Diversity and Profits

28 Jun 2004|Felipe Korzenny

The diversification of the US workforce is a challenge with multiple facets. One of the most important issues facing the diverse workforce is the co-orientation of attitudes, beliefs, and expectations on the part of at least three constituencies: Employers, Employees from one culture, Employees from other cultures.

Employers, employees from anyone culture, and employees from other cultures
need to share a workspace and create value. Co-orientation refers to the
degree to which the perspectives and expectations of these groups overlap.
Unfortunately, diverse cultural orientations operate under the surface of
everyday interaction and can facilitate or hinder cooperation and
productivity in the workplace. So, for example, a Hispanic is more likely
to expect that s/he will be treated more formally than egalitarian
non-Hispanic Anglo-Saxon-Germanic individuals. Formality and hierarchy is
part of Hispanic tradition but for others that may mean stiffness and lack
of comradeship.

Hispanic workers are more likely to multitask and handle time in nonlinear
ways. A worker may ask for time off during the day to take care of a sick
relative and may complete the work later in the day. Non-Hispanic
Anglo-Saxon-Germanic individuals are more likely to look at time linearly
and compartmentalize the different aspects of life more than Hispanics.
Thus, Hispanics may consider these non-Hispanics as being rigid and
uncreative, and the non-Hispanics may judge Hispanics to be irresponsible
and not trustworthy. That is, lack of co-orientation!

Creating a diverse workforce involves, as a minimum, these issues:

  • Management training to understand the cultural orientation of
    employees from different cultures. The most important element is not
    knowledge, surprising, but attitude. If the manager has a rejecting
    attitude, it does not matter how much s/he knows about the other culture.

  • Employee training involving knowledge and attitudes regarding the
    mainstream culture and also the corporate culture of the specific
    organization.
  • Create and stimulate a value for cultural differences in the
    organization. If employees and managers understand the value that
    diversity brings to the organization, then mutual appreciation of
    differences is possible.
  • Assign people of different cultures to workgroups that have a
    cooperative task objective so that success rewards work in diverse groups.
  • The cost of not stimulating diversity in organizations can be very large.
    The most costly consequence of lack of diversity is that the new face of
    the United States is diverse, and diversity is the growing consumer trend
    in this country. If consumers do not feel that companies understand them
    they will go to competitors. One of the best ways of making consumers feel
    understood is having their counterparts working inside the companies that
    serve them.

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