While the final results of a properly-run diverse workforce might turn out great, it’s the period of implementation of the program that is the most trying for any organization. It has been observed that the first steps of implementation provide the biggest hurdle for any management, and the hurdles stem from the insecurity and pre-conceived notions that the employees have in their minds. Workplace Diversity is not a study of some empirical data. Instead, it is about understanding and accepting diversity.
Many organizations operate on the concept of “color-blindness”, which is treating all people equally irrespective of their skin color. While the intentions might to be to encourage equality among employees, issues generally crop up. That’s because the one who implements the steps to ensure equality still isn’t aware of the other cultures, and without that knowledge, it would be difficult to understand equality. In addition to that, the initial cost of the mandatory training provided to each employee on how to manage Workplace Diversity is very high. This training extends to the supervisors and managers, and at time, clients. The programs involve a lot of traveling and investing productive hours.
The other major issue of implementing diversification in the workplace is that, it invites discrimination from both managers and employees. Many employees find it hard to work with a manager who is from a different background.
Cases of managers discriminating against people from what they perceive are inferior backgrounds are well-known as well. These cases of discrimination might not be pronounced but it can exist in a hidden manner. When a worker is discriminated, it directly impacts his productivity. In extreme case, it invites litigation.
Challenges in Diversity
When diverse people start to work together, it has been observed that they face initial hiccups in communicating with each other. That’s natural when you consider that all of them are from different backgrounds but this initial lag in communication decreases productivity in the workplace and causes a lot of issues in team-meetings.
In addition to the issues discusses above, there is always a culture clash in the beginning of the training. While cultivating a mutual respect for one another’s culture is the main idea behind implementing workplace diversity, it could be a huge task to accommodate every diverse employee’s request based on cultural and religious beliefs.
There have been cases where companies had no other choice but to hire other full-time staff to keep a track of their diverse employee’s preferences and needs. These cases happen in large organizations with very diverse workplaces. For example, many Muslim employees decide to not work on Fridays, as it is a special day for prayers in their religion. To accommodate this request of theirs, the company now has to hire additional staff who would work on their behalf.
Implementing the Change
The purpose of implementing workplace diversity is getting employees together to see the big picture and contribute to achieving it through their different ideas. However, it has been seen that instead of bringing employees together, it actually polarizes them into factions and groups.
Although these groups are all informal, however it actually prevents employees from interacting with people beyond their culture. The old saying of “birds with same feathers flock together” will be perfect to describe this case. Employees don’t meet, socialize or spend leisure time with one another. Although this isn’t fundamentally wrong in itself, it can put limitations on employees knowing about other employees which reduces effective communication skills, hence decreasing productivity.