What are the pros and cons of a business case approach to diversity management?
In 1950 the global human population was 2.5 billion, in 2013 it has increased to 7.2 billion and by 2050 the UN predict it will reach 9.6 billion (The Economist , 2013). Shared with the statistic that since 2011, 52.1% (United Nations, 2012) of humans live in an urban area, highlighting the need for an increased and evolved ability to manage diversity. This global trend has created the most diverse workforce in modern times, generating pressure for companies, institutions and governments to implement practices which recruit, train, promote and retain individuals within the workplace (Bratton and Gold 2012; Kirton and Greene 2010). The strategic management of diversity in the workforce will be further discussed using a three stage approach, in order to fully analyse the pros and cons of a business case approach to diversity management.
The first stage will have two discussion points; firstly defining diversity to create a common understanding of the topic. Secondly it’s important to distinguish the difference between the terms of equal opportunity and diversity management, exploring how they have evolved from academic and practical perspectives. The second stage will focus on diversity management with particular emphasis on analysing the pros and cons of a business case approach. This critique will be supported by theories and contemporary resources to highlight the impact this approach can have on the stakeholders involved. The third stage will consider the implementation and industry type. This will highlight the limitation that by splitting diversity into different case types rather than focusing on an inclusive strategy causes fragmentation rather than concentrating on the individual contribution.
The CIPD (2006) defined diversity as:
“Distributive concerns based on the traditional categories of race, ethnicity and gender to the inclusion of a vast array of differences in age, sexual orientation, disability, employment status, tenure, function, educational background, lifestyle, religion, values and beliefs in addition to race, ethnicity and gender.” (CIPD, 2006, p. 6)
There is an extensive range of diversity dimensions; a technique to understand these is to group them into surface-level and deep-level diversity types. Surface-level relates to observable dimensions, for instance age or gender. Deep-level diversity focuses less apparent dimensions such as political beliefs or sexual orientation (Harrison, et al., 2002). Developing this definition further is the idea that diversity is the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and Surowiecki (2005) summarises this with a practical example. If you were to ask a group or an individual to guess the weight of a cat the group will provide the most accurate answer. The more diverse the group is, the greater the accuracy of the estimate will be. This outlines the importance of workplace diversity (Surowiecki, 2005). Essentially, diversity within the workplace is acknowledging that these differences between individuals exist and the wider significance has been a developing topic over the last thirty years.
Academic literature suggests there is a prevailing acceptance that diversity has developed into two main categories, summarised by equal opportunity and diversity management. The development of equal opportunities from an academic perspective rapidly increased in the 1970’s. This approach to diversity seeks to eliminate discrimination and dis-advantage from a group perspective, for example stereotyping of male and female job roles within the workplace (Bagilhole, 1997). The Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner (1979) encapsulates the reason why equal opportunity emerged. They theorised that groups which individuals are part of and contribute to, create feelings of pride and self-confidence. Leading on from this, groups create a social identity which influences in-group discrimination towards the out-group (Austin & Worchel, 1979).
From a practical perspective, the UK in the 1970’s is an example of a country which embraced equal opportunities. This largely came from government policy influenced by the political mind-set of the time to “modernise Britain and to arrest its economic decline through efficiency” (The Economist, 2010). For example the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) and the Race Relations Act (1976) were introduced to reduce surface levels of discrimination within the workplace. Although these new policies were a positive step to increasing diversity within the workforce, many academics highlight the limitations of an equal opportunity approach. (Kirton & Greene, 2010) outline that this approach can be negative for stakeholders. For instance the potential penalties that an organisation can incur do not encourage them to embrace diversity, but merely do the bare minimum to abide by regulation.
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- Luke Gipson (Author), 2013, What are the pros and cons of a business case approach to diversity management, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/268980