A Comparative Study of Awareness and Sensitivity Diversity Training Strategies and Human Resource Policy Driven Strategies

by Doris Lena Papillon (March, 2000)

Cultural diversity has become the buzzword for the 1990’s.  We hear less and less about equal employment opportunity and affirmative action efforts and programs, but hear more about multiculturalism, managing cultural diversity, and diversity training.  The importance of the cultural diversity movement stems in large part from the predicted demographic shifts that are already underway in America’s labor force.  In 1987, the Hudson Institute published a report, Work Force 2000, which predicted radical shifts in the demographic make-up of the American labor force (Ricucci, 1997, p. 1).

Now, some eight years after the various demographic forecasts were made, human resources specialists, policy makers, and researchers are beginning to look at the effectiveness of those diversity training programs (Ricucci, 1997, p. 2).

Progressive managers are increasingly aware of the prevailing demographic and social shifts.  In short, these managers possess an “intellectual awareness” of diversity. They know the facts about workforce demographic shifts and have begun to consider the impact on their respective organizations (Stoner & Russell-Chapin, 1997, p. 1).

Unfortunately, many contemporary organizations have not progressed beyond this preliminary “intellectual awareness” stage.  Consequently, these organizations are languishing in the initial phases of the diversity movement.  Many are experiencing diversity but failing to really manage it (Stoner et al., 1997, p. 2).  Although managers possess an “intellectual” awareness and understanding of recent and emerging themes, organizational response – the “enactment” of a meaningful diversity process – has been limited and fragmented (Stoner et al., 1997, p. 3).

Perhaps the most critical shortcoming around organizations efforts to prepare for workforce 2000 is that many employers have not integrated their diversity initiatives into the broader, long-term goals and missions of the organization.  Rather, they tend to do “one shot” deals.  Managing diversity is not just a simple program, but an initiative that will take many years (Ricucci, 1997, p. 4).

While organizations recognize a need to make the workplace more accepting of differences, they place too much emphasis on changing the attitudes of people in a company instead of changing the company culture itself.  They do this by focusing solely on all-inclusive diversity training (Caudron & Haynes, 1997, p.2).

Certain aspects of managing diversity are necessary, or at least strongly advised, as a matter of law. In the United States, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended in 1972, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) collectively outlaw discrimination on the basis of sex, color, race, religion, pregnancy, national origin, age, or physical ability.

The vast number of workers covered by these laws suggests that employers are well advised to invest in such managing diversity activities as worker training and organizational research to uncover evidence of unfair treatment of workers related to the various group memberships addressed in the legislation (Cox, 1994, p. 12).

Moreover, history has shown that the failure of organizations to manage diversity in this respect can lead to costly lawsuits.  To mention just a few examples, in 1991 a jury awarded $20.3 million to a single person in a sex discrimination suit involving denial of promotion (“jury awarded,” 1991); in 1998, Honda Motor Company made a $6 million settlement of a suit involving charges of discrimination by blacks and women in its U.S. operations Cole & Deskins’ study (as cited in Cox, 1994, p. 13).  In 1992, Shoney’s agreed to set aside $105 million to compensate victims of racial discrimination after a lawsuit was filed against the company Pulley’s study (as cited in Cox, 1994, p. 13).  Thus, it is clear that there are economics as well as good citizenship implications of the legal obligations in this area of management (Cox. 1994, p. 13).

Statement of the Problem

The purposes of this study are as follows:  1) Compare human resource policy driven diversity strategies with awareness and sensitivity training diversity strategies. 2) Determine which of the two strategies is most successful at diminishing racial discrimination in the workplace.

Normative Definitions of Relevant Variables

The independent variables are the two different types of diversity strategies.  The two strategies studied are the awareness and sensitivity training diversity strategy and the Human Resources (HR) policy driven diversity strategy.  The dependent variable is racial discriminative behavior.

Specification of Hypothesis for Study

The purpose of the study is to examine the effectiveness of two different types of diversity strategies in diminishing racial discrimination and to test the following hypothesis:  Organizations that implement policy driven diversity strategies will experience more of a decrease in racial discrimination than organizations that implement awareness and sensitivity training strategies only.

