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Diversity in the Workforce Series Report #2: Current Status and Future Trends of Diversity Initiatives in the Workplace: Diversity Experts' Perspectives (MDS-1082)
R. M. Wentling, N. Palma-Rivas
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study was to provide information on
diversity initiatives and programs to better understand organizational
response to workforce diversity. This study was designed to provide
information on the current status and future trends of diversity
initiatives in the workplace, as perceived by panel of diversity experts.
The study attempted to address the following major research questions:
- What are the barriers inhibiting the employment, development,
retention, and promotion of diverse groups in the workplace?
- What are the major factors influencing diversity initiatives in the
- Why are organizations managing diversity?
- What are the best strategies for organizations to manage diversity?
- What are the components of effective diversity training programs?
- What are the future trends related to diversity in the workplace?
The major method of this research study was in-depth, open-ended
telephone interviews with a panel of twelve diversity experts from across
the United States. Diversity experts were chosen as participants because
they can provide current perspectives and up-to-day knowledge that can not
be found in other sources of information. Through telephone interviews,
extensive data were collected in order to produce an in-depth understanding
of the current status and future trends of diversity initiatives in
An interview guide was developed to assist in collecting the data
from the interviews. A pilot study was conducted with three people
knowledgeable on diversity issues in business and industry in order to
determine validity and appropriateness of the interview guide.
Initial contacts with the diversity experts were made over the
telephone at which time dates, interview appointments, and arrangements
were made. Each participant received a letter confirming the telephone
interview appointment and a copy of the interview guide two weeks before
the scheduled interview. The participants were able to examine the
interview questions prior to the interview. The interviews lasted from one
to three hours, with an overall average of two hours.
Summary of the Results
The results of this study led to the following conclusions:
- The major barriers that have inhibited the employment, development,
retention, and promotion of diverse groups in the workplace can be
categorized into two types. The first type of barrier is organizational in
nature and comes from the workplace environment. The second type of barrier
is individual and comes from the employees themselves.
- The six organizational barriers which are most likely to inhibit
the advancement of diverse groups in the workplace are (1) negative
attitudes and discomfort toward people who are different, (2)
discrimination, (3) prejudice, (4) stereotyping, (5) racism, and (6) bias.
- The six individual barriers that are most likely to inhibit the
advancement of diverse groups in the workplace are (1) poor career
planning, (2) inadequate skill preparation, (3) lack of organizational
political savvy, (4) lack of proper education, (5) low self-esteem, and (6)
- Diversity should be defined in the broadest sense in order to
include all the different characteristics that make one individual
different from another. Also, another reason for making the definition
all-inclusive is that it recognizes everyone as part of the diversity that
should be valued.
- The six factors most likely to influence diversity in the workplace
are (1) demographic changes, (2) global marketplace, (3) economics, (4)
comfort with being different, (5) a diverse customer base, and (6) Equal
Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action programs.
- The four major reasons that organizations manage diversity are (1)
to improve productivity and remain competitive, (2) to form better work
relationships among employees, (3) to enhance social responsibility, and
(4) to address legal concerns.
- The six best strategies for managing diversity are (1) training and
education programs, (2) organizational policies that mandate fairness and
equity for all employees, (3) mentoring programs, (4) performance appraisal
systems that are nondiscriminatory, (5) outreach programs, and (6) career
- Other important recommendations for managing diversity are to
obtain top management support, to integrate diversity into all company
functions, to use a combination of strategies, and to create a corporate
culture that supports diversity.
- Diversity training needs to begin with increasing awareness of what
the concept of diversity is and why it is important. The skill training,
then, should provide the specific information needed to create behavior
changes that are required to effectively manage and work within a diverse
workforce. Then, application strategies and support needs to be provided so
that diversity awareness and skills can be applied to improving work
- The major goals of diversity training are to increase
organizational effectiveness and personal effectiveness.
- The ten components of an effective diversity training program are
(1) commitment and support from top management, (2) inclusion as part of
the organizational strategic plan, (3) meeting the specific needs of the
organization, (4) utilizing qualified trainers, (5) combining with other
diversity initiatives, (6) mandatory attendance, (7) creating inclusive
programs, (8) providing trust and confidentiality, (9) requiring
accountability, and (10) conducting evaluation.
- The future trends related to diversity include the following:
Society will become more diverse and, therefore, the workforce and the
marketplace will become more diverse; there will be more globalization of
corporations, which will lead to a more global workforce, marketplace, and
economy; diverse work teams will be a reality in organizations; diversity
will become more of a business concern than a social concern and be more
closely linked to competitive strategies; diverse populations will make
more money and spend more money and this increase in wealth will empower
diversity; senior managers will become more involved in diversity issues
because they will realize that the diverse workforce needs to be better
utilized in order to remain competitive; more managers will face the
challenge of dealing with backlash; and diversity training will be
integrated more with other types of training.
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