This essay analyses managing diversity in the UK workplace, focusing on the importance of diversity in businesses, in today’s society. Diversity is a highly varied topic, which creates many issues and discrepancies for individuals and companies alike.
Therefore, it is important to establish ways in which diversity can be controlled to ensure businesses retain a good culture and achieve best practice within the workplace. It is important to establish whether inequalities in the workplace still exist or whether the differences that continue to subsist reflect an individual’s status within the workplace. Overall, diversity in the workplace is consistently challenged, this has resulted in evident signs of improvement and attention to the subject. This essay sets out to determine whether the UK workplace has become successfully diverse and is managed in a way that meets the equality standards of today’s culture.
Initially, I will define diversity and review the way in which diversity has become such an important factor in the way business and events are run. Further, I will discuss the immediate strengths and weaknesses that can propel or hinder the development and continuation of diversity in the workplace. I will also determine the benefits of diversity to the different individuals in an organisation and evaluate whether diversity is well received in the twenty-first century. Moreover, comparisons will be made through the use of diversity in different organisations providing graphs, statistics and explanations in the appendices.
I will then propose the future objectives of managing diversity in the UK workplace and propose plans and recommendations that businesses must adhere to and implement to resolve any future issues with diversity. The main aim of this essay is to establish how we manage diversity in the UK and how we can guarantee the accepted standards across the country, ensuring that business performance remains level or improves
The reasons for choosing diversity and the issues surrounding the subject are that there are many factors which are affecting business operations and individual employee and employer performances nowadays. The news constantly reports circumstances of inequality so therefore it will be interesting to establish whether the UK is reaching the required standards of diversity. Furthermore, it is important to discuss exactly how important diversity is to the workplace and whether present levels of diversity are sufficient. Furthermore, I will use the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games as a model throughout this piece to identify areas of improvement or outstanding achievements of diversity. I will also establish whether diversity can be seen as an asset is businesses today or whether it causes additional problems to the way a business is managed.
Research Methodology adopted is conducted in two stages: First, establishing the research propositions and collaborating the new information. Secondly, using theory and the research collected I will establish how important the managing diversity is to the UK workplace. I was unable to visit different businesses to complete face to face interviews however, with the use of literature and journals from the internet it was possible to research the importance of managing diversity in the UK by using secondary research
Limitations on the research include the impinging lack of complete knowledge of the different levels of diversity existing in a number of businesses. It was important for the research to be conducted under my understanding of why I believed that managing diversity is essential to the smooth running of the workplace. Furthermore, it was not possible to establish a true sense of whether diversity is in fact an asset to a business, by having prior or existing knowledge of working in a diverse company
The main findings that this essay has highlighted are that there are discrepancies in diversity. There is still room for a massive increase in managing diversity in the UK. It seems that as a result of globalisation inequalities that existed in numerous countries have spread to include almost every country worldwide. We are living in a world in which politics is a driving force in the workplace and thus people feel the need to protect the rights of others. It seems that managing diversity has also become an issue in the workplace as a result of heightened terrorism threats and this has lead to discrimination against groups such as ethnic minorities being targeted and made to feel different.
However, this is not the only group to be discriminated against; diversity has also been a main focus of the workplace to better manage women’s treatment. Further, I have also established that London is placing much emphasis on its immense diversity which they hope will ensure the 2012 Olympic Games comes to London and also established that effective management of diversity in the UK workplace will allow businesses to be successful in the future through both a better output and improved input from employees.
(i) Defining managing diversity
According to Kennedy and Everest, (1991) managing diversity is the need to “understand our own cultural filters and to accept differences in people so that each person is treated and valued as a unique individual”. Some of the relevant concepts of diversity include; prejudice, stereotyping, norms, cultural differences, managerial styles (how an individual; treats those in their team) and interpersonal skills. The best way to achieve and manage diversity in an organisation is to adopt a non-judgemental approach, be tolerant of ambiguity, show respect for others’ ways, communicate respect, demonstrate empathy and flexibility and also show willingness to acquire new patterns of behaviour and belief. The abovementioned highlights that diversity is all the ways in which people differ.
According to Ellis & Sonnenfield, (1994) diversity is “the challenge of meeting the needs of a culturally diverse workforce and of sensitising workers and managers to differences associated with gender, race, age and nationality in an attempt to maximise the potential productivity of all employees.”
