Diversity is no longer just the right thing to do; it has become a business imperative and perhaps the single most important factor of the twenty-first century for organizational performance.125 One reason is the dramatic change taking place in the workplace, in our society, and in the economic environment. These changes include globalization and the changing workforce and customer base.126 Earlier chapters described the impact of global competition on business in North America. Competition is intense. At least 70 percent of all U.S. businesses are engaged directly in competition with companies overseas. Compa- nies that ignore diversity have a hard time competing in today’s multicultural global envi- ronment. As Ted Childs, director of diversity at IBM, puts it, “Diversity is the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace.”127
Companies that succeed in this environment adopt radical new ways of doing business, with sensitivity toward the needs of different cultural practices. Consider the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. In the 1970s, most consultants were American, but by the turn of the century, McKinsey’s chief partner was a foreign national (Rajat Gupta from India), only 40 percent of consultants were American, and the firm’s foreign-born consultants came from 40 different countries.128 Many other companies based in the United States reflect a similar mix of native- and foreign-born managers. The other dominant trend is the changing composition of the workforce and the customer base. The average worker is older now, and many more women, people of color, and immigrants are seeking job and advancement opportunities. The demographics of the U.S. population are shifting dra- matically. The people who used to be called minorities now make up a majority of the U.S. population. Nonwhite residents are the majority in 48 of the nation’s 100 largest cities, as they are in New Mexico, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and California—the largest consumer market in the country. Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans together represent $1.5 trillion in annual purchasing power.129 During the 1990s, the foreign- born population of the United States nearly doubled, and immigrants now number more than 34 million, meaning that almost one in eight people living in the United States was born in another country, the highest percentage since the 1920s.130 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that by 2008, women and minorities are expected to make up fully 70 percent of the new entrants into the workforce.131 So far, the ability of organiza- tions to manage diversity has not kept pace with these demographic trends, thus creating a number of significant challenges for minority workers and managers.
1. CHALLENGES MINORITIES FACE
A one-best-way approach leads to a mind-set that views difference as deficiency or dysfunction. For many career women and minorities, their experience suggests that no matter how many college degrees they earn, how many hours they work, how they dress, or how much effort and enthusiasm they invest, they are never perceived as “having the right stuff.” If the standard of quality were based, for instance, on being white and male, anything else would be seen as deficient. This dilemma often is difficult for white men to understand because most of them are not intentionally racist and sexist. As one observer points out, you would need to be nonwhite to understand what it is like to have people assume a subordi- nate is your superior simply because he is white, or to lose a sale after the customer sees you in person and finds out you’re not Caucasian.132
Although blatant discrimination is not as widespread as in the past, bias in the work- place often shows up in subtle ways: a lack of choice assignments, the disregard by a subor- dinate of a minority manager’s directions, or the ignoring of comments made by women and minorities at meetings. A survey by Korn Ferry International found that 59 percent of minority managers surveyed had observed a racially motivated double standard in the dele- gation of assignments.133 Their perceptions are supported by a study that showed minority managers spend more time in the “bullpen” waiting for their chance and then have to prove themselves over and over again with each new assignment. Another recent study found that white managers gave more negative performance ratings to black leaders and white subor- dinates and more positive ratings to white leaders and black subordinates, affirming the widespread acceptance of these employees in their stereotypical roles.134 Minority employ- ees typically feel that they have to put in longer hours and extra effort to achieve the same status as their white colleagues. “It’s not enough to be as good as the next person,” says Bruce Gordon, president of Bell Atlantic’s enterprise group. “We have to be better.”135
2. MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES
What do these factors mean for managers who are responsible for creating a workplace that offers fulfilling work, opportunities for professional development and career advancement, and respect for all individuals? Inappropriate behavior by employees lands squarely at the door of the organization’s top executives. Managers can look at different areas of the orga- nization to see how well they are doing in creating a workplace that values and supports all people. Exhibit 9.11 illustrates some of the key areas of management challenge for dealing with a diverse workforce. Managers focus on these issues to see how well they are address- ing the needs and concerns of diverse employees. One step is to ensure that their organiza- tions’ HR systems are designed to be bias-free, dropping the perception of the middle-aged white male as the ideal employee. Consider how the FBI expanded its recruiting efforts.
Recruiting and career development are only one part of the HR challenge. For example, the increased career involvement of women represents an enormous opportunity to organi- zations, but it also means managers must deal with issues such as work-family conflicts, dual-career couples, and sexual harassment. Providing reasonable accommodation for dis- abled employees requires more than putting in a handicap access ramp. Demands for equal opportunities for the physically and mentally disabled are growing, and most companies have done little to respond. “When it comes to dealing with the disabled, we are about where we were with race in the 1970s,” says David Thomas, a professor of organizational behavior and HRM at Harvard Business School.137 In fact, employment rates for disabled people dropped 30 percent between 1990 and 2004. And for the most part, the workers who do find jobs are tracked into low-skill, low-pay jobs rather than being allowed to fully participate in training and educational programs available to other employees.138 One com- pany bucking that trend is Habitat International, a manufacturer of carpet and turf based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. David Morris, Habitat’s owner and CEO, admits that giving disabled workers a chance originally “had to be forced down my throat.” Today, though, nearly every employee at the company, including some managers, has a physical or mental disability. Performance and quality have gone up at Habitat and turnover and absenteeism have gone down since Morris began hiring people with disabilities. The plant’s defect rate, for example, is less than one-half of 1 percent, and every order is delivered on time.139
The growing immigrant population presents other challenges. Whereas in previous gen- erations most foreign-born immigrants came from Western Europe, 84 percent of recent immigrants come from Asia and Latin America.140 These immigrants come to the United States with a wide range of backgrounds, often without adequate skills in using English. Or- ganizations must face not only the issues of dealing with race, ethnicity, and nationality to provide a prejudice-free workplace but also develop sufficient educational programs to help immigrants acquire the technical and customer service skills required in a service economy.
Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.
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