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Diversity training can be described as training which aims at increasing the participants’ knowledge, cultural awareness and skills based on the assumptions that the training process will benefit an organization, through protecting it from civil rights violations and increasing the inclusion of various identity groups, and enhancing better team work (Nkomo, Fottler, & Bruce, 2010). From moral considerations, diversity training in its regard is a controversial issue. The question of counter productivity and efficiency of an organization is also area of concern during diversity training. Various companies are putting efforts to increase diversity in the workplace. The efforts include establishing innovative programs that deal with diversity in the workplace.
The Diverse Workforce
Workforce diversity is a crucial aspect in an organization. For example, in the United States, as a melting point nation, it has had a mix of individuals in her workforce. We have always sought to be alike, but we should recognize and appreciate individual differences. Diversity in the workplace encompasses all forms of differences among individuals including cultures, age, gender, ability, religion, personality, sexual orientation and social status. Attention to diversity has increased over the last few years. This is a result of the changing demographics of the working population. Different managers have felt that dealing with a diverse workforce is a challenge (Astd, 2008).
Theories of Diversity
Social Identity Theories
Alternative theoretical approaches rely on potential disadvantages of diversity. Social identity theories describe how people come to define their self-concept through group membership. People are encouraged to promote positive self-esteem, through identifying themselves with various social groups. Self-categorization in these groups happens within a hierarchy since some group identities are more crucial to individuals’ self-concepts. Social contexts like racial group composition influence the saliency of group identification, and can lead to various behaviors (Andrew, 2007). Demographically, heterogeneous groups are likely to categorize group membership into different salient differences. Social identity theories help to explain the difficulties that they encounter by an organization in its diversification context. For example, a growth in the racial diversity in an organization increases the number of interactions between out-group and in-group members. The interactions lead to more conflicts in an organization. In turn, conflicts created reduce the performance of an organization or teams’ performances. While supporting this theory, Thomas found that culturally homogenous groups have a high performance than culturally heterogeneous ones on multiple tasks in a laboratory setting. One crucial factor that is examined in this theory is the relationship between conflict and diversity. They orient from tasks and emotional conflicts. Task conflicts arise from disagreements in task related issues. One crucial factor could be stereotyping of out-group members. Out-group members are more homogeneous than in-group members. Out-group members rest their judgments on stereotypic terms more than in-group members. Stereotypes have been in connection with discriminating behaviors and differential treatment of out-group members (Andrew, 2007). The effects of stereotypes are crucial for newly formed work groups and, when diversity increases rapidly in an organization. Other studies have linked racial diversity with emotional conflicts and, not task-related conflict. The relationship between diversity and task conflict is intricate. Task conflict is associated with low team and organization performance. Additional research shows that absenteeism and rate of turnover is high for women and minorities.
Although social identity theories are used to show the negative consequences of a diverse workforce, individuals are able to identify a super ordinate category instead of subgroup identities. Effective diversity management can incorporate self-categorization to a positive outcome from an organization, through fostering strong identification with the organization itself, an identity that will be shared among all members.
Contingency Theories of Diversity
Contingency focused theories assess the contextual factors that interact with diversity to effect organizational performance. According to contingency theories, diversity is said to interact with several factors. These factors include communication, cohesion and conflict. These factors ultimately influence the organizational outcomes. Organizations that have a clear understanding of these processes are able to manage a diverse workforce effectively. The effects of racial diversity in business firms were examined by Richards 2000. His study showed that the growth strategy moderated the effects of racial diversity in the organizations’ performance. Growth strategy got compared to downsizing and was referred to the number of mergers and acquisitions that the firm engaged in compared to a computed average. The influences of a firm’s growth strategy can affect the climate in an organization. Organizations that are experiencing downsizing may not have the capability of effectively managing a diverse workforce (Frank & Conte, 2009). Organizations that are expanding may have resources that are needed to control a diverse workforce effectively. Some other factors such as increased stress may be associated with downsizing and, could have a negative impact on the effectiveness of diversity management. Effective management of diversity elicits some vague definitions in the scientific and popular literature. Different organizations aim for effective diversity management without clear goals in place. Diversity management requires an organization to expand the objectives of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. One solution to diversity management is diversity training. These are programs that focus on educating people on diversity issues in the workforce.
