DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES, DO THEY MAKE A DIFFERENCE? EXAMINING CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ADOPTION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
YONGBEOM HUR RUTH ANN STRICKLAND Appalachian State University
Organizations in both the private and public sectors have adopted diversity management practices (DMPs), hoping that they could better manage diversity-related issues with adopted practices. However, those adopted diversity management practices may be best guesses at best due to lack of hard evidence about their effects. With the data collected from the surveys sent to local governments in North Carolina, we probe the effects of adopted DMPs, conducting regression, analysis of variance, and correlation analyses. According to the findings of this study, adopted DMPs did not seem to work in achieving the goals of managing diversity, which is more likely when local governments adopt DMPs reactively, not proactively, or if there is a threshold in the number of adopted DMPs. If management-oriented goals such as reducing conflicts are not achieved in diversity management, local governments may not fully enjoy the benefits of being diverse in their organizations or may even hurt themselves because diversity in the workplace can be a double-edged sword in the end.
Local governments try to recruit, hire, and retain a more diverse workforce, based on the assumption that representative bureaucracies help achieve important public goals and diverse groups are more likely to get involved in making policies when workforces are diversified (Bradbury & Kellough, 2011; Brown & Harris, 1993 ; Krislov & Rosenbloom, 1981). Numerous scholars argue that the composition of governmental bureaucracies should be reflective of the demographic characteristics of the communities they serve (Alkadry, 2007; Kelly, 1998; Riccucci & Saidel, 1997).
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While diversified workforces could have higher problem-solving capabilities and increased organizational performance, based on more diverse perspectives, skills, and insights (e.g., Cox & Blake, 1991; Ely, 2004; Wiersema & Bantel, 1992), diversity researchers also point out possible conflicts among diverse groups, which may result in a low satisfaction level, a high intention to quit, and a reduced organizational performance in the end (e.g., Chatman & Flynn, 2001; Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale., 1999; Polzer, Milton, & William B. Swann, 2002; Schippers, Hartog, Koopman, & Wienk, 2003). In sum, these contradictory arguments and findings appear to make diversity “a double-edged sword” (Milliken & Martins, 1996, p. 403). Therefore, the challenge for managers can be how to reduce the negative results of having diversified workforces while protecting and increasing the benefits derived from workforce diversity (Ely, 2004, p. 756).
To address possible negative consequences of having diverse workforces, as well as to ensure a certain level of minority proportion in the workplace, a wide array of diversity management practices (DMPs) has been suggested (Pitts, 2009, p. 330). Although those DMPs become popular among employers and human resource managers in both the private and public sectors, only a few studies empirically examined their efficacy mainly due to data unavailability. This void in the diversity literature is surprising, given that managing for diversity has become one of the major management issues in both the private and public sectors and a growing number of governments have become interested in adopting DMPs. With little research , DMPs that are commonly suggested as best practices may be “best guesses, at best” (Kalev, Dobbin, & Kelly, 2006, p. 590), and public managers cannot go beyond making a guess when they consider adopting DMPs to achieve their goals of managing diversity (Pitts & Wise, 2010, p. 62).
Among a broad range of diversity concepts, this study focuses on racial/ethnic diversity as one of the most studied topics in the diversity literature (Pitts & Wise, 2010; Wise & Tschirhart, 2000), and examines the effects of adopted DMPs from both traditional and management-oriented views in diversity management (Pitts, 2009, p. 330). From the traditional
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view, we examine whether or not adopted DMPs increase workforce diversity. From the management-oriented view, we also probe whether adopted DMPs lower possible conflicts among diverse groups. In the present study, we intend to answer two major research questions by surveying North Carolina’s local governments. First, would local governments achieve diversity management goals by adopting a set of diverse DMPs? Second, what individual DMPs would work better than others in achieving those goals? As a first study conducted at a local government level, the findings in this study will expand our understanding about the effects of diversity management endeavors and help prospective adopters of diversity management practices who tend to look for confirmatory evidence before actual adoption of those practices (Wise & Tschirhart, 2000, p. 393).
Diversity management has become a critical human resource management tool to respond to a changing workforce (Agars & Kottke, 2005). The term “diversity management” carries a variety of meanings, but generally refers to organizational efforts to aggressively recruit, hire, and retain individuals from a variety of backgrounds and facilitate good working relationships among them (Miller & Rowney, 1999). Diversity management, picked up early by the business community (Evans & Oh, 1996), has quickly spread to the public sector. The private sector has used inclusiveness and diversity initiatives to increase profit margins and to shield itself from discrimination litigation (Caudron, 1997; Ludwig & Talluri, 2001; Speizer, 2004; Wiscombe, 2007).
