Multicultural and diversity management

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Multicultural and diversity management refers to organizational actions that aim to promote greater inclusion of employees from different backgrounds into an organization’s structure through specific policies and programs. Organizations are adopting multicultural and diversity management strategies as a response to the growing diversity of the workforce around the world. It is the “recognition and valorization of individual differences”. "The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. Moreover, it is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity in each individual"(Patrick and Kumar, 2012). As seen from a US perspective, ‘Diversity management’ is supposed to represent a break from legislated equality concepts such as equal opportunity and affirmative action (Thomas, 1990 ; Thomas and Ely, 1996). Advancements in technology now allow companies to hire and manage employees from around the world and in different time zones. Companies are designing specific programs and policies to enhance employee inclusion, promotion, and retention of employees who are from different backgrounds and cultures. The programs and policies are designed to create a welcoming environment for groups that lacked access to employment and more lucrative jobs in the past.

History of diversity management[edit]

Diversity management should be understood as a historically situated concept. Diversity management as a concept appeared and gained momentum in the USA in the mid-1980s. At a time when President Ronald Reagan threatened to dismantle equality and affirmative action laws in the USA in the 1980s, equality and affirmative action professionals employed by US firms along with equality consultants, engaged in establishing the argument that a diverse workforce should be seen as a competitive advantage rather than just as a legal constraint. Basically, their message was : do not promote diversity because it is a legal mandate, but because it is good for business (Kelly and Dobbin, 1998). From then on, researchers started to test a number of hypotheses on the business benefits of diversity and of diversity management, known as the business case of diversity.

The presence of diversity management in the workplace has been depicted as the existence of conceptual and operational policies and programs within the organizations that ensure that the various groups that exists in the societal spectrum are able to effectively participate in the various levels that exists in the organizations.[1]


Undertaken up to the present day provides only modest support to the proposal, that workforce diversity per se brings business benefits with it. Therefore, this idea remains open to debate and further research. In short, whether diversity pays off or not depends on environmental factors, internal or external to the firm. Dwyer, Richard & Chadwyck (2003) found that the effects of gender diversity at the management level are conditional on the firm's strategic orientation, the organizational culture and the multivariate interaction among these variables. Schäffner, Gebert, Schöler, & Kirch (2006) found that if the firm’s culture incorporates the normative assumption or belief that diversity is an opportunity, then age diversity becomes a predictor of team innovativeness, but not otherwise. Kearney & Gebert (2006) found that diversity in age, nationality, and functional background, have a positive effect on team innovativeness in a high transformational leadership context, but no effect in a low one. A curvilinear relationship between diversity and performance was identified by Richard, Barnett, Dwyer, & Chadwick (2004). Kochan, Bezrukova, Ely, Jackson, Joshi, Jehn et al. (2003), found few positive or negative direct effects of diversity on performance. In the cases that came under their scrutiny, a number of different aspects of the organizational context or group processes moderated the diversity-performance relationship. Failing to manage diversity properly or developing diversity per se leads to only mixed results (Bell & Berry, 2007; Klein & Harrison, 2007). Overall research suggests that diversity needs to be properly managed if any business benefits are to be reaped. If properly managed, diversity likely will hold its business promises. This does not preclude that diversity at all levels of society should be a goal 'per se'. Beyond business benefits, research should pay more attention to societal benefits attached to the promotion of more inclusive and diverse workforces.

Nevertheless, research indicates that attempts to promote diversity can provoke defensive responses: One study[2] showed that even incidental allusions to diversity during interviews promoted defensive reactions in White male applicants. Indeed, after diversity was mentioned, their performance during the interview deteriorated and their physiological arousal increased.

To offset this problem, some scholars recommend that managers attempt to promote openness to diversity indirectly rather than explicitly. One research study,[3] for example, indicated that employees who are primarily motivated to develop their expertise gradually, rather than outperform their colleagues now, are more receptive to diverse values, ideologies, and demographics. Therefore, performance management systems that inspire employees to develop their skills and capabilities may be more effective than diversity training.

Organizations stand to gain several benefits from having a diverse workforce. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review [4], diverse firms are 45% more likely to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to get into a new market.


  1. ^ "Is diversity management related to financial performance in family firms? performance has created the relevance for this concept". Family Business Review. 28.
  2. ^ Dover, Tessa L.; Major, Brenda; Kaiser, Cheryl R. (January 2016). "Members of high-status groups are threatened by pro-diversity organizational messages". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 62: 58–67. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.10.006. ISSN 0022-1031.
  3. ^ "(PDF) How to inspire, rather than instruct, recruiters to select diverse ethnicities". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  4. ^ Harvard Business Review. How Diversity can drive innovation


  • 1 Roosevelt, 2010.
  • 2 Jones, 2011.
  • 3 Kaminska, 2009.
  • Bell, M.P. & Berry, D.P. (2007). Viewing Diversity Through Different Lenses: Avoiding a Few Blind Spots, Academy of Management Perspectives, November
  • Dwyer, S., Richard, O., & Chadwyck, K., (2003). Gender diversity in management and firm performance: the influence of growth orientation and organizational culture, Journal of Business Research, Dec., Vol. 56 Issue 12, p. 1009-1019
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