another end up being less productive. According to the Heinz study,

“For most people the word conflict has negative connotations, but if no conflicts occur during team working, the team will probably not be effective.”

The manager’s job is to “identify the underlying cultural reasons of conflict, choose the right strategy, and to intervene.” Cultural differences can lead to obstacles to high performance if they are not addressed, so the manager’s role is absolutely critical to making diversity work.  (more…)

Posted January 23, 2008 by

Path to successful diversity program varies with company culture

 

Companies recognized for exemplary diversity may follow a core set of motives and behaviors, but best practices alone do not always contribute to a high level of diversity, according to a recent RAND Corporation study. “Numbers alone are an inadequate measure of diversity,” said Jeff Marquis, the study’s lead author and a political scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. To reap the true benefits of diversity — like enhanced productivity, profitability and overall job satisfaction — a company has to accept and integrate an inclusive diversity program into its social and business fabric.

While diversity programs help boost raw diversity numbers — ensuring a racially and ethnically mixed workforce — they may fall short of promoting personal development and higher levels of job satisfaction among both minority and non-minority personnel, according to the report.

The report, titled “Managing Diversity in Corporate America,” lays the groundwork for a fact-based approach to diversity management by determining to what extent best practices literature describe the ways to enhance a company’s diversity. Researchers found that companies often strive for surface diversity‚ by focusing on short-term recruiting to attain a certain percentage of minority employees, rather than seeking comprehensive diversity management programs.

In determining what constitutes an effective diversity management program, the report compares the actual practices of eight successfully diverse companies ranked among Fortune magazine’s
Best Companies for Minorities” against what existing diversity literature says about motivations and effective strategies for achieving diversity.

The authors then made a second comparison, contrasting these companies against six others classified under Fortune magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For”–those recognized for their exemplary human resources departments, but not for their level of diversity. The selected companies were chosen to represent a mixture of different sizes, locations and industry types.Not surprisingly, firms recognized as leaders in diversity management were more likely than those known for their superior human resources practices to support strong diversity initiatives, the report concluded. And while best diversity companies favored diversity for reasons related to boosting business performance, best human resources companies stressed non-business reasons like an enhanced work environment that results from improvements in basic recruiting, retention and promotion programs.

“Much of the diversity literature places a huge emphasis on diversity as a way of improving a company’s bottom line,” Marquis said. The relationship between performance and profitability is an important motivator for companies to adopt comprehensive diversity management programs, even if it is not the case in every situation.

Besides motivations for diversity management, both groups differed in terms of implementing best practices concerning leadership and methods of evaluation, according to researchers. The best diversity companies generally fulfilled all or the majority of best practices, while the best human resources companies fulfilled none or just a few of the best practices.

The study also highlighted the limitations of existing diversity literature, pointing out that it lumps all companies together, rather than taking into account each unique company’s unique goals, resources, number of employees, business locations, product lines and customer bases.

Among other key finding of the study:

  • Best diversity companies were concentrated in certain industries, such as accommodation/food and arts/entertainment, while best human resources companies tended to be in the health care and professional services sector.
  • Factors that may have a significant impact on a company’s level of diversity include its size, age and geographic location.

 

The study was conducted in the public interest and supported by RAND using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of its donors and the fees earned on client-funded research. Other authors of the report are Nelson Lim, Lynn M. Scott, Margaret C. Harrell and Jennifer Kavanagh. 

The study was done through RAND Labor and Population program, which examines issues involving U.S. labor markets, the demographics of families and children, social welfare policy, the social and economic functioning of the elderly, and economic and social change in developing countries.

The report is available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP206/.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.