According to Loden, M et al (1991) there are different characteristics of diversity; primary and secondary. Firstly, the primary characteristics of diversity which include age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, abilities and disabilities. These characteristics are what make up an individual and which does not allow someone to choose or change one trait over another. The secondary characteristics include education, work background, income, marital status, parental status, religious beliefs and geographic location. Unlike the primary characteristics an individual can use an element of control to change the secondary traits. This shows that diversity stretches to many levels and therefore it is difficult to manage, especially in the workplace as we strive to strike a fair balance amongst all employees in the UK.
The definitions both highlight the extent to which people differ and the responsibility placed upon the organisation to incorporate these differences to create a diverse workplace.
(ii) Relevant background information on Managing Diversity
Over the past years there have been evident changes in attitudes towards individuals in society and in the workplace. The basic concept of managing diversity, as said by Kandola & Fullerton, (1998) accepts that the workplace consists of a varied population of people. Diversity is founded on the premise that harnessing differences will create a productive environment in which everyone feels valued. According to Chouhan (1994), managing diversity has come about due to the new wave of managerialism over the last decade and has affected most of the UK workplace. Managing diversity is different from equal opportunities because it is not just about concentrating on issues such as discrimination but is also concerned with maximising their contribution and potential to the organisation. Some examples include, ‘women’s roles’. These roles have expanded and the male breadwinner stereotype has lessened and in some cases been reversed.
Other examples show a shift in favour of the younger worker. Age used to be associated with wisdom but nowadays the older individual is seen as inflexible, slow to learn and computer illiterate. Further, the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1989, as described by Cripsat, guaranteed that every individual was given the same level of education. Prior to the introduction of this system being introduced pupils at different schools were taught different syllabuses and therefore had different skills when they started work. The National Curriculum ensures the same education so individuals are able to compete equally in the labour market, and goes some way to eliminating discrimination.
However, according to Briar, C (2000) gender inequality is nothing new in the labour market. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, women in some of the western European nations experienced more favourable working conditions than their counterparts in the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. However, throughout the 1990’s, the European Union became more closely aligned with the economic policies of the USA, which created, in the home and in the labour market, patterns of gender inequality which have emerged and are increasingly similar to those found in the English-speaking world. Further, according to Greene & Kirton, (2000) Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, of whom 73 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, are without qualifications bring either none or limited skill to any job. It is therefore difficult to manage diversity to ensure fairness.
Inherently, managing diversity has been introduced to replace equal opportunities, and according to Social Europe, it involves a more strategic approach by building on best practice, promoting cultural change and increasing employee involvement within the workplace. Managing diversity gives managers a bigger workload as they strive to find the best way to work with employees and change their behaviour to increase their participation and meet organisational objectives.
(iii) Managing diversity in today’s Society.
The Victorian Department of Education and training confirms the reasons for the increased need for managing diversity in today’s society. Firstly, diversity is a key component of effective people management which focuses on improving a businesses performance whilst simultaneously recognising and involving employee performance. The significant demographic changes in society and current equal opportunity legislation and laws require businesses to continually reassess and improve their management practices. The need for increased management of diversity in today’s businesses is reinforced by the following changes in the workplace; there are currently more women in employment than ever before, these women are also reaching leadership and decision making positions, which all reflects the increased control of diversity. With the possibility of London winning the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, the number of women in the UK workplace is likely to increase as high numbers of women work in the hospitality and leisure industries.
According to the Equal Opportunities Commission, forty-five per cent of women work in the hospitality and leisure industries that equates to approximately 126 thousand women and currently, 60 per cent of women work full time (Women and Work: Challenge and Opportunity) and 57 per cent work part time in the UK workplace(Aston J et al, 2002). The Olympic Games should increase their chances of reaching higher positions in the UK workplace and increase the range of work available to them. However, a lot of these women also have dependent children and therefore need to rely on a more flexible workplace which understands their needs.
As more women continue to work it has lead to a larger number of families generating a dual income, as both individuals work. Furthermore, people are working later into their lives therefore businesses need to accommodate for a wider range of skills and perhaps a lower level understanding of technical equipment. The Olympic Games will provide more menial tasks for those with a lack of current technological skills, and further, there is less likelihood of there being an age limit to available jobs connected to the Olympic Games. This shows the diversity of London in 2012, if they were to win the bid for the Games.
