Monday, October 18, 2010

Diversity in Workplace

The number of organizations that are transnational are increasing in the Business World today. With increasing translational nature, there is an increase in the diversity of the workforce. We find people from different ages, cultures, ethnicity, so on and so forth. Given this differences, each organization wants to created a Diversity-Sensitive and Inclusive work environment. To achieve this stature, organizations must understand the demographics of their workforce.

Age Diversity

Today, we witness workplaces employing four different generations in tandem, namely the Depression Generation, Baby Boomers, Baby Bust Generation, Baby Boom-lets. In Asian context, organizations have still not reached this stage where all four generations work together.

The Depression Generation (Born between 1927 to 1946)

This is the Generation born during the Great Economic Depression. Also known as the World War II generation or the Cold War generation because of their generational markers. They are 45 Million in number. They are a patriotic generation, very conservative and sacrificing in nature. They have high work-ethic, they are on the retirement verge. But they are redefining retirement at workplace, they continue to work filling in for positions like low-skill work or part-time work. These are the areas where the younger generation gets their first experience. This leads to inter-generational conflict.

Baby Boom Generation (Born between 1947 to 1964)

This is the post world-war generation. They are 76 Million in number, almost double of the Depression generation. They are the largest generation in the workforce today, most of them are very successful. The markers of this generation are Vietnam war, civil rights movement, war on poverty and many more. They blame the depression generation for these problems. Unlike the Depression generation, they are idealistic, optimistic and liberal. They have good school education and are high profiled at work. Some of them are today's most successful entrepreneurs. They are pressed by the higher costs of educating their children and taking care of their elderly relatives today and also the need for saving for their retirement.

Baby Bust Generation (Born between 1965 to 1983)

Also called as generation-X, they are 66 million in number. They do not have huge or pronounced generational markers unlike their predecessors, the Baby Boomers. However, they witness the era where diseases like AIDS came into existence. They are also the generation which is marked by exposure to multiculturalism, advances in technology etc. They are a very diverse group but are pessimistic compared to Baby Boomers. They are the youngest to enter labor force. They have increased exposure to various cultures and are tech savvy. They are latchkey kids with both parents working. A significant characteristics of this generation is the decline of loyalty and commitment at workplace compared to the previous generations.

Baby Boom-let Generation (Born between 1984 to 2002)

This is the dot-com generation or the Generation Y. They are 75 million in number. They are a part of the information era of high-tech and fast-paced society. The problem with this generation is the difference between their basic education and skills needed at work due to half-life which grows shorter and shorter due to technological advances. They are used to the violence around them through difference means and it does not have a big impact as it does to the rest of the generations. They are sensitive and aware of the issues of the environment. They resemble the Depression generation by the characteristic of have and have-not society.

Culture Diversity

Cultures, subcultures, groups and individuals are classified from more tightly woven to loosely knit. This classification helps in distinguishing between thinking and behavior and also in characterizing each group. In general, the Cultural Continuum is divided into three namely Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Cultures based on the ethnicity. While Alpha and Beta are tightly woven, Gamma belongs to loosely knit. A Trans-cultural Manager needs to understand multiple cultures and its forms of behavior in order to appreciate his/her team better, to resolve conflicts and to motivate.

Alpha Cultures

They are like a woven basket that reflects function, beauty and meaning together. When the basket breaks, the its function is lost. Hence these cultures are fragile and vulnerable to destruction. They are closely attached to nature and its function. These are conservative cultures likes the native American, Africans, Latins and the Arabs. They are indigenous and live in Clans. They obey leaders and elders.

Beta Cultures

They are analogous to a Brocade, delicate and stylized. They have a set of values and traditions, handed down from generation to generation. These are transformational cultures and like the brocade, with high tensile strength. These cultures lay importance of values which are evolved and a part of the heritage. Most of the Asian cultures are Beta namely Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Thai et al. They live in evolved societies. They obey parents, teachers and managers.

Gamma Cultures

They are like the electronic chips connected on a circuit board. The details are abstract and upto the interpretations of the observer. These are culture which reflect the idea that change and newness are rules of life. Here, values are unknown and are meant to be negotiated. These are the new found cultures from the West and their colonies. They are transient groups and are more individualistic in nature. They follow science and learn from their mistakes.

Most often, at workplaces characterized by multiple cultural groups, communication barriers occur as the unspoken language of culture is not interpreted or misinterpreted. Hence Cultural sensitivity can easily be attained by means of knowing the background and value of the individual which reflects the unspoken self. However, a piece of warning is that individuals cannot be stereotyped based on their cultural backgrounds, a fair knowledge of the culture can only help in guessing the behavior in different situations and not the characteristics.