Impact of Age and Gender Diversity on Employee Performance in an Organisation. A Case Study of Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency

Bachelor Thesis, 2019

88 Pages



Title Page




Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Tables


Chapter One Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1.3.1 Main Objective
1.3.2 Specific Objectives
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Research Hypotheses
1.6 Significance of the Study
1.7 Delimitations and Assumptions
1.8 Definition of Key Terms
1.9 Organisation of the study Report

Chapter Two Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Impact of Age Diversity on Employee Performance
2.3 Impact of Gender Diversity on Employee Performance
2.4 Extent of Workforce Diversity Influence on Organisational Performance
2.5 Empirical Review of Gender Diversity in Zambia
2.6 Theoretical Framework
2.6.1 Information-Processing and Decision-Making Theory
2.6.2 Similarity-Attraction Theory
2.7 Conceptual Framework
2.8 Chapter Summary

Chapter Three Research Methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Location and Profile of Study Institution
3.4 Target Population
3.5 Sampling Strategy and Sample Size
3.6 Research Instrument
3.7 Data Collection Method
3.8 Data Analysis Procedure
3.9 Limitations of the Study
3.10 Research Ethics
3.11 Chapter Summary

Chapter Four: Data Presentation and Interpretation
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Background Characteristics of Respondents
4.2.1 Age distribution of respondents
4.2.2 Gender distribution of respondents
4.2.3 Educational background of respondents
4.2.4 Distribution of respondents by employment status
4.2.5 Distribution of Respondents by Status or Position in the Organisation
4.2.6 Length of Service
4.3 Impact of Age Diversity on Employee Performance
4.4 Effects of Gender Diversity on Employee Performance in an Organisation
4.5 Extent of Workforce Diversity Influences on Organisational Performance
4.6 In-depth Interview: Results
4.7 Intervening Variables
4.8 Chapter Summary

Chapter Five:Discussion of Findings and Analysis
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Impact of Age Diversity on Employee Performance
5.3 Impact of Gender Diversity on Employee Performance
5.4 Impact of Workforce Diversity on Employee Performance
5.5 Intervening Variables
5.6 Chapter Summary

Chapter Six: Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Conclusion
6.3 Recommendations
6.4 Suggestions for Future Research



Appendix I: Questionnaire Cover Letter

Appendix II: Questionnaire for Employees

Appendix III: Interview Guide with Manager HR

Appendix IV: Standard Deviation and Mean Calculations

Appendix IV: Chi Square Calculations


I, Michael Mulenga, NRC …..declare that although I may have conferred with others in preparing this dissertation and drawn upon a range of sources cited in it, it is exclusively my own original work and has not and will not be presented to any other university for a similar or any other degree award.


This dissertation describes the work carried out as a part of programme of study at Cavendish University. Therefore, all views and opinions expressed herein remain the exclusive responsibility of the author and not necessarily those of Cavendish University, individuals or any other institution where information could have been sourced.


This dissertation is dedicated to my family for their unwavering support and encouragement which brought me this far. My family’s sacrifice meant that their much needed social needs were at times denied – but for a good cause. To them I dedicate this work.


I am grateful to the Almighty God for making it possible for me to finish this project. I am very grateful to my project supervisor, Mr.Chrine Hapompwe (PhDc) for all the necessary support accorded to me during the execution of the project.

Additional thanks goes to the Faculty of the School of Social Sciences at Cavendish University for their academic guidance and also management and staff at my place of work, Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency, the institution used in this study for helping in the administration of questionnaires in their various locations across the country. I would also like to thank all respondents who participated in this study. To you all I say thank you so much for supporting me during this project.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Figure 2.0: Conceptual Framework

Figure 4.1: Age distribution of respondents

Figure 4.2: Gender distribution of respondents

Figure 4.3: Educational background of respondents

Figure 4.4: Employment Status of Respondents

Figure 4.5: Status or Position of Respondents in the Organisation

Figure 4.6: Length of Service of Respondents


Table 4.1: Descriptive statistics of impact of age diversity on employee Performance

Table 4.2: Descriptive statistics of impact of gender diversity on employee performance

Table 4.3: Descriptive statistics of workforce diversity influence on Organisational Performance

Table 4.4: Descriptive statistics of influence of intervening variables on workforce Diversity