There are many varied approaches to differences that today’s organisations can introduce. Firstly, organisations can take affirmative actions whereby they allow anyone into the company or introduce equal opportunities, to target specific groups for legal reasons such as women. In essence, target under utilised groups. Secondly, businesses value diversity more, with aims to improve relationships and establish mutual respect between different people. This approach is likely to eliminate any bullying or harassment which takes place in the workplace and as London is bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games, it is essential that discrimination is limited to ensure the diverse number of people needed, to effectively target different cultures to the UK are increasing business objectives.
Thirdly, organisations can accept that everyone is different and that each individual brings different talents and skills to companies. If London were to host the 2012 Olympic Games, it is important for businesses to gain the best employees immediately, because almost every industry and business is likely to benefit from the Games, especially if they have established a diverse culture prior to 2012 and therefore will profit far greater from the most talented and efficient employees. It is difficult for companies to manage the many different skills which people are bringing to them, so it is important to create an open environment in which such a system can operate.
The main differences that a diverse approach offers, to both business and employee, in comparison to an equal opportunities approach is that diversity ensures all employees maximise their potential, in essence the business appreciates the employee as an individual. Further, diversity excludes no one whereas an equal opportunities approach targets minority crowds such as women or Bangladeshi groups. Also, the diverse approach concentrates on the businesses’ culture and objectives and establishes how an employee can benefit the company. The responsibility of diversity is placed on everyone not just the human resources departments and because it searches for the most talented individuals to fit the job in hand, the business is likely to increase profits, performance and add value to the organisation.
There are four main reasons, according to the Commissioner for Public employment, for introducing managing diversity into the UK workplace these are; efficiency because employee skills become readily available with managing diversity.
An increased access to valuable talent and the use of the best qualified people promotes efficiency in the workplace. A well managed diverse business also endorses equity as every individual has the basic right to compete for employment, subject of course to the individuals abilities. Individuals should therefore have equal access to employment and related benefits regardless of their sex, race, disability, parental status, or sexuality. Appendices 1 and 2 illustrate the employment and unemployment rates for different groups 2001. The table shows that diversity has not yet been fully implemented because there are still large differences in employment and unemployment levels between, for example the white and Bangladeshi groups. Although, the tables may simply show that the white group does in fact optimise organisational performances and this is the reason for higher employment rates and lower unemployment rates.
Furthermore, the Olympic Games would more than likely increase the employment rate for women, as the rates are currently much lower than their male counterparts. The rise in employment rates will likely be a direct result of increased hospitality and leisure vacancies. Further, managing diversity in today’s society should be effective. That is, decision makers in a business are able to be more responsive to the needs of the larger society, particularly those of minority groups. Lastly, managing diversity nowadays allows more freedom of choice in the UK workplace. Today, every individual should have the freedom to choose their occupation within the constraints of their own abilities and available employment. Diversity management increases the range of choice for all.
Nowadays, society strives to be as fair and equal as possible implementing initiatives and laws to ensure best practice. Managing diversity in today’s society is important because every individual is looked upon to add value to a business. There are many Acts of Parliament and European Laws that make up the legal framework for diversity which according to Spiers, C includes; pay discrimination (1970), Sex discrimination (1975), Age discrimination (1999) and equality in sexual orientation (2003), amongst others. Additionally, as abovementioned society aims to be fair to every individual therefore diversity in today’s businesses ensures that everyone (employee, employer and customer) are treated in the correct way.
No longer can an all white male workforce be as efficient, because according to Spiers, C that would be seen to be limiting the businesses potential. Further, teams of mixed ethnicities are seen to bring more initiative to the workplace as they are likely to have different views and ideas and be more creative. This can be reinforced through the possibility of the UK winning the bid for the Olympic Games in 2012. The Games will bring together, many different cultures into the one country. So, businesses must be able to adapt to different demands and needs, in order to remain profitable and target a wider customer range.
This highlights the importance of a well managed, diverse workplace in the UK for the future. A wider mix of employees will be able to provide businesses with greater ideas to attract customers and target the market. It must be noted that the UK must embrace diversity, not only for the Olympic Games but because as technology improves and makes travel easier we will encompass a greater mix of cultures into the UK and businesses must be able to learn and work with different individuals.
According to Spiers, C the UK is still adapting to managing diversity in the workplace. Some examples and proof that this is still the case include; the number of women in employment now makes up half the UK workforce but still only nine per cent are in managerial or senior roles and also ethnic minorities incorporate a mere one and a half per cent of management and are almost non-existent at senior level. The government predicts that by 2011 only a third of the UK workforce will be male and under the age of 45. This prediction shows a massive change in the future of the UK workplace and will be the result of an increased focus on diversity. This shows great potential for a well managed Olympic Games in 2012 as the majority of businesses will have the diverse skills to manage different individuals.
