As the world gets smaller it becomes more common to manage people who come from different cultures.
Whilst these different cultures may be represented in just one country it is also becoming more prevalent to have responsibility for people who live and work in other parts of the world. Learn More
Earlier this week we spoke about the many facets of multiculturalism within the workplace which, ultimately, lead to workplace diversity. Today I’d like to take a closer look at each of those aspects.
Let’s start with age. The age of the average worker is increasing – less people are retiring at an early age. Medical care is better, which enables them to work longer; and others simply don’t have the option for retirement. We now have an eclectic mix of age groups scattered throughout the workforce. There are both pros and cons to having older employees in the workplace. While they’re more experienced (and often more professional), they also cost more to employ because they have different health insurance needs.
Gender is another important facet when it comes to organisational diversity. There are more women in the workplace today than ever before. Gone are the days when women were expected to stay home and merely cook, clean, and care for the children. Women now share positions in the workplace that they had never dared dream about, but they still have several challenges to consider. One such challenge is the “glass-ceiling” philosophy – in which a woman has trouble advancing to higher top-management type positions simply because of her gender. While this problem isn’t as prevalent as it has been in the past, it does still exist.
Ethnicity is another key player, and one that still needs quite a bit of attention. The ethnicity of the average workplace has changed significantly. Where we might have seen a primarly white workplace in the past, we are now seeing culturally diverse workplaces with even percentages of whites, Asians, Hispanics, and a number of other ethnic cultures. In the past different ethnic groups may have earned different wages or may have only been able to obtain low-level positions, but this is changing as well.
There are a few other things to consider when discussing organisational diversity and multiculturalism as well. We now have a wide variety of single parents, political viewpoints, sexual orientations, and even handicaps to consider.
Some corporations are better at dealing with these differences than others. As a manager, it’s your job to stay on top of changes within the industry in order to understand how each of these diverse groups affects the development of your workplace. Diversity presents a number of opportunities, but there are always challenges as well!
Every organisation has a distinct culture, but before we can delve into the nitty gritty details about those cultures and how they impact your job as a manager we must first clarify exactly what the term organisational culture refers to.
To begin with, the word culture is a term used to describe the beliefs, customs, attitudes, and characteristics of a specific group of people. When we look at specific organisations and the way their employees interact we are referring to organisational culture – the things employees do because of their beliefs, values, and attitudes towards their workplace and how things are done.
Within every workplace culture you’ll find distinct groups of people from various social cultures. You’ll have employees of different religious faiths and maybe even social status. When you have an organisation that is comprised of individuals from a myriad of different cultures you now have “multicultural” issues and concerns on your hands.
Multiculturalism is not necessarily a bad thing. Multiculturalism refers to the broad differences between cultures while diversity refers to some of the more definied or important differences such as age group, gender, ethnicity, and even sexual orientation. Diversity within an organisation is important as well.
In the coming days we’re going to take a look at organisational culture, why it is important, and how to manage diversity within the workplace. I think you’ll find some of the issues surrounding organisational culture to be familiar to your own workplace while others you may not have considered. Be prepared – we’re going to rip some of these issues open and take a look at them for what they really are!