Advantages of Diversity in a Workplace
Even though diversity can prevent team members from enjoying effective communication, its effects on a team’s performance can obtain compensation, due to several advantages it brings to the team. One of the advantages is avoiding groupthink. This means that members of a homogenous group believe that, judgments on which the team members agree are superior to judgments made by any other member. Individuals tend to suspend their own critical thinking in favor of group beliefs. They also assume that individuals outside their team are less capable. Groupthink tends to assume ineffective or poor decision making. Interaction involving conflict of ideas is normal in the team process. Groupthink tends to short-circuit the natural team process. It proceeds directly to an agreement that is likely to produce poor decisions. Groupthink inhibits conflicts and results in low decision making. Scholars have recommended various ways of avoiding groupthink. One of the ways is the use of outside experts, nurturing of diversity and holding meetings in the subgroups. When a team is naturally diverse, it is easy for members to be open about their perspectives and opinions (Debra & Quick, 2010).
The other advantage of diversity consists in learning. Studies on cooperative learning methods indicate that learning is a process of challenging the existing views and knowledge, acquiring and adapting new knowledge. Learning occurs at both individual and organizational levels. At the organizational level, learning in its view is a cumulative process that involves a direct conflict of ideas with the existing understandings, debated and challenged. In situations where individuals find their mindsets, information and beliefs in challenge, they will offer effective learning. This is likely to happen in the presence of a diverse mix participant, together with an environment that allows individual views to be of value. Various individuals in a diverse team bring different knowledge into a situation, and hence, provide new sources of learning in fresh perspectives. This explains the reasons why diverse workplaces have an immense capacity to handle complex problems and produce viable solutions. They tend to outperform homogenous workplaces as they attract sizeable pools of ideas. Diversity in terms of age, gender, cultural background and education levels see a narrow range of knowledge sets, when compared to a diverse group.
The third advantage of diversity is increased creativity (Arthur, 2008). Different studies have shown that innovative organizations have diverse teams. This is because heterogeneity has added benefit in terms of innovation and creativity. Individuals from different cultures solve problems differently. Innovators get characterized as those with an aversion to their status quo, questioning minds and with fresh perspectives in the organization. A diverse team provides new perspectives that are sources of ideas, methods and suggestions that have not been previously in consideration. People feel comfortable and get attraction to those they perceive to be similar to them. It is human nature to seek homogeneity since, it is easy. Where there are choices, there is potential for disagreement. People often try to put forward the best behavior out of concern for how we are perceived.
Disadvantages of Diversity
In a diverse team, differences among team members may cause inefficiency in communication and increase conflict and emotional tension within the team. The most common disadvantage of diversity in a team is miscommunication. An example of miscommunication can originate from differences in language. Communication and language are inseparable (Arthur, 2008). In situations where team members do not come from the same cultural background and do not speak the same language, effective communication will not be achieved since lack of common language in diverse teams makes it difficult for members to exchange ideas. When the receiver of a message belongs to a different diversity category from the sender, there are low chances of precisely transferring a given message. Contrary, if the receiver of a message is of the same diversity category as the sender is, there are high chances that the message will be well understood. The other disadvantage of diversity in a team is that it leads to mistrust among team members. Team members tend to trust members who belong to their diversity category. The diversity category may be age, cultural background and sexual orientation among others. The team members who belong to different diversity category tend to lack trust.
Diversity Training Programs
When a diversity management strategy is present in an organization, diversity training is likely to be one of the program components. Diversity training is a cornerstone of diversity initiatives. Education, views and training, are the primary drivers of an organizational change. Training should always be inclusive in a diversity strategy. More than 67 % of the United States organizations have adoption of diversity training as part of their diversity activities. Diversity training is recommended as a means of achieving two distinct goals. First, training is used in a diversity effort as a way of disseminating information about the initiatives and strategies. Different organizations use diversity training programs to emphasize the importance of diversity goals and to describe the potential benefits to the organization in efforts to achieve employee buy-in to diversity programs. Training programs may be in place to define diversity in an organization and establish a common language of talking about diversity (Alexandra, Frank & Kelley, 2006). They can additionally be implemented to bring positive feelings and interests in other parts of the diversity program. Secondly, diversity training programs are of intends to change or modify employees’ behaviors so as to improve the relationship among organizational members. In most of the cases, diversity training programs tackle skill development and behavior changes directly (Vaughn, 2007). For example, organizations may use diversity training programs to improve competencies that are believed to be critical in effective diversity management, such as team building, decision making skills and conflict management among others. In addition, a diversity training program can be designed in a way to change the behavior indirectly. The program can aim at changing the stereotypes so as to reduce their impacts on decision making and organizational interactions. However, there have been scholars who have criticized diversity training. Some argue that there is no empirical evidence that shows the relationship between effectiveness and ineffectiveness of diversity training programs.