Importance of the Study

This study is very important in determining if awareness and sensitivity training strategy alone is an effective intervention for diminishing racial discriminative behavior in the workplace.  It will also help understand how essential it is for organizations to implement a policy driven diversity strategy.

Review of Literature

This section will review a collection of relevant research in the area of current trends and practices of diversity management and their effectiveness.  Also, discussed are discrimination lawsuits, which is a key driving force for diversity management.  For the purpose of this research workforce diversity will be limited to ethnic racial minorities. The review will cover two types of diversity strategies awareness and sensitivity training strategy, and human resource policy driven strategy.

The following definitions were used for this study:  1) Awareness and Sensitivity Training Diversity Strategy: A one to two-day training workshop that focuses on training participants to become aware of specific biases.  These workshops also attempt to train participants to become tolerant to the differences of minorities.  2) Human Resource Policy Driven Diversity Strategy: A strategy that looks at human resource polices such as hiring practices, promotion and retention to determine if they are fair and equitable.

Discrimination Lawsuits

Not since the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s have there been so many race, sex and age discrimination lawsuits, says Gilbert F. Casellas, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This organization is often the first step toward filing a racial discrimination suit and can decide the merit of particular cases, in some instances seeking out settlements as opposed to jury cases.  However, Casellas says cases are now more often directed toward Fortune 500 companies to enforce or establish many of the victories from the Civil Rights era.

According to a recent survey, the number of companies with employees in litigation against them rose 63% in 1995, a 10% increase over 1993.  The most common charge was race discrimination.  Last year alone, private sector employees filed more than 77,000 complaints of discrimination with the EEOC a decrease from the 91,000 cases logged in 1994 but still an increase over the 62,000 cases reported in 1990 (Aitcheson, 1997, p.1).

Corporations around the globe largely subscribe to, and endorse, the effort to create a diverse and multicultural work force, and to end discrimination in hiring and promotion.  However, the fact is that many corporations have failed to take the necessary steps to implement this laudable goal. As a result, the loose hiring and promotion policies and unacceptable work-place practices that were frequently tolerated in the past are still in place today (Dilenschneider, 1997, p.1).

One might consider the frequency with which racial minorities report being victims of workplace discrimination.  For example, more than 52,000 allegations of racial discrimination were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the 1992-1993 fiscal years against private sector employers.  Aggregate data concerning the financial and professional positions of blacks relative to whites, however, suggest that many EEOC plaintiffs are not merely crying wolf (Dilenschneider, 1997, p. 1).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1979 and 1993 the real income of white families increased by 9 percent, while the real income of black families did not change.  The Bureau also reported that in 1993, blacks earned less than their white counterparts in all jobs at all levels.  Moreover, recent research indicates that these disparities in pay persist even after controlling for differences in job qualifications.

Finally, studies indicate that blacks, in fact, do not proportionally occupy certain kinds of positions, particularly those above the very bottom level of organizational hierarchies. Indeed, although blacks represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up less than 5 percent of the management ranks and considerably less than 1 percent of senior executives (Brief, Buttram, Reizenstein, Pugh, Callahan, McCline & Vaslow, 1997, p.2).

The Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, Inc. sent out teams of black and white job candidates matched in terms of sex, age, personal appearance, articulateness, and manner to apply for the same jobs.  The pairs also were equipped with similar fictional job qualifications.  While blacks were favored over whites in 5 percent of the encounters with prospective employers, whites were favored over blacks in 29 percent of them.  In fact, the black applicants were often told the job was already filled while their white counterparts were granted interviews for the position.  This behavior is a prime example of what one scholar has termed “passive racism” (Brief et al., 1997, p. 2).

Cost of Workforce Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (CRA) strengthened existing federal anti-discrimination laws by making jury trials and enhanced monetary relief available to plaintiffs.  Just as many business leaders feared, the cost of discrimination claims has risen significantly since the CRA was passed.  Employees are filing more charges, lawsuits and class-action claims than ever before, and employers are spending more money to resolve them.  This new law strengthened existing federal antidiscrimination laws by making jury trials and enhanced monetary relief available to plaintiffs (Chlopecki & Mckay, 1991, p.1).

