Diversity and Multiculturalism are two topics that, themselves, are not new. To start off with a uniform basic understanding, what are diversity and multiculturalism? According to Merrium-Webster, Diversity is ‘the condition of having or being composed of differing elements, especially the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization’. Whereas, Merrium-Webster defined multiculturalism as ‘relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures’. Simply put, Diversity is the differences themselves, while multiculturalism is the ability to connect with and respect those differences.
When it comes to business, coming up with new ideas and the ability to work effectively is key to progress and profits. For this to happen, there has to be a link to these new ideas and respect of one’s co-workers and their differences.
As stated before, the idea of diversity is nowhere near new. However, according to the study done by Australian Journal of Management in 2004, the approach to the problems it provides in management is new (Hartel, pg189). Within this same study, they identify the root of the problem.
“Diversity openness refers to the degree of receptivity to perceived dissimilarity. An individual, work group or organization that is diversity-open is unprejudiced and willing to consider new ideas and arguments and it, in essence, receptive to ideas outside their normal way of thinking. Being closed to diversity, therefore means that an individual, work group or organizations has already decided with respect to diverse others prior to interactions. Diversity openness, therefore, is a generic attitude to difference, where the level of openness and the type of perceived difference varies as a function of the person.” (Hartel, Dec 2004, pg189)
Through knowing the root of the problem, the actual value of diversity can be found. The problem, as paraphrased from the statement above, is the lack of acceptance of differences in the workforce. Once these differences on a fundamental level are overlooked, the openness will set in along with its benefits.
According to the Center for American Progress, ‘a diverse workforce is integral to a strong economy.’ Some of the benefits listed by the Center for American Progress are that ‘A diverse workforce drives economic growth…can capture a greater share of the consumer market…[creates] a more qualified workforce…[and] fosters a more creative and innovative workforce…’ (Kerby and Burns, Jul 2012). However, found in the study by the Journal of Business Communication, the lack of acceptance and therefore lack of diversity in the workforce will halt all of these benefits (Fine, Oct 1996, pg487).
Essentially, the business that are moving forward and taking over the market are the ones with diverse workforces. They can draw from various backgrounds as well as come together to aim their product or service at a wider field of consumers. These businesses embrace differences and therefore are able to reach out and break through to these newly found markets.
Each culture holds its own strengths and weaknesses. When these cultures come together, a massive range of talents can be brought together. ‘Multicultural discourses that incorporate the diverse voices of all workers will not only transform our public and private economic organizations, they will also reinvigorate our public discourses and political institutions, strengthening our social, political, and economic well-being.’ (Fine, Oct 1996, pg485) Having this wide and available field of skills will boost businesses beyond the others which fail to hire people of different cultures.
However, with change brings difficulty. There was a study in the Business Communication Quarterly which tested a group of culturally diverse business students in a physical environment, where they had to work together in person, against a group of culturally diverse business students in an online anonymous work space. They found that the virtual team worked ‘in a much more balanced manner’ (Berg, Dec 2012, pg404) They go on to explain how these same students had been in physical classes together for two years and had separated themselves into their respective cultures. If from a different culture, they did not know each other and stereotyped the others for reasons of why not to work together.
This is the barrier. The stereotyping and the resistance to accept rejects any coming together. According to the Journal of Business Communication, the groups that need to be heard are the ones that have been ignored for so long (Fine, Oct 1996, pg485). The study done by the Australian Journal of Management even goes as far as to suggest only hiring employees that have a good ‘assessment of job-relevant cross-cultural communication and interaction attitudes and skills including dissimilarity openness’ (Hartel, Dec 2004, pg200)
The world as it is today is a brutally judgmental one. The unemployed, on average, get one chance to impress and employer through an interview. If that employer finds one thing they do not like about that potential employee, the chance is lost. If that employer can see past their personal preferences and can see the value of these differences, that employer could have gained a major asset to their team.
Acceptance of differences is what it comes down to. The value of these diverse backgrounds gives, and will continue to give, businesses an edge. Having the resources for a new point of view could add a new angle to marketing, or create a more efficient way of producing or distributing.
The world is a dynamic system that businesses must keep up with. That requires diversity and multiculturalism within the workforce. To have this type of workforce requires open-mindedness of each other’s opinions and ways of thinking. It is definitely not an easy trail to this acceptance, but in the end the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Berg, R. W. (2012, December). The anonymity factor in making multicultural teams work: Virtual and real teams. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 404-424. Retrieved from Business Source Elite database. (Accession No. 83329490) Diversity. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster.
Fine, M. G. (1996). Cultural diversity in the workplace: The state of the field. Journal of Business Communication, 33(4), 485-502. Hartel, C. E. J. (2004). Towards a multicultural world: Identifying work systems, practices and employee attitudes that embrace diversity. Australian Journal of Management, 29(2), 189-200. Retrieved from Business Source Elite database. (Accession No. 15696711) Kerby, S., & Burns, C. (2012, July 12). The top 10 economic facts of diversity in the workplace: A diverse workforce is integral to a strong economy. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/07/12/11900/the-top-10-economic-facts-of-diversity-in-the-workplace/ Multicultural. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster.
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