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News - Diversity In The Workplace: Preparing for the 21st Century Workplace in Barbados
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Labour News.

Diversity In The Workplace: Preparing for the 21st Century Workplace in Barbados

Managing diversity requires acknowledging, understanding, accepting and valuing cultural differences with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation and religion.

Diversity is becoming a significant management issue because of a number of factors such as:

  1. Women in the Labour Force

    In 2005, the female participation rate was approximately 69.6%, which is a sharp contrast to the participation rate recorded in 1981, which was estimated at 54%. This means that there is an increasing number of females in the labour force, adding diversity to today’s workplace.

  2. An Aging Labour Force

    As shown in the charts A1-A2, the percentage of the labour force within the age group 45-64 years in the total labour force increased from 19.9% in 1991 to 34% in 2005. In contrast, the younger age categories showed a decline in relation to their percentage contribution to the total labour force. These trends reflect the aging of Barbados’ population and by extension, its labour force.

  3. Migrant Labour & the Development of CARICOM Transnational Organizations

    Under CSME, there will be free movement of labour and there will be more foreign workers employed within Barbadian companies. Furthermore, as more international companies establish subsidiaries in Barbados, inter-cultural relationships will become more prominent as both employers and customers may be from different cultural backgrounds.

    The CSME also provides significant opportunities for Barbadian businesses to expand their operations across the region as a means of increasing efficiency. This requires some organizational restructuring to develop a transnational structure forged through outsourcing resources and/or strategic allegiances within the region.

    Therefore, these transnational companies would be managing operations in various CARICOM countries and workplace relations can become more complex as the human resource pool of the companies become more culturally diverse.


Advantages to Managing Diversity in the Workplace

Managing diversity provides significant advantages. From a human resource management perspective, it encourages a respect for individual differences, thereby resulting in less conflict within the workplace and greater motivation leading to increased productivity. Managing diversity also increases the organization’s ability to strategically recruit employees of different backgrounds and can expand the skills base which an organization can tap into. From a marketing perspective, creativity and innovation can be enhanced through diversity of points of view and less emphasis on conformity. This adds to the organization’s competitiveness, which can be further reinforced by the organization’s increased ability to respond to cultural preferences within different markets.



Communication is Key

Some managers have always been wary of discussing cultural differences out of the concern that it can be a source of conflict. However, one of the key steps towards managing diversity in the workplace is by establishing communication between managers and employees to facilitate the development of their self awareness of their individual cultural biases and prejudices. Through discussion, cultural misunderstanding can be avoided and productive synergies can be developed to facilitate increased productivity.

Communication on cultural issues can be best facilitated by discussion groups or workshops. The Johari Window provides an excellent model to structure such activities.

As shown in the diagram, the differences perceived by both parties are open for discussion and should promote tolerance. Then, through cultural training, employers and employees alike can become more aware of their blind spots and facilitate better cultural understanding and acceptance.



A "Melting Pot" Approach


One of the strategies that can be used to manage cultural diversity is minimizing cultural differences and assimilating these differences into a strong corporate culture- a “Melting Pot” approach. This strategy is based on the assumption that the employees can be united under strong corporate ideals and shared norms and therefore overcome any cultural differences. However, the limitation of this strategy is that cultural differences will become absorbed and would not be utilized in the creative process, which can drive competitiveness.




Diversity in the workplace is a growing reality for Barbadian businesses. It is becoming increasingly necessary to learn how to manage this diversity in a manner that will ensure the growth and success of these businesses and by extension, the overall development of the Barbadian economy.

Published: Monday, 15th May, 2006


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