The following article seeks to explain the notion of diversity in a small business in 2 steps. First, we talk about why the concept of diversity is becoming so important in today’s day and age. The second step is to explore how small businesses are embracing diversity through various management approaches to gain competitive advantages.
To remain competitive, organizations constantly need to adapt to the changing market place conditions. This requires diverse teams that are flexible rather than stagnant in their roles. This also explains why more and more organizations no longer have narrowly defined roles but instead define a job in terms of competencies. From a local perspective, Canada comprises a multicultural society. The NHS survey in 2011 reported over 200 ethnic origins. With such a variety of people in the society, Canadian organizations cannot overlook to integrate them otherwise it may come at an heavy price of failure to uphold the notion of social fairness but also losing competitiveness in the marketplace by being unable to serve the diverse range of customers. Today, organizations are increasing cultural diversity in the workplace for the following reasons:
- Access: The belief that hiring a diverse workforce will give access to new markets that might otherwise not be accessible to the small business
- Integration and Learning: The belief that having a diverse workforce means access new ways of thinking, thus increasing the capacity to innovate. This helps your small business remain dynamic and respond to the changing needs of the customer.
- Discrimination and Fairness: The belief that organizations must not discrimination against individual unfairly.
Approaches to Managing Diversity in a small business
The approach to managing diversity depends on “diversity climate” (Herdam and McMillan-Capehart, 2010), which indicates the degree to which diversity is embraced and embedded in the organizational culture and values. Studies identify 3 broad performance driven approaches to manage diversity in the workplace:
- Integrating diversity: This approach to managing diversity takes into consideration an array of factors considered “protected grounds”, including but not restricted to age, gender, nationality, religion, marital status and sexual orientation. It is done by expanding the recruitment pool, providing training on acceptance of diversity in workplace and partnering with institutions that are dedicated to certain groups. Management dedicates an employee to especially coordinate and plan activities to manage the diverse work force and to ensure the organizations employment equity requirements are met. This approach leads to improved employee motivation and corporate image. However, this can also increase chances of reverse discrimination as opportunities may only be devoted to certain groups (Ravazzani, 2015).
- Assimilating minorities: This approach focuses on the organizational representation of minorities and people with disabilities. It is done so by implementing a “quota” system; setting standards for the employment of a minimum number of disabled people and those belonging to under-represented groups. Drawbacks can occur in terms of lowering of hiring and promotion standards, and the possibility of minorities developing negative a self-perception, attributing their employment to demographic status rather than qualifications (Ravazzani, 2015).
- Leveraging variety: This approach is based on the idea of developing heterogeneous teams with an array of competencies and knowledge-related differences. This way organizations can avoid “inbreeding” and have teams that have capacity to think out of the box and be innovative. This is especially suitable in flat organizations that are quick to adapt to the changing market needs.
Dealing with diversity in the workplace today has become a “business necessity”. With globalization on the rise, an organization’s employee pool will naturally consist of people from different races, ethnicities and cultures. Therefore, there is greater implication for managers to be able to manage their diverse teams to ensure job satisfaction and high team performance. Failure to do so can come at a heavy price of losing market share in an already saturated local and global market.
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