The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of age and gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation. A descriptive research design was adopted, with Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) being the focus organisation. The target population comprised a total of 103 employees from various units of the institution. Stratified random sampling technique was used to draw a sample size of 50 respondents from various hierarchical levels. The main data collection instruments were an open and close-ended questionnaire and an interview guide. A set of descriptive statistics including frequencies, percentages, the mean and standard deviation were used to generate tables, bar graphs and pie charts to present the results of the study using SPSS version18. The key findings of the study were that both age and gender diversity have a bearing on the performance of an employee and ultimately on the organisation. Findings show that employees felt comfortable working with either older or younger employees. Others felt positive about being involved in teams that consist of employees with varying ages as this improves their performance. The study found that gender diversity has a high predictive power on employee performance. On the other hand, organisations that create an inclusive environment for all employees irrespective of gender and create policies that eliminate discrimination from the workplace can benefit from gender diversity. A significant relationship between gender diversity and work performance has shown that employees like to work with the opposite gender so long as they can carry out their job professionally. The study concluded that, age diversity is a very crucial resource for firms that intend to have sustainable workforce. It also argues that gender diversity is a vital factor for organisational performance. The study findings show that age diversity is a very crucial resource for organisations that intend to maintain a sustainable workforce. By allowing the establishment of a leadership pipeline, age diversity not only facilitates the creation of a pool of competent employees but allows the organisation to sustain its way of doing business including best practices. Moreover, age diversity within the organisation allows the technologically savvy younger employees to share their technical competencies with the older generation within the organisation. The study findings have also shown that gender diversity is a vital factor for organisational performance. This is because it has both internal and external values that facilitate organisational performance. Achieving gender diversity is not only important because it is the right thing to do in society in which gender equality is a major issue, but it also has the potential to facilitate the attainment of internal and external corporate objectives. The limitation to the study is that the research made use of only few aspects of workforce diversity and as such, findings cannot be generalised to cover other dimensions of diversity not covered in the study. The research findings showed that all aspects of workforce diversity used in the study had a significant relationship with employee performance except for the intervening variables which were related to nature of work, business strategy, external environment and corporate culture whose influence was weak according to respondents. The study recommended that management of ZCSA should continue to uphold and promote diversity policies and practices in its operations given the importance and benefits that diversity provides to the organisation. Management should also ensure that employees that showcase behaviours which support diversity management and promotes better working relationships are rewarded. Management should equally continue to promote equal employment opportunity for career growth for all gender. To encourage gender diversity, managers and supervisors at all levels should create flexible working policies that can help female employees to manage their work and their personal life.



1.1 Background to the Study

Human capital is the organisation’s resource that cannot be duplicated by other organisations. The human capital comes from a pool of workforce that brings diverse skills, backgrounds and experiences all of which contribute to the success of an organisation. For organisations to attract a broader talent pool of employees, it needs to embrace an organisational culture of workforce diversity. This will lead to an enhanced corporate reputation and strengthened cultural values. According to Childs (2005), workforce diversity is a global workplace and marketplace phenomenon. Therefore, any business that intends to be successful must have a borderless view and an underlying commitment to ensuring that age and gender diversity are part of its day-to-day business conduct. Workforce diversity includes, but is not limited to: age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, military experience, religious beliefs, parental status, and work experience (Srivastava and Agarwal, 2012). In 1991, Zambia enacted a new set of laws, which sought to break the culture of gender bias at the work place in public sector in order to institutionalise professionalism and positive diversity attributes in these organisations. However, the report published by Mensi-Klarbach et al. (2013) shows that despite the adoption of the legislation by public institutions, the impact of the diversity programs at the organisation level still needed to be identified since these programs are executed deliberately by human resource managers, and may have varied adaptations and unintended consequences.

According to Bhatia (2008), there are other sources of diversity such as political affiliation, levels of ability, personality, socio-economic background of individuals, membership or non membership of unions, period and nature of employment, and work style. All these indicate that human beings are different individuals with unique capacities. Employees, therefore, work together for organisations but they maintain their distinct identities, diverse cultures, languages and lifestyles. With the advent of the Internet and the Worldwide Web, the concept of a global village underscored the need for organisations to promote workforce diversity in order to reach the global markets (Madiha et al., 2003). Organisations hire employees from diverse cultures, values and styles. While employees expect returns from the organisation, their effective performance is significant for its success. It is, therefore, important to consider the effect of diversity on employee output. Gender and age could present tremendous challenges as well as opportunities to the organisation in terms of effective management. The following are some of the challenges that gender and age diversity could present to an organisation; individual versus group fairness, resistance to change, resentment, group cohesiveness and interpersonal conflict, segmented communication networks, backlash and competition for opportunities (Madiha et al., 2003). It is, therefore, important to understand the impact of gender/age on organisational outcomes, such as organisational performance, employee satisfaction, and labour turnover (Sungjoo and Rainey, 2010).

As a government department, Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) draws its workforce from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, it faces pertinent issues such as demographic changes, increasing number of women joining its workforce, organisational restructuring, and the implementation of the equal opportunity legislation, which requires organisations to review their management practices and develop new and creative approaches to people management. Pfeifer and Wagner’s (2013) analysis furthermore reveals, for the first time, that the lower level of produc­tivity in organisations with a higher share of female employ­ees does not go hand in hand with a lower level of efficiency in these institutions, ceteris paribus. If anything, efficiency is (slightly) higher in firms with a larger share of female employees. This finding might indicate that a lower productivity of women is (over) compensated by their lower labour costs, which in turn might indicate gen­eral labour market discrimination against women or lower reservation wages and less engagement in indi­vidual wage bargaining by women. Although pre­vious studies by Cardoso et al. (2011) for Portugal; van Ours and Stoeldraijer (2011) for the Netherlands; Göbel and Zwick (2012) for Germany, Ogendengbe and Rebman (2012) for Nigeria, have analysed firm productivity and the productivity-wage gap, there is no known study especially in Zambia that has explicitly analysed the effects of age and gen­der composition of the workforce on organisational performance. Consequently, this study will present the first local evidence for direct links between workforce composition and organisational productivity.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Diversity has inherent challenges in terms of conflict among genders and age groups. Conflict arises because of distrust and lack of confidence among group members. A better understanding of the determinants of the effectiveness of teams has, therefore, become increasingly relevant. One of the potential determinants of the effectiveness of a team is its diversity. Gender equality is one of the 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as more and more women are being drafted in the workforce while the retirement age in Zambia has been moved from 55 years to 65 years under the Statutory Instrument (SI) Number 63 of 2014. Currently, each year, new young workers are entering the workforce while few old ones are retiring. This denotes a huge shift in the workforce, often resulting in showcasing key distinctions between the different generations, as well as different perceptions among each group. By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce, and they are changing the work culture (Gupta, 2013). Employees from other generations may have difficulties adapting to changes in the workplace and the work culture that the younger generation are bringing about. In larger organisations, there are more diversified age groups, from teenagers to senior citizens (Göbel and Zwick, 2012). As a result, cliques and social circles are formed, and some workers are isolated from the team, thereby affecting individual performance. There may also be times that workers from different generations may disagree on how things should be done.

