Workplace diversity is of great concern to organizations in creating the optimal work environment. Despite increased awareness on the importance of workplace diversity, many organizations are still characterized by majority-minority divisions in different levels of leadership. For example, a 2015 survey by TalentCorp-PwC on Malaysian companies reveals that out of the 100 listed companies, only 22% of the companies have women in managerial positions (TalentCorp, 2015). However, the percentage differs with specific sectors. Therefore an evaluation of the case study presented by TalentCorp on the state of workplace diversity in Malaysia is essential to identify factors that undermine diversity.
Factors Undermining Workplace Diversity
The survey by TalentCorp on Malaysian companies known as “Corporate Melting Pot,” is an example of the workplace diversity applied by many organizations. Per the survey, the findings show that out of 100 companies, 10% of companies have single-race board members, while 31% of the companies have no board member aged below 50 years (TalentCorp, 2015). While the survey focused on the Malaysian corporate environment, the results can be generalized and applied to most organizations globally. The situation in the Malaysian economy necessitates an understanding of the key factors that undermine workplace diversity to help organizations formulate strategies that fit to their needs.
Lacking an Understanding of Diversity
Lacking an understanding of diversity hinders the development of effective strategies to promote workplace diversity. Diversity encompasses gender, ethnicity, and age. However, due to globalization, diversity has broadened to become a more complex issue within organizations. For instance, Roberson et al. (2017) conducted a literature review of the “Journal of Psychology” to determine the meaning of diversity. Their findings indicate that diversity is a contextual variable that influences employees’ behavioral outcomes. The term has broadened to include other factors, such as social classes, disability, religion, attitudes, and experiences. By understanding how the factors mentioned affect employee performance, an organization can develop strategies that promote workplace diversity without passing across as biased to a given group.
Organization Copy and Paste Strategies
Different diversity strategies fit different organizational needs. However, some organizations copy strategies that have worked elsewhere without evaluating their pros and cons. As such, diversity is not achieved since the strategies implemented are misaligned to the organization’s needs and objectives. Therefore, assessing a diversity strategy is crucial in effectively promoting diversity within the workplace. Moreover, an organization can include its employees in developing own strategies. The approach will enable the organization to obtain a holistic perspective of its employees’ take on diversity, as well as formulate strategies that are tailored to fit its needs.
Rigid Work Arrangements
Work arrangement options also affect workplace diversity. Employees from different backgrounds require different work arrangements to achieve a work-life balance. For instance, due to a majority of women’s family responsibilities, a normal work routine of 5 days per week, 8 hours a day becomes daunting to balance. However, most organizations in the corporate world have non-existent flexible work arrangement (FWA) options for employees as is evident by the results in TalentCorp’s survey. While only 15% of the companies have part-time work arrangements, another 15% use telecommunications, and only 10% of the companies plan to initiate FWAs within a year (TalentCorp, 2015). Therefore, to promote workplace diversity, companies need to implement FWAs that meet the needs of their employees with regard to gender, age, culture, and experiences.
Recruitment bias is common in organizations that struggle with nepotism, favoritism, corruption, and racism. Such practices limit a company’s talent pool, and consequently, undermine workplace diversity. Recruitment bias includes applicant diversity, appointment, and departure biases, as well as lack of mentors. O’Brien et al. (2015) applied a dynamic model to show how recruitment bias traps organizations in lower workplace diversity. Their findings indicate that employees from minority groups in organizations tend to feel marginalized and have weak network connections with their colleagues. On the other hand, employees from dominant groups tend to stereotype those from minority groups, thus increasing employee turnover rates. Moreover, despite the awareness on the importance of workplace diversity, many male-leaders are reluctant to promote females to managerial positions. For instance, only 30% of Wal-Mart managers are females despite 70% of its employees being females (Shahid et al., 2016). Such organizational arrangements result in insufficient mentors for junior staff, thus leading to low job satisfaction. Hence, management diversity is undermined.
Negative Attitude towards Workplace Diversity
Negative attitude towards diversity hinders some organizations from promoting workplace diversity. While studies have proven the existence of a strong correlation between diverse workforce and high employee morale, some organizations only focus on the demerits associated with employing staff from diverse backgrounds. For instance, diversity encourages innovation and creativity in a healthy competition, promotes an all-inclusive work environment, and values staffs’ potential. However, to incorporate diversity in an organization, a company must deal with the conflicts arising from diverse opinionated views, as well as incur costs when initiating diversity management training for employees (Shahid et al., 2016). Companies bent on cost minimization do not consider diversity management and training as an effective measure for revenue maximization. Hence, the implementation of diversity promotion is hindered in such companies.
An understanding of the key factors that inhibit workplace diversity is essential for organizations to create an all-inclusive environment needed by employees towards improving their performances. For instance, Malaysian companies will be able to reverse the findings of TalentCorp’s survey such that women-leaders will equal men-leaders, and different age groups and races will be included as board members. While numerous studies have been conducted on the importance of diversity at all levels in an organization, little has been done to help model the way so that organizations can incorporate diversity measures at the workplace. Therefore, understanding key barriers to workplace diversity is a key measure in improving organizational performance.
O’Brien, K. R., Scheffer, M., Van-Nes, E. H., & Van-der-Lee, R. (2015) How to break the cycle of low workforce diversity: A model for change. PLoS ONE, 10(7): e0133208. https://www.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133208
Roberson, Q., Ryan, A. M., & Ragins, B. R. (2017). The evolution and future of diversity at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 483–499. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000161
Shahid, M., Murthy, L. N., & Raghavendra. (2016). Diversity in workplace: issues and challenges. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323747641_DIVERSITY_IN_WORKPLACE_ISSUES_AND_CHALLENGES
TalentCorp-PwC. (2015). The corporate melting pot. Leveraging diversity in the workplace. Leaderonomics.com. https://leaderonomics.com/business/tc-the-corporate-melting-pot