Managing a diverse workforce

By: Together Abroad 01-10-2015

Categories:Guest Contributors,
In all cases a good management is an important key for success. In some cases, a good working team can also perform great with not so strong management influence. However, the phenomenon of a diverse workforce with its complexity and ambiguity requires, at almost all times, proper management skills for successful performance outcomes.

The first step for attempting such an endeavor is getting to know the situation, by focusing on understanding diversity, the various forms of its existence, processes of acknowledging them and understanding the importance of it. Good management practice cannot start without fully understanding the issue at hand. A diverse workforce comes in different shapes and nuances, some of them are visible based on one’s demographics, and some are less visible, such as education, family status, and personality type and so on. Overlooking this diversification can result in taking the wrong management concepts and tactics that lead to stressful work environment, lowered work performance, etc. This entails to the further step after acknowledging the existence of diversity - understanding it. Every good diversity manager should ask himself three questions: Do I recognize the diversity of the workforce I am managing? Am I self-aware of my own difference? Am I willing to change and adapt if needed? Quite often diversity is related with the term “tolerance”, where tolerance is an attitude of the mind that implies non-judgment acceptance of the different. However, this acknowledgment does not necessarily indicate understanding or respecting those who have been tolerated. What is more, diversity naturally leads to categorization by creating mental models by putting people in stereotypes. That is a practice that managers and leaders must avoid. Only tolerating the different is not the key to success. Understanding comes with re-categorization, opening one’s mind and getting to know better others and self. Managing a diverse workforce often goes hand by hand will strong change management skills, where the idea of “ours is the best way” is replaced with “let’s pick the best of different ways”.

Once a good grasp of the phenomenon of diversity workforce is achieved, the following step is taking practical actions. The measure of successful management will be based on how those processes were approached and the final results. The outcome of a good management will reflect in the group effectiveness; therefore it is essential to define the general guidelines of what creates workforce efficiency, based on three main criteria. First, of course, the productive output of the work group should meet the expectations of those who receive or review the product. Checking boxes of “objective” indexes is not effective until the client to whom the final product was presented is satisfied. Second, the social processes used in carrying out the work assignments should maintain or even improve the capability of the members to work together on their consecutive tasks as a team, keeping the group integrity. Even if the final task has been completed, it is important to look on how that was achieved. A lot of working teams lose their integrity and group strength in the process, where the importance from the management was set only on the end result, despite what it took to be reached. Third, the work experience should, on balance, satisfy rather than frustrate the personal needs and expectations of the work members. Those can be achieved only after the management recognizes and respects the strength of diversity.

Other factors for successful management of diverse workforce will include the design of the working groups, setting group norms and identity, etc. However, for this article were chosen the general guidelines of building and managing diverse workforce efficiency. On one side understanding what diversity is and its importance on the workplace and on the other side how to approach a diverse workforce and lead it to success. When those are mastered, good management practices are born. However, the diverse workforce is an issue with many, many dimensions and stopping here is not enough; going further in depth in the issues of diversity will only add more and more value in learning how to do better.

By: Iva Plocheva