To maintain teamwork and collaboration, by creating an open communication culture within an establishment to help bridge the gap between generations is a daunting task for any organisation. From literature review (Ozemenbhoya et al., 2012; van Ours and Stoeldraijer, 2011), it was discovered that only very few studies on workforce diversity and its relative impact had been conducted in Africa, precisely Zambia. Few of such studies that exist, have failed to deliver detailed examination of the impact of workforce diversity on employee performance. For instance, Mbilima (2016) reports that, “women represent 27 per cent of the urban utilities workforce, a comparably high figure, but until recently it was difficult to tell whether women truly participated in decision making to gauge their impact, because this was not reported on.” Emphasis was usually put on the number of women in the sector, although this too used not to be included in the regular reports produced on the sector. Without such information, evaluating the results of various gender mainstreaming activities will continue to be challenging. Consequently, NWASCO – the Zambian regulator – took the progressive step to report on female participation in water utility companies. The 2015 Urban and Peri-urban Sector Water Supply and Sanitation Sector report found that, of the total staff in the sector, 83 per cent were men and 17 per cent were women. Therefore, this study seeks to examine empirically and theoretically the concept of workforce diversity in terms of age and gender, and its impact on employee performance at ZCSA.

1.3 Objectives of Study

This section presents the general objective and specific objectives of the study. The study objectives are presented as follows:

1.3.1 Main objective

The main research objective of the study was to assess the impact of age and gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation.

1.3.2 Specific objectives

Arising from the main objective above, the study was undertaken by considering the following specific objectives:

- To establish the impact of age diversity on the performance of an employee;
- To explore the impact of gender diversity on the performance of an employee;
- To determine to what extent workforce diversity influences organisational performance.

1.4 Research Questions

The study was guided by the following main research question: What is the impact of age and gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation focusing on ZCSA. The specific research questions included:

- What is the impact of age diversity on employee performance in an organisation?
- What is the impact of gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation?
- To what extent does workforce diversity influence organisational performance?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1:

Ho: There is no significant impact of age diversity on employee performance in an organisation. H1: There is a significant impact of age diversity on employee performance in an organisation.

Hypothesis 2:

Ho: There is no significant impact of gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation.

H1: There is a significant impact of gender diversity on employee performance in an organisation.

Hypothesis 3:

Ho: There is no significant influence of workforce diversity generally on employee performance in an organisation.

H1: There is a significant influence of workforce diversity generally on employee performance in an organisation.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The study focused on workforce diversity in terms of age and gender effects on organisational performance at ZCSA. It specifically examines how age diversity affects organisational performance, how gender diversity affects organisational performance. Therefore, the study focused on the functional diversity that has an impact on organisational performance as opposed to non-functional diversity. Furthermore, the study was both a primary and a secondary study. Moreover, the research was analysed from the period of five years that is from January 2013 to December 2017. Since the study was delimited to the identification of the effects of age and gender on organisational performance, the existing human resource policies were analysed to ascertain their effects. The sample respondents were drawn from all the districts represented by ZCSA in Zambia.

1.7 Significance of the Study

The study findings will provide awareness on how diversity is of strategic importance for ZCSA and give insight into how ZCSA management can utilise age and gender diversity to enhance organisational processes and attain optimum performance. Apart from being of vital importance to ZCSA management, the study will also be of significant importance to the employees. It will provide employees with information regarding the importance of their age and gender diversity to the enhancement of organisational performance. The findings of the study may help other government departments to assess or evaluate the effectiveness of their diversity in the attainment of organisational performance. In so doing, the study will form an indispensable source of information on how to strategically utilise diversity to leverage competitiveness in the modern competitive business environment. The data that has been provided in this study will contribute to the current body of literature focusing on the effects of diversity on organisational performance from an informed source for future studies. By focusing on the internal dimensions of diversity, specifically the demographic aspects, the study will inspire future research on the subject.

1.8 Definition of Key Terms

For the purposes of this study, the following main concepts are defined:

Employee Diversity - Diversity refers to differences or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups in which we belong, thus, age, gender, race, ethnicity and so on (Gupta, 2013).

Gender: It is a way of looking at roles and responsibilities of women in relation to those of men in society (Muyoyeta, 2012).

Social Diversity - Social diversity relates to differences in demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity and geographical region of origin (Anderson and Metcalf, 2003).

Skills Diversity - Skills diversity refers to diversity of background such as knowledge, education, experience, tenure and functional background (Anderson and Metcalf, 2003).

Values Diversity - Values diversity includes differences in personality and attitudes of employees (Anderson and Metcalf, 2003).