As abovementioned, ethnic minority groups are predicted to incorporate a larger proportion of the workforce in the future. There is much need to focus on these groups, especially after events, such as the September 11th crisis in 2001 which lead to much distrust and exclusion of these groups of people. It also highlights the difficulty of managing diversity in the workplace as it is difficult to please and satisfy everybody. Businesses must eradicate in the workplace harassment and aim to use individuals on their skills merit rather than associate people with events, such as September 11th 2001 and dismiss them as potential employees on these grounds. However, it does appear that managing diversity will be more effective than equal opportunities as it does not attempt to increase minority groups only to present diversity. Diversity in fact benefits the organisation more as it ensures the best person for the job according to their ability and therefore ensures the organisation will meet its targets. Diversity does not just give an individual a job because of their race or sex to accumulate the correct spread of people in a business
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone believes that individuals, regardless of their religion, race, sex, age, disability or sexuality, should be able to live free from discrimination. There are numerous initiatives that have been set up within London which have been set up to improve diversity in the city both inside and outside the workplace. Firstly, there is the London Equalities Commission, which supports and promotes equality in London. Secondly, Asian London has been set up as a guide of events for Asians in London. More than one third of the United Kingdom’s Asian population lives in London; therefore it is important to establish well managed, diverse organisations in London. Amongst others, there is also Disability Capital which focuses on the rights of disabled people in London. In addition to the Olympic Games coming to London, there will also be the Para Olympic Games which should introduce a greater awareness of people’s disabilities, whilst simultaneously promoting their abilities and their capacity to work in a diverse UK workforce.
Managers will gain a better understanding of diversity by reading the annual London survey carried out in 2004 which interviewed 1,435 individuals. The survey illustrates that over fifty per cent of those interviewed believed that discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic origin was less than three years ago and further the same survey highlighted that seventy-five per cent of individuals interviewed believed that good relations between different racial, ethnic and religious groups existed in 2004. This shows that the management of diversity in the UK workplace is improving and people are accepting change and differences. According to the London Development Agency (LDA), Keith Mills, the CEO for the Olympic Games 2012 bid, believes that London's immense diversity is the key to the city's Bid to win the 2012 Olympics. He believes that the Games will provide many new jobs, which will mean that businesses will need to implement diversity strategies prior to the start of the games to ensure the UK provides the best Olympic Games.
As written by McCulla, P (MLN), almost fifty per cent of all employees are now women (a large majority of these women make up the figures for part-time employment) and twenty per cent of the working age population have disabilities. This highlights the effects diversity is having on the UK workplace as businesses move away from employing the norm; full time white male. The business of diversity evolves around these changes taking place in our society and examines how diversity is capable of providing major benefits for all, from potential employees, existing workforces and also profit future employees and customers
(iv) Challenges to managing employee diversity
One of the biggest challenges to managing diversity is associated with harassment, which is an example of anti-diversity. Harassment is behaviour which is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive and which cannot be objectively justified by the professional and/or working relationship between the individuals concerned. In some cases the person giving the harassment may not perceive their actions as negative compared to the person on the receiving end. As people are becoming more open to inevitable change, managers are willing to invest in a range of individuals to reach organisational objectives. Essentially, managing diversity is a challenge to any business because according to Astar Ltd; there can be no change without understanding. Employees need to understand what the organisation is aiming for, why it is important to focus on individual ability and capability and how change is going to be achieved and how it will directly affect them.
By winning the bid for the Olympic Games in 2012, businesses in London and the UK will be able to set objectives to increase and promote diversity and employees will have clear goals to reach in the workplace. Organisations need to introduce values to support their aims and translate these values into behaviours and ways of thinking that are directly relevant and beneficial to the employee. As, behaviours and attitudes already exist this could be a challenge for managers, therefore it is probably necessary to implement policies and legislation to minimise problems. Moreover, businesses must ensure that employees have a role model to look up to, to ensure that individual behaviour changes to fit diverse workplaces. If a role model is not implemented then business may not reap the benefits of a more diverse workplace.