What Organizations Expect from Innovative Diversity Training Programs
Different diversity training programs can meet their intended objectives. Training programs are bound to disseminate information about diversity goals and their importance to the organization. The use of training programs for these purposes seems to be justified. Diversity training for the purpose of skills acquisition should be in accompany of needs assessment that considers the climate for transfer or pre-training motivation to learn. The use of awareness training programs to reduce discriminatory behavior is not likely to be effective in an organization (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). Minimizing discriminatory behavior is a crucial goal, and raising awareness of cognitive biases seem not to be able to accomplish this. Studies on diversity training have shifted from examinations of practitioners’ perceptions of success to evaluation of learning. Awareness training should encourage a high level of ethnic identity. Diversity training has no impacts on trainee ethnic identity development. Increased awareness leads to a behavioral change. Trainees’ knowledge of biases is unrelated to post training behavior. Various researches in social psychology raise issues with the validity of another key assumption underlying the use of awareness programs.
Formal Mentoring Diversity Programs
Formal mentoring programs are managed and initiated by an organization. They are common activities used in diversity initiatives. Mentoring programs have been recently ranked the fifth in the SHRM’s survey of organizational diversity practices. For example, a third of the United States firms have mentoring programs in place. Mentoring programs can take various forms. They range from programs that establish traditional dyadic relations between a junior person and a senior person to team or group mentoring programs that involve junior employees meeting with senior employees. Most organizations offer formal mentoring programs to encourage developmental relationships. This is done through pairing senior and junior people. Formal mentoring programs are aimed at professional and managerial employees. Part of the diversity initiative in mentoring programs targets people of color and women. Participants of mentoring programs admit that the mentoring programs were developed as part of diversity strategy (Xiumei, 2007).
Mentoring programs have two related goals. The first one is career advancement and development. Research has indicated that people of color and women no longer report barriers at organizational entry stage. They report barriers to subsequent development. Lack of mentoring programs in an organization is a crucial advancement barrier. Protégés in informal mentoring relationships experience high career and job satisfaction, large salaries and fast promotion rates. Employees, who report career success indicates that mentoring programs influence their development and advancement, provide coaching, sponsorship and exposure. This shows that mentoring programs are meant to increase access to mentors for members of these groups. For the case of women, the structure of formal program is believed to eliminate some perception of sexual tensions that relate to initiating a cross-gender mentoring relationship. For the people of color, formal mentoring programs can provide access to mentors across ethnic and racial lines. Another important goal of the mentoring programs is retention. If mentoring programs facilitate advancement, they should also reduce a turnover among the workforce. Studies have linked informal mentoring to pay retention and advancement. Studies of formal mentoring have been limited to self-reported outcomes and jib attitudes (Xiumei, 2007).
Formal and Informal Mentoring
Formal mentoring programs have been introduced in various organizations due to the benefits of informal mentoring. The ability of formal programs to deliver the benefits of informal mentoring has queries. Formal mentoring relationships are different from informal one on several dimensions. Informal mentoring relationships programs are developed on the basis of perceived similarity and mutual identification between the mentor and the protégé. In formal mentoring programs, organizations match the pair. This means that formal mentor may be less motivated compared to informal mentors. Formal mentors tend to develop a deep relationship because they identify less with the protégé at the outset. Informal mentoring relationships are long term lasting between three to six years. On the contrary, many formal mentoring relationships get defined in a short period like six months to one year. Informal and formal mentors have different motivations for entering the relationship. For the case of informal mentors, they enter into a mentoring relationship so as to fulfill their own career needs. For formal mentors, they participate in a mentoring program as an organizational citizenship behavior. While comparing formal and informal mentors, several empirical researches have compared the outcomes of the two mentors. Protégés in formal relationships report few psychological or career-related benefits than those in informal relationships (Xiumei, 2007).
Demographic similarities are believed to facilitate identification and delivery of psychosocial benefits to protégés (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). In terms of career opportunities, demographic similarity may not be an advantage for people of color and women. The demographic match between a protégé and a mentor is not critical to the quality of mentoring experience. In other studies, demographic similarities with the mentor do not affect protégés’ satisfaction with their mentors. Group mentoring programs increase the overall strength and number of participants’ network ties. The participation of employees in these programs is based on the experience level and not demography. For example, in an organizational context where white men constitute a large proportion of the workforce, group mentoring is likely to increase the heterophyllous ties more than homophilous ties for people of color and women. On the same note, employees’ network groups are intended to increase homophilous ties since they are organized around identity group characteristics such as race, sexual orientation and gender.