Performance - Corporate performance indicates the results/outcomes of work done/efforts/initiatives that the organisation undertakes in order to fulfil the laid out goals/objectives. According to Gupta (2013), corporate performance is the integration of the organisation’s effectiveness, efficiency and adaptability.

1.9 Organisation of the study Report

Chapter one is the introduction containing comments on the background to the study, the statement of the problem, the research questions, research aims and objectives, the scope of the study, the significance of the study and operational definition of key terms used in the study.

Chapter two gives a review of the literature related to the study while giving a critical analysis, evaluation of existing knowledge relevant to the research study problem. The chapter further provides the conceptual and theoretical framework of the study.

Chapter three covers the research methodology and describes the type of data utilised, how they were collected, the weaknesses implied from the data type and collection methods, the implications of these weaknesses on the findings of this study and their possible correction methods.

Chapter four consists of data presentation and interpretation. It deals with all the statement of findings and discusses and analyses the links to secondary data.

Chapter five provides a discussion of the findings and analysis of data.

Chapter six gives the conclusion of the study and makes recommendations to the relevant stakeholders and provides suggestions for further study.



2.1 Introduction

This chapter focuses on the reviewed literature gathered from secondary sources which will be relevant to the study. The conceptual framework is discussed to investigate the correlation between the dependent variable (employee performance) and the independent variable (workforce diversity) expressed in terms of age and gender. The chapter also reviews theoretical and empirical literature relevant to the influence of workforce diversity on employee performance.

2.2 Impact of Age Diversity on Employee Performance

Gupta (2013) had shown that there was no distinct connection between age and work performance. Performance decline is more likely due to skills obsolescence than declining mental capabilities. It is observed from many studies that older employees are as productive and skilled as the young. The decline in work performance with age if any can be compensated by superior performance in other areas, such as an individual’s job experience and problem-solving skills (Tempest et al., 2002). There were also positive stereotypes about old workers that they were seen as being more dependable, experienced (Finkelstein et al., 2000) and wiser (Kogan and Shelton, 1960) than younger workers. Thus, the cost of age heterogeneity may be compensated with its potential benefits. By having employees of different ages, a firm can form and maintain better relationships with customers from different age groups. A heterogeneous age group of employees would, therefore, be more productive than a homogeneous age group (Williams and O’Reilly, 1998; Zenger and Lawrence, 1989).

Innovative and creative tasks are associated with more complex problem-solving requirements and low levels of standardisation. This is where the benefits of heterogeneous competencies may outweigh the losses due to standard communication problems. The conflicts can lead to enhanced group discussion, a better analysis and better solutions for challenges and problems. Hence, age heterogeneity may increase performance in creative tasks (Richard and Shelor, 2002). In accordance with this rationale, Gupta (2013) found that a positive effect of age heterogeneity on organisational productivity for firms engaged in problem solving tasks. Another benefit of greater age diversity is that it tends to counteract the dominance of one particular age group and its organisational problems. A homogeneous age group might reduce the career options and promotion based incentives in the organisation and hence would increase the turnover of employees. Thus, age heterogeneity is also necessary for an efficient in-house distribution of implicit knowledge and for increase of productivity due to promotion based incentives (Pelled et al., 1999).

As most of the young professionals grow up in a high tech world, having the workforce with tech-savvy younger employees would provide definite advantage over one with only mature employees. The practice of multi-generational work places offers mentoring advantages about organisational history, culture, accumulated knowledge and skills (Gupta, 2013). However, Lazear (1999) found out that the advantages of age diversity can be gained only when organisations overcome the additional communication costs and issues related to emotional conflicts between them. Bacharach et al. (2009) argued that age heterogeneity can negatively affect employee productivity due to differences in values and preferences of distinct age groups. The generation gap leads to frequent conflicts between the workforce (Lau and Murnighan, 2005; Pitcher and Smith, 2001). Crystalline intelligence (wisdom) can be substantially improved through work and life experience and may, therefore, increase with age. Wisdom continuously increases until the age of 50 and remains stable for the age of 70 to 75 and then starts declining (Baltes et al., 2005). Elderly people with the help of their wisdom make more realistic judgments about situations and scenarios than younger people (Charness and Villeval, 2007). Thus, ageing negatively impacts cognitive speed but positively influences experience and wisdom (Baltes et al., 2005; Sternberg and Grigorenko, 2005).

Spitz-Oener (2006) states that wisdom does not decline with age and older workers generally have a comparative advantage over younger workers in judicial tasks. The wide research conducted on medical, psychological and economic fields suggests that old and young employees possess different skills and abilities (Johnson, 2005; Skirbekk, 2005). The competencies and capabilities of old and young employees vary depending on their occupational field and activity. It can generally be assumed that depending on the type of task, individual productivity declines with age. Jehn et al. (1999) had shown that the differences in age, race and gender may have become less relevant and less important over time as group members cooperated with each other and spent a substantial amount of time performing together in specific contexts. It is clear that diverse group members are given sufficient time to embrace and capitalise on their differences. Unlike gender diversity, organisations rarely undertake initiatives to increase age diversity. Traditional age distributions within organisational structures ( younger at the bottom and older in the middle and top) were derived from hiring employees at a young age and retaining them through most of their working life.

