Capabilities and Limitations of Workforce Diversity

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Workforce Diversity
Workforce diversity is an important issue for business, particularly multi-national companies that offer a wide variety of consumer products. In their article on the subject, Patrick Schueffel and Cristina Istria use Proctor and Gamble (P/G) as a case study in diversity and discusses the elements relative to constructively implementing the concept. benefits, resource assessment, capability and limitations (“Winning Through Diversity,” 2005/6).
The first area of development is that of “dynamic capability” (p. 41). This is a set of processes that can help management understand and increase competitive advantage by focusing on the study of an organization’s “capacity to deploy resources…relate a firm to its environment…[and the] importance of systems and structures” (p. 42). From this concept, the article moves into a discussion of the importance of workforce diversity. Using P/G’s European headquarters in Geneva, it addresses the fact that some employers see diversity primarily to comply with governmental requirements while P/G sees it as “a quality that provides a range of benefits to the firm” (p.42). The article then moves on to apply the concept to the primary organizational areas of administration, human resources, and product development. Further, it avers that diversity also has an important function in procurement, operations, and logistics. These concepts distill into the recognition that P/G, as a consumer goods company, needs to win what is known as “the first moment of truth” (p. 43). This is the point in time when a consumer decides to purchase one company’s product over its competitors’. The idea is that the corporate message needs to be tailored to a particular set of people and that workforce diversity informs this process very well. Schueffel, and others cited in the article, employ four criteria for assessing sustained resource efficiency in terms of diversity, and then move on to articulate ideas on building diversity capability (p. 43). These include leadership accountability to target and employ diverse hiring strategies, awareness of issues by the use of internal diversity workshops, empowerment opportunities through educational efforts, and boss-subordinate relationships where supervisors are urged to consider their function as role models for workers (p 43). Finally, the article sets forth some of the limitations of taking such a proactive stance. The point is that diversity is an investment which, like all investments, has a front-end cost in both currency and time. It requires addressing issues such as excellence, stereotypes, and clashes among employees whose cultures are inherently opposed to each other.
The conclusion is that P/G serves a widely diverse customer base on a “global scale” and that it is in the company’s interest to aggressively pursue diversity for the benefits it provides (p. 44). Diversity can offer long-term competitive advantages to multi-national firms, but it is hard work. The payoff, however, is well worth the effort for P/G and other global companies.
Schueffel, P., &amp. Istria, C. (Winter 2005/6). Winning Through Diversity. European Business Forum, 23, 41-44.