Diversity management practices, often multifaceted in nature and designed to blend organizational structure with recognition of cultural diversity and representation through training, mentoring and diversity advocacy initiatives, are on the rise in the United States. Managers in both the private and public sectors have experimented with a variety of approaches such as team norms (e.g., Chatman & Flynn, 2001; Ely, 2004) and interpersonal congruence (e.g., Mohammed & Angell, 2004;
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Polzer et al., 2002) to deal more effectively with cultural diversity in the workplace (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000; Riccucci, 1997). However, the question is whether or not these approaches actually bring benefits to organizations and help reduce the negative effects of workforce diversity (Ely, 2004, p. 756). Unfortunately, only a few studies (Choi, 2009; Kalev et al., 2006; Naff & Kellough, 2003; Pitts, 2009) examine organizational consequences of diversity management endeavors in a comprehensive manner rather than focusing on a specific DMP. In addition to this, their findings are inconsistent as to whether DMPs actually work.
In the following sections, we first reviewed major empirical studies that examined effects of diversity management. Then, we identified and categorized DMPs that are commonly adopted by local governments to address diversity management issues such as recruiting/hiring diverse workforces, retaining them, and enhancing organizational performance with heterogeneous employees. Effects of Diversity Management
Despite the importance of diversity management in organizations, only a limited number of studies have been conducted to examine the effects of diversity management, and majority of them have focused on the effects of affirmative action plans (e.g., Button & Rienzo, 2003; Long, 2004; Loury, 1992; Massey & Mooney, 2007; Shteynberg, Leslie, Knight, & Mayer, 2011) and other single practices in diversity management (Ely, 2004; Horvath, Wasko, & Bradley, 2008; King, Dawson, Kravitz, & Gulick, 2012). This limited research about the effects of diversity management endeavor is surprising, given that prospective adopters of DMPs need to understand what DMPs can work better in different situations. The needs of those who might adopt DMPs can be met only by conducting empirical research in diverse contexts (Kalev et al., 2006; Pitts & Wise, 2010).
Some studies measure the effects of diversity management in terms of organizational attractiveness (Williams & Bauer, 1994), job applicants’ choice decisions (McNab & Johnston, 2002; Ng & Burke, 2005), and organizational citizen
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behavior (Shen, D’Netto, & Tang, 2010). Although these studies find positive effects of organizational efforts in managing diversity, they relied on the perception of study participants on organizational efforts in managing diversity, instead of measuring the effects of adopted diversity management practices. For instance, Williams and Bauer (1994) used recruitment brochures that either included or did not include a diversity management policy, and asked survey participants to rate organizations’ attractiveness based on their impression on those brochures. Ng and Burke (2005) asked MBA students to review recruitment letters that addressed/did not address diversity management, assess attractiveness of companies, and decide whether or not they would accept offers of employment.
Other studies adopted more systematic approaches in measuring organizational efforts in diversity management and their consequences, and found positive results (Choi, 2009; Choi & Rainey, 2010; Pitts, 2009). Pitts (2009) employed federal employees’ perceptions about diversity management in their organizations as an indicator of diversity management efforts, and found that diversity management practices had a positive effect on work group performance and job satisfaction. Choi (2009) and Choi and Rainey (2010), as part of their effort to objectively measure diversity management, added the number of anti-discrimination and whistleblowing complaints reported by personnel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They found that diversity management had a positive impact on organizational performance (Choi and Rainey 2010) and on job satisfaction and turnover (Choi 2009). According to the findings in these studies, organizational performance and employees’ job satisfaction increased and turnover intention decreased as organizations made attempts to manage diversity-related issues.
