Diversity Management and Managing Cultural Diversity
A Summary of two Articles by Taylor Cox, Jr. & Stacy Blake
Taylor Cox argues that organizations - in the US today - are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and nationality (we might add, considering recent ant-discrimination regulations: age, disability, religion, marital or family status, lifestyle, sexual orientation and political opinions) – due to a combination of workforce trends and globalization of business. The management of cultural difference is inevitably on the agenda. Diversity holds great creative potential while it presents a challenge to management committees. Diverse groups need diversity management to perform up to their full potential. Organizations with multicultural staff need to become multicultural organizations. A multicultural organization is one whose members represent a variety of racial, ethnic, age, and gender backgrounds. Cox argues that this diversity, when successfully managed, brings crucial and substantial potential into a working context. The main benefits of multiculturalism are creativity, innovation, better decision making and more successful marketing solutions. A cultural identity group is a group of people who share certain values and norms distinct form those of other groups. Integration means the blending and mixing of people from different identity groups within one organization. The term “multicultural organization” refers to the degree to which an organization actually values, promotes and implements cultural diversity.
 Six Dimensions
Cox proposes six dimensions along which the integration of persons from different ethnic backgrounds into an organization can be analysed:
- Acculturation: mode by which two groups adapt to each other and resolve cultural differences
- Structural Integration: cultural profiles of organizations members including hiring, job-placement, and job status profiles
- Informal Integration: inclusion of minority-culture members in informal networks and activities outside of normal working hours
- Cultural Bias: prejudice and discrimination
- Organizational Identifications: feelings of belonging, loyalty and commitment to the organization
- Inter-group Conflict: friction, tension and power struggles between cultural groups
 Three main organization types
- The Monolithic Organization …structural integration is minimal here. It is highly homogeneous. “Others” (non-white, non-male, non-American) are expected to adopt the existing organizational norms. Discrimination and prejudice prevail.
- The Plural Organization …features partial structural integration. It is more heterogeneous in general, and it takes active steps to be more inclusive of and attractive for persons form “other” cultural backgrounds. The level of intergroup conflict is higher than in monolithic organizations.
- The Multicultural Organization …values the diversity of its members and workforce, effectively manages its diversity and uses it as a tool to implement the company’s aims and objectives more efficiently. Intergroup conflicts are low due to effective diversity management.
 Creating the successful multicultural organization
Cox presents a list of seven specific tools that enhance and support the integration of minority groups into a company, all of which have been successfully used by various organizations. Cultural diversity trainings, consisting of awareness and skill building, are often a first step to create pluralism and equality, and additionally promote reciprocal learning. Hewlett Packard for example, has made extensive use of diversity trainings. Cox points out that a study of seventy-five Canadian consultants showed that people exposed to even the most rudimentary form of cultural diversity training are significantly more likely to recognize the impact of cultural diversity on work behaviour, and to identify the potential advantages of cultural heterogeneity in organizations. IBM and MacDonalds have introduced special career schemes for minority personnel. IBM’s Executive Resource System supports and develops minority talent for the senior management level, while MacDonalds Black Career Development Program provides fast-track career paths for minorities. A reward system for management committees who perform diversity management efforts, can also be an incentive.
Diversity as a competitive advantage:
- system flexibility
Cox concludes that it takes a severe effort to implement steps that lead towards the multicultural organization, which is characterized by full integrations of its members as well as the absence of prejudice, bias, discrimination and harassment, and low levels of conflict within the group. The multicultural organization creates an environment in which all members can – and want to – contribute to their maximum potential, because the value of diversity is fully realized.
© Academy of Management Executive, 1991, Vol. 5, No. 2 & 3
Taylor Cox Jr. is – was in 1991, when the articles were published – assistant professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Michigan. He teaches on career issues of women, non-whites and older workers. He published extensively on gender, race and age as factors in organization behaviour. Stacy Blake was a graduate student in the doctoral program at Michigan and a National Science foundation Research Fellow. Her research focuses on the development of multicultural organizations.
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