Various researchers argue that age diversity can have both advantages and disadvantages for the organisations. For instance, Mwatumwa (2016) cited examples of age diversity disadvantages as communication problems and conflict. In support of the above, Opstal (2009) further explained that when managers fail to manage generational gaps amongst employees, conflicts are likely to evolve and thus reducing the productivity of employees. In addition, according to Backes-Gellner and Veen’s (2015) argument using a cost benefit analysis of the firm, increasing age heterogeneity may result in poor communication, less interaction and reduced employee performance due to differing values and preferences. Backes-Gellner and Veen further stated that organisations that focus much on routine tasks rather than creative tasks are likely not to experience any significant gains from age diversity that can counterbalance the increasing costs of a more age diversity. In contrast to the above, Boehm and Kunze (2015) argued that an age heterogeneous workforce yields a host of multiple skills, intellectual styles, morals, and preferences that may result in increased productivity. This supports Gupta (2013) who outlined that the perceptions, cognitive models and interpretations of an age diverse workforce are different hence, if brought together may result in a larger pool of knowledge, a larger problem solving toolbox and increased employee performance.

A study conducted by Selveraj (2015) in Singapore manufacturing industry revealed that there was no relationship between age diversity and employee performance. Given these findings, Selvaraj concluded that the employees in Singapore neither viewed workforce diversity as benefit nor as burdensome to them as they gave neutral responses. Also, a study conducted by Kyalo (2015) in the banking sector in Kenya revealed that age diversity was not related to employee performance. Furthermore, in the Egyptian pharmaceutical industry, Elsaid (2012) found that there was no relationship between age diversity and employee performance. Elsaid further stated that the possible explanation to this was the less noticeable numerical uniqueness between young and old employees as compared to the numerical uniqueness between male and female employees. In contrast to the above, a study conducted by Odhiambo (2014) in the Kenyan education sector reported that increasing age diversity was positively related to employee performance. Odhiambo further found out that schools that focus on innovative task benefit more from age diversity as compared to those which focus on routine tasks.

Along with the trend of an aging workforce has come increased interest in understanding intergenerational relationships within organisations’ performance (Iimakunnas and Iimakunnas, 2010). Yet, most studies of age diversity within organisations have focused on top management workforce, where age diversity is somewhat limited (Selveraj, 2015). Despite the restricted age ranges found in top management workforce, there is some support for the predictions made by social identity theory. For example, Knight et al. (1999) found that top management workforce with greater age diversity was less likely to engage in agreement-seeking behaviours that could result in reaching strategic consensus hence affecting organisational performance. Some reviewed literature (Algahtani, 2013; Boehm and Kunze, 2015) on workforce diversity and performance of public sector organisations largely considered the workforce diversity at the managerial level and mainly in decision making. There is no critical observation of how workforce diversity can influence the performance of employees at junior levels of public sector organisations. Putting this in consideration and how the public sector organisations are staffed in Uganda with all categories of the workforce, the researcher felt that there was an existing gap which required to be covered with a body of knowledge embedded in the findings of this study (Selveraj, 2015).

Growing age diversity has become part of many organisations (Kunze et al., 2009). There are two major theories which explain this relationship; the social identity and self categorisation. Individuals are suggested to classify themselves into certain groups on the basis of dimensions that are personally relevant for them according to social identity and self categorisation theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). As a result, individuals tend to favour members of their own group at the expense of the other groups, against which they may discriminate. Consequently, if the employees’ age or generational belonging is regarded as a relevant criterion for distinction, a differentiation between age groups within an organisation may emerge, fostering emotional conflicts and age based discrimination between the age groups (Kunze et al., 2009). Backes-Gelner and Veen (2009) summarised that age heterogeneity can negatively affect productivity. It has been shown that productivity diminishing conflicts are particularly frequent in the presence of “generation gaps” (Backes-Gelner and Veen, 2009; Lau and Murnighan, 2005; Pitcher and Smith, 2001). However, Backes-Gelner and Veen (2015) also opine that age heterogeneity may be placed in proximity with its potential benefits.

Complimentarily effects emerge when collaboration in a group enables individuals to be more productive than when working on their own. Hence, the benefits of age heterogeneity are based on additional productivity effects that arise due to interaction among individuals of different ages with differing skill profiles, differing perspectives and perhaps also different personality traits. According to Brown (2008), increased diversity may also provide many challenges for HR management, as the workforce ages; for instance, employers will have to struggle with higher healthcare costs and pension contributions. Employees will need to accept that benefits are in sync with the vision of the organisation; thus, their commitment will increase substantially. Growing age diversity has turned out to be an integral part of many organisations (Kunze et al., 2009). There are two guideline thoughts which clear up this relationship that is the social personality and self-arrangement. Backes-Gellner and Veen (2009) summarised that age heterogeneity can adversely influence profitability and productivity distresses, dissimilarities in the values in and inclinations of diverse age sets.

Firms are not adequately employing the talents of old specialist workers owing to false stereotype beliefs and assumptions that they are expensive, more inclined to health issues, cannot conform to workplace changes and new technology, perform ineffectively, as opposed to the younger employees and result in decreased yield on training investments (Algahtani, 2013). The study on simple production technology by Hamilton et al. (2004) demonstrated that groups with more diversity in age were expressively less gainful and less productive. This result is steady with perceptions by Kulik and Robertson (2008) that retail stores with more age diversity among its employees tend to be less profitable. However, Childs (2005) had revealed that there was no distinct relationship found between age diversity and work performance. It has been observed from numerous studies that more old employees are as productive, profitable and skilful as young ones. Therefore, a heterogeneous age group of employees would be more creative, dynamic and gainful than a homogeneous age group (Williams and O’Reilly, 1998).