Just as many business leaders feared, the cost of discrimination claims has risen significantly since the CRA was passed.  Employees are filing more charges, lawsuits and class-action claims than every before, and employers are spending more money to resolve them.  In addition, pervasive media coverage of sexual harassment and other discrimination claims is forcing employers to defend themselves not only in courts of law, but in the court of public opinion (Chlopecki & Mckay, 1991, p. 2).

Consequently, the number of employment-related lawsuits filed in federal court has exploded.  Data maintained by the Administrative office of the United States courts shows that an excess of 23,000 such cases were filed in 1996, nearly triple those filed in 1994 (Chlopecki & Mckay, 1991, p. 2).

Legal concerns are a frequently mentioned motive for managing diversity.  Organizations that effectively value and manage diversity are more likely to reduce or prevent costly lawsuits. Lawsuits related to sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and gender bias can cost organizations millions of dollars (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998).

Strategies for Managing Diversity

Wentling & Palma-Rivas, (1998) surveyed 12 diversity experts on their perception of best strategies for managing diversity.  The four strategies most frequently mentioned were training and education programs, with ten of the experts citing (83 percent); organizational policies that mandate fairness and equity for all employees, with eight citing (67 percent); mentoring programs, with seven citing (58 percent); and career development programs, with six citing (50 percent).

Providing training and education programs was the most frequently mentioned strategy for managing diversity training. Education was considered important for such areas as building awareness, building skills, helping employees understand the need for and meaning of managing and valuing diversity, educating employees on specific cultural differences, and how to respond to such differences in the workplace.

Education was also considered important for providing the skills necessary for working in diverse work teams, improving employee understanding of the cultural mix within the organization, assisting employees in learning about the culture and community the organization is serving, and providing skills and development activities necessary for diverse groups to be able to integrate within the organization, do their jobs effectively, and have opportunity for advancement (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 4).

Organizations need to provide employees with the most important skills for operating in a multicultural environment so that they understand their own as well as others’ cultures, values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and strengths and weaknesses.  Employers must invest constantly in all employees by providing training and improving competencies if they are to work most effectively in a diverse advancement (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

Developing organizational policies that mandate fairness equity for all employees was another frequently mentioned strategy.  The diversity experts indicated that revising organizational policies and procedures so that they support diverse needs is one of the most critical initiatives.  The range of possibilities is very broad and, for example, could include changing recruiting policies to focus on recruiting women, people of color, older workers, and people with disabilities.

Other policies that could be changed to influence diversity include implementing flexible work schedules, ensuring pay equity for all workers, and providing child and elder care.  This does not mean lowering standards, but changing the way companies do business to assure that everybody can use their full potential” (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

These efforts will not be successful and cost-effective if they are not directly tied to the business strategy for managing organizational change to improve productivity.  More than half of the experts felt that to be most effective diversity training needs to be combined with other diversity initiatives.  Diversity training should only be one part of an organization’s comprehensive diversity strategy and should not stand alone.  In isolation, diversity training is not likely to have a major impact, but as part of an overall strategy it can help move an organization forward (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

Diversity Training Programs

Arguing conclusively about the value of any training program is always tough because training evaluation is so rarely done beyond the anecdotal or reaction level.  Not having controlled studies to report, the authors cite Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics.  Between 1990 and 1995, EEOC sexual harassment cases increased 150% (from 6,126 to 15,549).  Age discrimination cases went from 9,500 in 1981 to 17,009 in 1994.  Race discrimination increased from 29,159 cases in 1990 to 31, 656 in 1994.  Sex discrimination complaints rose from 31,695 in 1993 to over 40,000 in 1994.  Overall, from 1990 to 1994, the authors report a 34% increase in claims and a 38% increase in dollar awards through EEOC claims. Counter-argument is that without diversity training the increases could be even larger.  Yet another explanation might be that the increases could be attributable to those organizations not conducting diversity training (Tallarigo, 1998, p.1).