Another challenge which businesses face is being able to capitalise on the talent in organisations. It is imperative that organisations target a diverse pool of people, including those from under-represented groups, and ensure these individuals take advantage of opportunities for advancement and promotion within the organisation, without creating issues with current employees. The Olympic Games coming to London would create a vast number of jobs which skilled individuals from minority groups could apply for. This would cause less tension with existing UK employees because they will not experience job insecurity. In addition, managing diversity is effective if support is constantly available for employees to fall back on. If support networks are not in place then diversity may not be achieved. In order to create successful support networks in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games, it is vital that managers re-iterate and continue training to ensure organisations profit from increased diversity.
Astar Ltd suggests that by providing support for under-represented groups allowing them to develop individual and group competence they are likely to feel more secure and confident with their contribution to the organisation. This will also generate more ideas for the Games and provide the world with a well managed event due to the collaboration of the UK workplace. The challenges of functioning as a minority within an organisation are greatly alleviated if like-minded people are given the resources to act collectively and gain confidence through peer support. Effective Networks can prove to be a powerful resource to organisations. They can enhance information for policy development, organisation and people development, and in creating new markets through new product and service development. Implementing networks into organisations can form create a best practice approach to implement the wider aspects of diversity.
An additional issue which challenges the successful implementation of diversity and keeps this practice ongoing is the increased importance of a work-life balance for people nowadays. Astar Ltd illustrates that due to the increase in maternity and paternity rights, and the legislative backing for employees wishing to have greater flexibility in their work, managers could face tensions between the need to meet business objectives and goals, whilst implementing good HR practices, in recognition of the increased importance of a work-life balance in retaining and motivating skilled and knowledgeable employees. The aforementioned show that managing diversity brings many new challenges to the UK workplace that could have an adverse affect on the way organisations perform. By concentrating on an event, such as the Olympic Games, employees and businesses can work together to successfully adopt a diverse workplace.
Furthermore, according to Spiers, C many businesses have found that the transition from equal opportunities to managing diversity is a long process with no quick fixes. Therefore, it is important to establish ongoing training and strategies to ensure a balance is found to maintain diversity approaches and guarantee organisational success with detriment to employee morale. Currently, the two biggest obstacles, to fully implementing managing diversity are, the ingrained attitudes that individuals possess that make it difficult for managers to manage and change people who are essentially different from them and also the culture of long working hours in the UK which makes it difficult for women to obtain managerial roles. Therefore, women always feel they are being unfairly treated. The Olympic Games should create many more opportunities for women to take on managerial and senior roles and allow them to show their capabilities, which may lead to managers recognising women’s’ roles and capabilities within the workplace and increase the number of women in employment.
Other challenges of managing diversity are that every individual is essentially different and we should treat them as such. This will suggests the need for greater and improved recruitment processes in order to be fair and more open business environments to incorporate many different ideas and proposals. As already mentioned, one of the biggest issues that remains for employers to face is that of discrimination towards women. It is difficult to establish whether women are in fact unfairly treated in the workplace or whether it is actually women themselves who seek to work less because of family commitments but feel they have less opportunity because they take career breaks.
According to Couhan, K, (1990) diversity concepts embrace the need to accept change as a positive in the UK workplace. However, the difference in quality when adopting diversity can cause problems such as a lack of anti-racist analysis or lack of rights based approach. Further, change is almost always taken negatively and changing the workplace is likely to initially cause augmented stress and conflict. Particularly in the UK, the idea of diversity can be a direct political challenge to the politics of difference.
During the 1980’s, Margaret Thatcher spent much of her time explaining to organisations that it is only natural to fear change or differences; therefore by business introducing diversity into the workplace they are challenging Thatcher’s ideologies that individuals fear differences. So the concept of diversity in businesses, if it truly values differences can challenge both employees and employers. However, in today’s society change is seen and promoted to be positive with businesses being encouraged to manage change directly as change will indefinitely lead to greater productivity and performance.
According to Green, K et al, managers who have or looking to introduce diversity may find that they are challenged with losses in personnel and work productivity due to prejudice and discrimination and complaints and legal actions against the organization. Once employees have understood the changes, due to consistent training, then complaints and bullying will hopefully diminish. Furthermore, pre-existing negative attitudes and behaviours can be barriers to managing diversity because they can harm working relationships and damage morale and work productivity as people (such as the stereotypical white male) can be opposed to change. In essence, the challenges for employers, which are the underlying reasons for introducing managing diversity into the workplace include; the existence of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. If these issues are addressed and reduced, managers are implementing diversity successfully.
The existence of the above three issues is inevitable but diversity should go some way to reducing the impacts of the stronger, more dominant groups and allow a greater balance of individuals in the workplace. Nowadays, if the aforementioned should be used by management to hire