2.3 Impact of Gender Diversity on Employee Performance

Workforce gender diversity is increasing in countries all over the world (International Labour Office, 2007). For example, women’s representation in the United States civilian labour force has increased from 29.4 percent in 1950 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1970) to 46.3 percent in 2006 (U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2007). Similarly, women’s representation in the Australian labour force has increased from 22.9 percent in 1954 (Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, 1958) to 46.1 percent in 2006 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). The increase in workforce gender diversity has attracted the attention of both researchers and practitioners. In particular, a question arises whether the gender composition in an organisation’s workforce will affect individual, group, or organisational level performance. In the early 1990s, both scholars and practitioners were generally optimistic about the effects of workforce diversity on performance. For example, Cox and Blake (1991) argued that diversity can be a source of competitive advantage. However, theories and empirical research thus far suggest that diversity can lead to either positive or negative outcomes. The resource-based view of the firm (Barney, 1991) suggests a positive diversity-performance relationship, whereas social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978) suggests a negative diversity-performance relationship.

Further, empirical research has found inconsistent results suggesting that diversity can be either good or bad for businesses (Jackson and Joshi, 2004; Svyantek and Bott, 2004). For instance, Svyantek and Bott reviewed nine diversity studies (published during 1989-2003) that investigated the gender diversity-performance relationship. Out of the nine studies, four found no main effects, two found positive effects, two found negative effects, and one found a nonlinear effect. The body of literature on diversity sends a confusing message to practitioners on whether gender diversity is good for businesses or not. The mixed evidence suggests the value of focusing on competing predictions (Armstrong et al., 2001), including nonlinear predictions (Gupta, 2013), and of considering the effect of context on the diversity-performance relationship (Joshi and Jackson, 2003). Competing predictions are useful when ‘prior knowledge leads to two or more reasonable explanations’ (Armstrong et al., 2001:175). Moreover, Joshi and Jackson advised scholars to describe their studies’ contexts in detail to enable cross-study comparisons that might explain inconsistent results. Studying the moderating effect of context might help explain inconsistencies in past research and achieve a ‘more precise and specific understanding’ of the primary gender diversity-performance relationship (Gupta, 2013).

Mwatumwa (2016) argues that gender diversity is positively linked to employee and organisational performance. This concurs with Kyalo (2015) who used a resource based-view of a firm, stating that gender diversity at the management and organisational levels can provide a firm with better competitive advantage. However, Kirton and Greene (2015) argued that most organisations do not realise these benefits as gender-based imbalances still persist in organisations. According to Nishii (2013), most cultures around the world still adhere to the notion that the world is dominated by men. As such, the corporate world holds the same belief and organisations thus prefer to hire men compared to women because men are perceived to have better performance and ability to manage their jobs and women are stereotyped against feminine characteristics (Nishii, 2013). Kirton and Green (2015), however, stated that providing equal employment opportunities for women is important to improve employee performance in organisations. At the Malaysian airline, Eugene et al. (2011) found out that there was a significant positive relationship between gender diversity and employee performance. Furthermore, Eugene and co-authors found out that a 10% increase of women in Airline industry for the past five decades resulted in an increase in productivity and GDP by 5% and 1%, respectively.

Kyalo (2015) also reported similar results in a study conducted in the banking sector in Kenya, indicating that gender diversity was significantly related to employee performance. Kyalo further observed that the recruitment strategies in banking sector favour and promote women, hence most of the banks benefit from the varied skills and knowledge of diverse gender teams. Another study conducted by Ngao and Mwangi (2013) in the Kenyan Port Authority revealed similar findings that gender diversity had a huge positive effect on employee and organisational performance. In support of Kyalo (2015), Ngao and Mwangi (2013) stated that the main reason for this maybe that females and males think differently thus if their ideas are put together, they lead to better decision making, creativity and innovation and improved employee performance. In addition, Selvaraj (2015) found gender diversity positively related to employee performance. Based on these findings, gender diversity was found to be positively affecting employee performance even though it was not an area of concern in the organisation.

According to Catalyst Inc (2004) public sector study, gender diversity gave positive effects on organisational performance, but these positive effects may be based on a number of factors. It is, therefore, necessary to examine the relationship between gender diversity and performance of public sector organisations. For example, a study of gender-diverse and same-gender groups performing a radio assembly task revealed no performance differences between the two groups (Gupta, 2013). In this case, the nature of the task (simple and mostly physical) may be a relevant factor in the research of the latter. A more cognitive task might yield different results. These types of diversity include gender, personality and ability. Measures of performance included some combination of the quality, quantity and accuracy of teamwork. Although none of these types of diversity appeared to have significant direct effects on workforce performance, when the task to be performed is rated as highly difficult (complex), significant performance advantages may occur for the diverse groups compared to the homogeneous groups hence posing a relationship between workforce diversity and organisational performance. The study established that relations oriented workforce diversity influence performance in a way that some workers tend to work effectively with colleagues with whom they share the same attributes hence supporting the assertion by Byrne (1971) that people are attracted by people of the same social and cultural attributes.

