What is workforce diversity and what challenges does it create for supervisors?
Workforce diversity is important because it ensures that a business has input from people with different backgrounds, making them more successful in the marketplace by making the company more well-rounded and also achieving social expectations for inclusivity. The downsides for managers and supervisors is having to manage employees of different cultural backgrounds in the same setting, creating the ethical dilemma of whether to treat all employees the same (equality) or treating everyone differently with respect to their individual culture and background (equity). With globalization and the ease of travel, employers are increasingly having to make policies relating to overcoming language and cultural barriers as well as examining their hiring/firing practices.
Another problem that diversity policies can create is the appearance of either fairness or unfairness based on non-work items like skin color, gender, sexuality, national origin, and other personal background. For example, a friend of mine owned a computer business in which they posted an advertisement looking for a computer programmer and requested specific levels of education and knowledge in very specific areas. There was a person interviewing for the position who did not have any of the qualifications that they asked for, but they allowed them to complete the interview process to be able to advocate for themselves even though they were missing the certifications requested. They did not have the certifications and did not understand the things that my friend was hiring for, so they chose someone else based solely on merit but the person argued it was because of their skin color and gender. The interviewee took my friend to court over the matter which damaged their reputation, took up some of their time, and wasted money/effort on the court case instead of being able to simply hire the person with the best skills. They were able to get the case dropped, but not without loss of business, time, and other resources.
The challenge for supervisors and managers in the upcoming decade will be to not only make the best decisions, but to also be aware of the perceptions of others and consistently maintain a perfect record for diversity in their hiring, promotions,interactions with employees (especially discipline), and public relations.
Diversity is a wonderful and naturally occurring thing, but can get tricky when we try to codify and bureaucratize it. This is the dilemma facing supervisors and managers, because now they must not only do what is right but must also show that they are doing the right thing on a global scale even if they are just a small business because of technologies such as the internet.
What do YOU think supervisors should do to balance these choices?
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