Organizational diversity in the workplace refers to the total makeup of the employee workforce and the amount of diversity included. Diversity refers to differences in various defining personal traits such as age, gender, race, marital status, ethnic origin, religion, education and many other secondary qualities.
Closely related to organizational diversity is the prominent topic of diversity management. This refers to the human resource and management process of proactively planning to optimize benefits of diversity while down playing challenges. Traits of diversity management usually include sensitivity training and cultural awareness. Some companies include diversity training for all new employees as part of initial orientation and training. Highly diversified organizations often have ongoing diversity management programs.
Diversity can provided many benefits to organizations. A primary benefit is that a wide array of employee backgrounds means the organization as a whole has more experience and expertise coverage in critical areas that affect the company. Similarly, discussions typically produce a broader range of ideas when employees have diverse backgrounds. Additionally, companies that serve a diverse population or a global audience can more adequately serve that diverse market with employees that can speak the language and relate from a cultural standpoint.
Language and communication barriers are among the greatest challenges to effectiveness in a diverse organization. With global diversity, employees may speak many different primary languages, making accurate communication difficult. Culturally, different perspectives on communication and different viewpoints on discussions can get in the way of efficient decisions and resolution of conflicts. Conflicts are not only more common in a diverse workplace, but they are often more difficult to resolve because employees have a more difficult time seeing each other's perspective.
Along with providing training, company leaders need to set the tone for a highly functioning diverse workplace. This means setting the tone from the top by rewarding employees for involvement in diversity programs and supporting tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Some employers also participate in or financially support diversity awareness programs in the communities in which they operate. Finally, company leaders need to promote a non-discriminatory work environment.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.