High-quality mentoring relationships can be achieved through formal mentoring programs and expand participants’ network ties. These programs have potential for increasing advancements and minimizing turnover in the organization. Relationship with the immediate supervisors can be pointed out as the primary source of influence on advancement and retention. When relative influences of mentors are in comparison to supervisors, there is an indication of a significant impact of the supervisor on job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Studies suggest that organizational efforts aim towards training programs, in order to improve relationships between employees and their supervisors (Alexandra, Frank & Kelley, 2006). Such programs should train supervisors in providing mentoring functions and addressing other advancement barriers like stereotypes and the need for visible, challenging job assignments. Peer relationships in an organization play a crucial role in determining turnover among employees. Employees’ network groups are effective in addressing the needs since they promote the development of relationships among the same race employees (Vaughn, 2007). The ties create opportunities for the same race mentoring and reducing turnover intentions. Employees’ network groups may be effective for organizations trying to retain non-traditional employees since they can provide both network and mentoring. It is difficult for an organization to take proactive steps in promoting and developing employees’ network groups. The employees’ network groups by definition are employee-organized and grown grassroots. On the other hand, if these groups emerge spontaneously, organizations can support them actively and encourage managerial participation. In groups with high ranking managers, social support is likely to be accompanied by instrumental career support. Many concerns that managers may have about network groups appear to be unfounded. Studies on formal mentoring programs have increased in recent years. The outcome variables examined by the studies are limited to the employee’s attitude such as job satisfaction and satisfaction with mentor.
Many formal mentoring programs are meant to influence the employees’ outcomes in the workplace. Studies have not evaluated the effects of the formal mentoring programs separately for members of different demographic groups. It makes it almost impossible to draw conclusions on the ability of mentoring programs to meet the intended diversity goals. In addition, researches on the ways in which mentoring programs can influence outcomes, are a need. In an educational setting, mentoring programs designed to reduce stereotypes threats have shown an increase in retention and achievement. Similar programs could be established in an organization as training programs for supervisors and mentors of diverse employees (Douglas, 2007). Mentoring researchers have moved from an exclusive focus on traditional dyadic relationship to a broad consideration of the full constellation of developmental relationships, which provide mentoring functions to employees. To diversity researchers, broadening of perspective would be valuable. Relationships with supervisors and peers may be more crucial to outcomes than a traditional mentoring relationship. While research on the ability of formal mentoring programs to attain diversity goals is needed, they should also examine how the broad set of workplace relationships influence outcome.
Importance of Diversity Initiatives
There are three diversity initiatives that affect different outcomes of interests to an organization. They include diversity recruitment, diversity training and formal mentoring programs. Every initiative affects a particular diversity outcome such as employee attraction, skill development and advancement or retention. The initiatives also create new challenges to the organization. The initiatives can work together to come up with an integrated diversity strategy. Diversity recruiting efforts affect how interaction in an organization is likely to be perceived by diverse job applicants. These effects are consistent with signaling theory and social identity theory (Douglas, 2007).
Controversial Issues in Diverse Training Programs
Different people characterize diversity training programs in different ways. Those who proposed the training considers it to be morally upright since they respect diversity. Diversity training also recognizes the contributions and value of every human being. Also, the training is viewed as economically sound since it enables organizations to concentrate on multiplicities of strengths and talents. Those who oppose the training argue that it is oppressive ideological re-education tactics that affects the ability of organizations to meet their goals. They argue that diversity training reinforces the differences among individuals instead of dealing on their commonalities. They further argue that diversity training programs racialize the workplace through creating situations in which people tiptoe around issues like how to relate to different cultures instead of learning how to truly understand one another (Gwynn et al. 2007). The programs may also lead to a blatant form of sexual and racial harassments.
Diversity training programs generate emotions and conflicts hence some people regard them as a tyranny of virtues. The efforts which reduce managerial biases fail in organizations’ objectives to increase diversity at the leadership and management ranks. However, programs that are established to cater for diversity in the workforce such as diversity task forces or equal opportunity staff positions have been effective. Other people have claimed that the white female workers have benefitted a lot from these structural changes. Mentoring and networking have been termed as biased mitigating approaches. The issue of financing diversity training programs in organizations has been raised. Different individuals have indicated that strategies can be more effective in mobilizing people than the use of diversity training programs. The strategies can be used by women and people of color to obtain management roles. Diversity training programs are useful in breaking the glass ceiling, but the concept is ill-conceived.
A high level team performance is achievable if there is a good management of organization diversity. There are several models of managing diversity in an organization. For example, by using MBI model can offer a way of anticipating the diversity in the organization. An organization should adopt a model that is compatible with the organization. Team members should realize the importance of different diversity training programs. They should understand the benefits and shortcoming of having diversity training programs in the organization. They should also strive for the best performance due to the diversity. During the training programs, the management should conduct personality training. The sessions of personality training reveals how people see things from different perspectives especially in the decision making process. The management should stress on the value of varying perspective. There should be enforcement of importance of different perspectives in an organization. This helps to reduce groupthink among team members. The other the management should take during management training programs is rewarding the whole team. In some cultures, recognizing the team accomplishments is crucial. The management should not emphasize on the individual contribution. Knowing that not all people are equally comfortable with individual recognition is crucial in the organization.