Evaluating diversity programs and the factors that cause them to succeed or to fail is important for several reasons.  One is cost.  The average diversity expert costs $2,000 per day, with the most sought after consultants earning four to five times that amount, according to H. MacDonald writing in the July 1993 New Republic.  Cultural audits, which most experts recommend as precursors to training, can cost as much as $100,000.  A second reason is the possibility of not just neutral, but of negative outcomes from diversity training.  These include the possibility of post-training participant discomfort, reinforcement of group stereotypes perceived, disenfranchisement of backlash by white males, and even lawsuits based on managers’ exposure of stereotypical beliefs exposed during “awareness-raising” sessions.  Although we know such outcomes do at times occur, it is really anyone’s guess as to just how often (Rynes & Rosen, 1994, p.2).

A 1988 study of training practices in firms of more than 100 employees did not even list diversity among the top 40 training topics.  A more recent review of training research published in 1992 concluded that “although training for diversity has increased in popularity no systematic empirical research regarding the effectiveness of diversity programs has been published.”  Thus until very recently, it would have been difficult to conduct research on the effectiveness of diversity training (Rynes, Sara, Rosen & Benson, 1994, p.1).

However, times have changed.  The number of training experts specializing in diversity has increased.  Workforce 2000 Today, a Towers-Perrin survey published in 1992 reported that three-quarters of companies either have or plan to begin training programs to deal with diversity issues (Rynes et al., 1994, p.2).

In a research project, using a sample from members of Society for Human Resource Management, investigating success of diversity training programs 785 members responded to a survey.  Thirty-two percent of responding firms provided some sort of diversity training.  However, most diversity training programs last only a day or less.  Additionally, the proportion of the training budget earmarked for diversity is typically small.

Less than one-third of the firms devote 10 percent or more of their training budgets to diversity issues.  The most common topic area addressed through diversity training is the pervasiveness of subconscious stereotypes, assumptions and biases.  Other topics receiving high amounts of coverage include how to get things done in diverse groups; how to balance individual or special needs against perceived needs for fairness or equal treatment; and relationships between diversity, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action requirements (Rynes et al., 1994, p.2).

According to respondents, diversity training typically has a markedly positive short-term impact on the attitude of attendees.  For example, 73 percent of respondents indicated that they believe the typical employee leaves diversity training with positive attitudes toward diversity; in contrast, only 9 percent believed that the typical trainee enters with favorable attitudes.  Similarly, 68 percent believed that the typical employee is skeptical prior to training, whereas only 7 percent reported general skepticism after training.  However, long-term assessments were decidedly less positive.  The largest group of respondents (50 percent) described their programs as having either a mixed effect or a neutral or negligible effect.  Another 18 percent described them as either “largely ineffective” (Rynes et al., 1994, p.3).

On a more positive note, a sizable minority reported that the long-term effects of their training efforts were either “quite successful” (30 percent) or “extremely successful” (3 percent).  The most common indicators of long-term success were reduced grievances and lawsuits, increased diversity in hiring and promotion outcomes, increased employee self-awareness of biases, and increased consultation of human resource specialists on diversity-related issues.

The fact that some companies report long-term training success (while most do not) raises the question of what factors differentiate successful from unsuccessful efforts.  Our analyses showed that some of the differences in reported success rates were associated with characteristics of the training itself.  Statistically, the most important of these was whether or not the training was mandatory for managers.  This finding was also echoed in the open-ended comments of respondents whose programs experienced limited success (Rynes et al., 1994, p.3).

In contrast to recent anecdotal accounts that have stressed the potential negatives of diversity training, present results suggest that reactions to diversity training per se are overwhelmingly positive, at least as seen through the eyes of human resource professionals who have experienced it.  In the entire sample, fewer than ten respondents suggested that diversity training had had a negative impact on attendees (Rynes et al., 1994, p.4).

The questionable quality of some diversity training programs has been reflected in surveys of people who have participated in training.  Recent surveys have found that as many as 50% of United States companies provide diversity training programs.  But a 1993 survey by the Society of Human Resource management found that 68% of the respondent’s human resources officials considered programs at their companies not to be the balm they’d expected.  About 18% called them largely unsuccessful or extremely unsuccessful; the other 50% considered them neutral neither successful not unsuccessful (Murphy, 1997, p.2).