Gender-based differences in the organisation are fortified and justified by generalisations and preferences that describe positive attributes and hence a higher obvious quality to the males (Cunningham, 2008). In other words, organisations have a preference to contract male workforce compared to female since they should have better performance and abilities to manage their jobs. Cunningham explored a positive relationship between group sexual orientation differing qualities and intra-bunch cooperation and just inside of those areas which were generally more different as far as sex. Overall, the section of organisations with more gender based diversity at managerial and non-managerial levels was more cooperative and collaborative. According to Eagly and Wood (1991), the groups with mixed gender performed better than the same gender groups. McMillan-Capehart (2006) and Frink et al. (2003) had depicted the positive effect of gender-based diversity on performance of organisations utilising asset based appraisal. The studies investigating the effects of gender based diverse workforce on the performance of a group have resulted in negative impact when more males were taken in the sample and there was no effect when females were taken more in sample than males (Graen, 2003).

According to Kumari et al. (2013), adequate levels of gender based diversity can give competitive advantage over the other competitors and extensive level of gender based diversity may decline organisational performance. Childs (2005) has seen a reversed U-shaped relationship between management group gender heterogeneity and throughput, with respectably heterogeneous management groups showing better performance than gender homogeneous management groups. Likewise, consequences of a study by Frink et al. (2003) showed an upturned U-shaped connection between gender composition and organisational performance. Gender diversity demonstrated a positive effect in the services industry and a negative impact on the assembling and manufacturing businesses. Consequently, service industry may benefit more from gender diversity than practices in the assembling and manufacturing commercial ventures. In this way, high gender diversity will have a more constructive outcome on employee and firm performance in the service industry than in the manufacturing industry. Hence the adverse level of diversity can result in lesser quality because it places low performing people, less skilled workers in jobs for which they do not match well (Herring et al., 2005). In short, opponents of the diversity model are of the argument that diversity costs higher and they advocate that diverse workforce group differences cause inequality and injustice leading to conflict and its consequent costs in form of lower employee and firm performance. Due to these reasons, opponents of diversity business model have questioned the impact of this diversity programs at the middle as well as the lower level of business organisations (Herring et al., 2005).

Gender-based inequities in organisations are reinforced and justified by stereotypes and biases that describe positive characteristics and, therefore, a higher status to the males (Leonard and Levine, 2003; Heilman et al., 1989). In other words, organisations prefer to hire male workers compared with women because they are perceived to have better performance and ability to manage their jobs. Besides, according to Brown (2008) and Carr-Ruffino (2003), significant amount of workforce diversity remains ineffective if gender issues are not first recognised and managed. The research and study also state that the most constitutional challenge is overcoming the thought that women are not equal to men. Kossek et al. (2005) state that, only 54% of working-age women are in the workforce worldwide compared to 80% of men. Furthermore, women continue to have the upper hand on the “invisible care” economy, which relates to care giving and domestic work.

However, according to Kochan et al. (2003), providing an equal job opportunity to women is vital to improve performance of employees in an organisation. These societal mandates eliminated formal policies that discriminated against certain classes of workers and raised the costs to organisations that failed to implement fair employment practices. Discrimination on hiring workers based on gender has resulted in a firm’s hiring workers who are paid higher wages than alternative workers, but are no more productive (Barrington and Troke, 2001; Becker, 1971). Moreover, Wentling and Rivas (2000) study states that organisations with diverse workforce will provide superior services because they can understand customers better (Kundu, 2003). The research by Kundu states that, “hiring women, minorities and others will help organisations to tap niche markets.” Based on the research from Joshi and Jackson (2003), a positive relationship was found between team gender diversity and intra-team cooperation, but only within regions that were relatively diverse in terms of gender. Furthermore, team gender diversity was positively related to team performance, but again this was true only within regions characterised by relatively high gender diversity. Overall, regions with greater gender diversity at managerial as well as non managerial levels were more cooperative.

In comparison, Jayne and Dipboye (2004) argued that gender diversity does not necessarily bring positive outcomes such as increases in motivation, improving talents, building commitment, and declining conflict. The results from the studies conclude that benefits from diversity are contingent on situations such as the organisation strategy, culture, environment as well as people and the organisation. Other than that, giving more adequate training to build commitment among employees is necessary in the surface level. Consequently, high cost of time and money are spent. Williams and O'Reilly (1998) state that, the most empirical evidence suggests that diversity is most likely to slow down group functioning. In short, critics of the diversity model suggest that group differences result in conflict and its attendant costs. For these reasons, sceptics of the business case for diversity model have questioned the real impact of diversity programs on the bottom line of the business organisation (Herring, 2005).

Due to rapid environmental changes, many countries are changing to accommodate the increasing diverse workforce in their organisations (Elsaid, 2012). Several researchers investigating workforce diversity have found that gender diversity in the boardroom can positively affect firm performance (Carter et al., 2003; Gupta, 2013). However, other studies have reported contrary findings of a negative relationship between women in boards and firm performance (Dwyer et al., 2003) while Dimovski and Brooks (2006) reported no direct relationship between gender diversity and firm performance. Several researchers have argued that high levels of gender diversity are a source of competitive advantage. Based on literature, it can be argued that a well-balanced gender composition of employees may help create synergy leading to positive organisational outcomes. Gender diversity is associated with resources that can provide a firm with a sustained competitive advantage. These resources include market insight, creativity, innovation and improved problem solving capabilities (Nkomo and Cox, 1993). Men’s and Women’s differences may provide insights into the different needs of male and female customers. Researchers have further argued that men and women may also have different cognitive abilities. A combination of different cognitive abilities in a gender diverse team may enhance overall team cohesion, creativity, and innovation leading to improved organisational performance.