Although organizations urgently need practical advice on how to manage increasingly diversified workforces, published works that examine the effects of adopted DMPs are rare. Two major exceptions are the studies done by Kalev et al. (2006) and Naff and Kellough (2003). Kalev et al. (2006) examined several common diversity management practices including affirmative action plans, diversity training, and mentoring programs, and measured effects of those adopted DMPs on racial representation
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(i.e., White and Black male and female) in management ranks. They found that DMPs that established organizational responsibility (e.g., affirmative action plans, diversity committees) resulted in more increased managerial diversity than other DMPs. In the public sector, Naff and Kellough (2003) took a comprehensive approach and examined the effects of adopted DMPs and used several dimensions of commonly adopted DMPs such as internal communication, training, and resource commitment as the basis for their study. However, after investigating the effects of those DMP dimensions on minority employees’ promotion, discharge, and voluntary turnover, they concluded that most of selected DMP dimensions were not effective in increasing promotion or decreasing turnover among minority employees. Diversity Management Practices (DMPs)
As a first study in examining the effects of diversity management at a local government level, similar to Kalev et al. (2006), we used a direct approach to measure the effects of adopted DMPs. In this study, common DMPs were categorized into two types (Types A and B), based on the nature of goals to achieve. While “Type A” DMPs aim at achieving more direct and traditional goals of diversity management such as increasing a diversity level among workforces, “Type B” DMPs focus on more comprehensive goals, and seek to address diversity-related issues such as reducing possible conflicts among diverse groups and fostering diversity culture, as well as increasing the organization’s diversity level. We hope that future research will refine DMP categories and continue to investigate the effects of DMPs. Given that local managers do not have practical guidance on how to manage more diverse workforces by adopting different types of DMPs, we believe this research can provide more insight on how to improve racial diversity levels in local governments as well as how to manage diversity-related concerns more effectively. 1. “Type A” DMPs Some DMPs that are commonly adopted by local governments have a focus on increasing minority diversity levels at
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workplaces. We call them “Type A” DMPs that particularly promote a minority diversity level in their organizations. Four DMPs were selected as Type A in this study.
Minority internship programs: Many organizations use minority internship programs for recruitment purposes and report increased diversity in workforces (e.g., Catchen & Lewittes, 1993; Diaz & Starkus, 1994; Ricardo & Holden, 1994). Minority internship programs can be an effective tool to connect minority job candidates to organizations by providing a structured, stimulating work experience (Catchen & Lewittes, 1993).
Affirmative action plans: Affirmative action plans form the most basic approach and commitment to equal employment opportunity (Burstein, 1994; Crosby & Cordova, 1996). Monitoring compliance with equal employment opportunity/affirmative action plans enhances their effectiveness. Although some agencies have been more successful than others in meeting equal opportunity goals, affirmative action still stands to benefit minority and under-represented groups in the public sector (Kellough, 1989).
Statistics comparison: The demographic representation of various local community ethnic groups in the organization’s workforce is also reflective of an organization’s commitment to cultural inclusiveness. Organizations that care about diversity will pay attention to the notion of group representation in community institutions by comparing workforce data and demographics to statistics reported for the civilian labor force in a locality (Wilson, 1997).
Diverse methods for recruiting and hiring diverse groups: Reaching out to diverse groups who fit community needs is in the public interest. More aggressive advertising in a wide array of sources informs all qualified applicants of job opportunities. This might involve not only local newspapers and postings in public buildings but also the Internet, professional societies and their newsletters, job phone lines, job fairs, and so on. Numerous organizations have developed community partnerships and alliances with minority associations. They link successful “diversity” recruiting to paying bonuses and ask divisions to implement diversity goals through teamwork (Agars & Kottke, 2005, p. 154).
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2. “Type B” DMPs Other DMPs are adopted by local governments to foster a diverse workplace with a diversity of ideas or to reduce possible conflicts among diverse groups in their organizations, rather than focus simply on pure demographic diversity. We call them “Type B” DMPs and selected seven DMPs in that category.
Diversity missions: A mission statement can remind employees and administrators of the organization’s underlying goals and philosophy (e.g., Bart & Tabone, 1998; Butcher, 1994; Campbell, 1997). Therefore, a mission statement that states the desirability of diversifying the workplace sends a signal to the potential applicant pool that organizations respect and value socio-cultural differences, sets the tone of an inclusive cultural workplace, and may have more than a symbolic effect on organizational behavior as well.
Diversity plans: Since successful organizational change can take as long as five to seven years, institutionalizing diversity management in a diversity plan is critical. Diversity management, like other initiatives, may be thwarted by leadership turnover but if integrated into an organization’s strategic plan, diversity management is more likely to survive long-term (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2005, p. 9). In the development of a diversity plan, they should look at key areas that need improvement, such as how to make the organization more attractive to potential diverse recruits or how to make employees feel that their special talents and skills are appreciated (Society for Human Resource Management, 1999).
Diversity training: Diversity training is mentioned frequently as a tool for managing a diverse workforce. An integration and learning perspective creates the best conditions for benefiting from diversity in the workforce (Ely & Thomas, 2001). Managers, staff, and street-level bureaucrats should be trained to not only understand diversity but to value it (International Personnel Management Association, 2001). In particular, managers set the tone of workplace culture and have a major effect on receptivity toward diversity management. Diversity training may include