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Diversity in the Workplace: A Literature Review (MDS-934)

R. M. Wentling, N. Palma-Rivas

The main focus of this report is to describe in detail the literature on diversity in the workforce to bring about an understanding of the complexity and breadth of workplace diversity issues. The report also intends to provide insights on the trends that have emerged in the field of diversity, and information that can be used to develop new and unique approaches that fit the specific needs of particular organizations. To accomplish this, the authors summarized information on workforce diversity issues from research studies, books, reports, journal articles, related magazines, and newspaper articles on diversity in the workforce. The sources of information used in this review ranged in date from 1961 to 1997.

The literature reviewed was summarized and categorized under the following sections: Diversity Defined, The Changing Society and Workforce, Why Organizations Are Managing and Valuing Diversity, Barriers To Managing Diversity, Strategies for Managing Diversity, Diversity Training, and Future Trends. In addition, readers are provided with useful information such as a glossary of diversity terms and a list of videos on the topic.

The literature review also showed that although there are numerous ways in which diversity has been defined, there is no definition that fully includes all the characteristics that a diverse population may bring to the workplace. It also showed that there are many forces that are driving diversity issues in organizations. For example, there is a significant increase in women and minority populations in the workplace; Americans continue to mature; an increasing number of minority youths are becoming part of the workforce; gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals are becoming an important part of the workforce and marketplace; people with disabilities are also increasingly entering the labor force; and more business is becoming global.

This literature review indicates that the demographic composition is affecting not only the makeup of the labor workforce but also the makeup of the marketplace. Therefore, having a diverse workforce and managing it properly is perceived as a competitive strategy that can not only help attract diverse customers but also employees who have different perspectives that can contribute to the creativity of the organization. This review also indicated that researchers have found that an important reason for implementing diversity initiatives in organizations is to improve corporate productivity and profitability.

The literature review also showed that there is a wide range of approaches, strategies, or initiatives for managing diversity in the workplace. No single initiative is comprehensive enough to solve all diversity issues or to successfully manage diversity in organizations; however, diversity training is one of the primary and most widely used initiatives to address diversity issues. The information collected also revealed that diversity issues will continue because the population will become even more diverse and more companies will become global. As diversity is becoming more and more complex, diversity training will continue to be an essential element of the overall diversity strategy.

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