2.4 Extent of Workforce Diversity Influence on Organisational Performance

According to Anderson and Metcalf (2003) social category diversity is linked to differences in cultures and demographic attributes of employees. These differences can be in age, ethnicity, gender and places of origin. This diversity is associated with a mix of viewpoints, opinions and experiences at the workplace. Gender and age diversity has been associated with enhanced business performance through increased employee satisfaction and overall firm productivity which in return reduces labour costs. A productive employee on the other hand, delivers results through increased sales, costs savings, improving their job efficiency which feed to the overall bottom line results for an organisation. Employees’ age diversity on the other hand is an excellent source of organisation learning that promotes innovativeness which results in new and better products and services in the market place and efficient business processes that impact the bottom line (Odhiambo, 2014). On the other hand, companies which promote gender diversity earn both professional acclaim today complemented with increased employee and customers loyalty. They also attract a large number of job applicants, which means they have the choice of hiring the best employees in the market which becomes a source of competitive advantage. Increased customer satisfaction is associated with an improved bottom line since customers always reward such organisations with repeat business and hence sustained revenue growth (Kochan et al., 2003).

2.5 Empirical Review of Gender Diversity in Zambia

One study on workforce diversity in Zambia was undertaken by Mbilima (2016) in the utilities sector. The study reports that, the urban water supply and sanitation sector employs a total of 3,933 staff. The proportion of staff was that, women represent 27 per cent of the urban utilities workforce, a comparably high figure, but until recently it was difficult to tell whether women truly participated in decision making, because this was not reported on. Emphasis was usually put on the number of women in the sector, although this too used to not be included in the regular reports produced on the sector. The arrival of the IWA/USAID project (2014-2015), promoting the female participation in decision making positions in the water supply and sanitation sector, brought to life the need to have employee data for the water and sewerage companies disaggregated according to gender, and further divided into levels of management. Without such information, evaluating the results of various gender mainstreaming activities will prove to be challenging. Consequently, NWASCO – the Zambian regulator – took the progressive step to report on female participation in water utility companies.

The 2015 Urban and Peri-urban Sector Water Supply and Sanitation Sector report found that, of the total staff in the sector, 83 per cent were men and 17 per cent were women. The data showed significant differences depending upon the work role in the utilities. At managerial level, 24 per cent were women, at supervisory level, 26 per cent and only 16 per cent worked in lower levels. This scenario demonstrated that the sector was still below the 30 per cent threshold of female participation set by the sector. According to the study, it was shocking to discover that some utilities, such as Luapala Water and Sewerage Company, were rated highly because of higher overall numbers of female workers, despite none of them being in management positions.

2.6 Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework explains theories which are relevant to a particular research. A theory is a system of interconnected ideas that condense and organise knowledge about the world (Gupta, 2013). In this research, the theories that will be adopted include the information processing theory and similarity attraction theory.

2.6.1 Information-processing and decision-making theory

Gruenfeld and Neale (2006) provide a theoretical approach to describe the effects of work diversity through a framework of information and decision-making. This perspective shows how heterogeneity within a group affects the exchange of information and the ability of decision making. This theory demonstrates the potential advantages of heterogeneous groups. The framework presents that members of diverse groups have access to a greater variety of information using more contacts and networks outside the group than homogeneous team members would do. Heterogeneous groups can be simultaneously classified as in-group or out-group members based on multiple dimensions (Hewstone et al., 2002). Groups where members of another subgroup have different functional backgrounds would be consistent with the fact that they also have different levels of education and work experiences. Because of subgroup formation, members are aware of their differences and expect to be different along informational lines. This elicits less uncertain and ambiguous environments in which members are more likely to accept their informational differences and cooperate (Rink and Ellemers, 2006).

2.6.2 Similarity-attraction theory

According to Bacharach et al. (2005), the similarity-attraction theory is applied when observing groups with regard to their composition. The framework projects the argument that when group members feel similar to others, a mutual attraction is established that leads to positive communication and group integration processes. Depending on this structure, team member interaction and interpersonal processes may vary in terms of communication, cohesion or integration. Individuals perceiving themselves similar to other group members in background, usually share common experiences in private or professional life as well as regarding their values and attitudes. They consider it easier to interact with similar others, thereby gaining positive feelings and creating a desire related to this state. In contrast, dissimilarity leads to less positive processes and worse group outcomes. Within a group, members are, therefore, likely to prefer interacting with others that are rather similar to themselves. These similarities and otherwise will be drawn from demographic characteristics and personal values and attitudes. The resulting group process tends to lead to the emergence of subgroups, thus hindering effective communication and group functioning. This underlying principle of homophile has also been investigated in the organisational context (Gruenfield and Neale, 2006).


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Impact of Age and Gender Diversity on Employee Performance in an Organisation. A Case Study of Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency
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Michael Mulenga (Author), 2019, Impact of Age and Gender Diversity on Employee Performance in an Organisation. A Case Study of Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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