Diversity in the Workforce Series Report #2: Current Status and Future Trends of Diversity Initiatives in the Workplace – Diversity Experts’ Perspective

Publication November 1997

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 workplace?
  • 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?

Research Methods

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 organizations.

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) poor self-image.
  • 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 development programs.
  • 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 performance.
  • 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.

Wentling, R. M., & Palma-Rivas, N. (1997, November). Diversity in the workforce series report #2: Current status and future trends of diversity initiatives in the workplace – diversity experts’ perspective. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

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