Many diversity trainers believe the confrontational nature of some early training practices even when their focus on white male oppression was intended to explain the discrimination historically felt by women and minorities – was counterproductive.  Many diversity training programs have moved beyond those tactics, but some still have inherent problems.  In trying to help people understand differences among cultures, some actually buttress people’s stereotypes (Murphy, 1997, p.4).

They use handouts describing Asian-Americans as being reluctant to look someone in the face, or African-Americans as being standoffish, or Latinos as clannish. While the descriptions are intended to explain cultural mores, participants walk away from such programs more separated from each other, and empowered to use sometimes harmful blanket assumptions about each other (Murphy 1997, p.4).

The 1993 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 72% of diversity training programs lasted one day or less.  Almost half lasted less than a day.  Also, according to the 1993 survey, only 30% of the responding organizations that conducted diversity training went on to measure resulting behavior at work; fewer than 20% rewarded managers for increasing the diversity of their work groups (Murphy, 1997, p. 5).

An American Management Association study confirms that training, on its own, has little impact.  The effectiveness of diversity training programs, the report found, was much lower in companies that offered training without sponsoring any other cultural-change initiative.  On a scale of one to five, these programs were given a score of just 1.39.  By comparison, the quality of training in companies that also had other diversity efforts in place was ranked twice as high, or 2.85 (Caudron & Hayes, 1997, p.1).

Policy Driven Diversity Programs

Today, 74 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have managing cultural diversity (MCD) programs, according to a 1996 survey by A.T. Kearney Executive Search in Chicago.  The aim of these programs is to help employee’s value differences and make sure that those differences become a net benefit to the bottom-line (p. 1).

Valuing differences is also seen as a way to increase productivity and profitability in this day of globalization and segmented marketing.  These programs also include in Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) hiring goals for women and minorities, along with many other initiatives (Klimley, 1997, p.2).

Explanations vary for lower levels of promotion and constrained career patterns among women and minorities.  Some would suggest that these patterns can be explained by differences in training and experience.  A smaller percentage of blacks have college degrees than whites.  A smaller percentage of both women and blacks study science and engineering in college than white males, and once they are hired into companies, minorities are more often placed into staff rather than line jobs.  Many explanations can be made for these patterns, but once they occur the result is differences in training and experience that affects promotions (Friedman, Kane & Cornfield, 1998, p. 2).

Organization that are aware of diversity can eliminate barriers based on superficial differences.  To ensure the long term success of organizations as well as their diversity effort, the programs must include a plan for hiring, keeping, and providing promotion opportunities to people from across the spectrum (Nilson, 1997, p. 5).

Pay and advancement prospects usually are closely tied to job titles and job ladders, so the visible traces of bias lie in patterns of segregation within and across organizations.

The mechanisms that generate these patterns can be understood by analyzing organizations’ policy and practice for hiring, job assignment, training, pay, and promotion (Bielby, 2000, p. 4).  Why should companies concern themselves with diversity?  Until recently, many managers answered this question with the assertion that discrimination is wrong, both legally and morally.  Another crucial argument for diversity programs was that demographic changes were altering labor markets and consumer markets.  Demographic predictions provided “a sense of crisis, urgency, and purpose” for diversity programs (Dobbin, 1998, p. 9).  Soon, mainstream business organizations accepted diversity management as a legitimate subfield of human resources management.

Following the success of Workforce 2000 and the Valuing Diversity videos that appeared on its heels, diversity management spread from the pioneering consultants and companies to a wide range of organizations (Dobbin, 1998, p. 1).

By the early 1990’s, diversity initiatives had been adopted by 70% of fortune 50 companies.  In a 1991 study, 406 respondents from the Conference Board’s general membership of large companies were asked about their diversity practices.  Training and policy statements topped the list (Dobbin, 1998, p. 13).

In 1997, Charles and McCleary, reported on the results of a study of 16 black managers in the lodging industry.  Respondents were asked to suggest ways to retain blacks once they have entered the lodging industry.  Some of the respondents felt that there was not equal opportunity for management training programs.  If blacks are to be retained, care must be taken to ensure that the opportunity is available to develop the skills necessary for advancement on an equal footing with other ethnic groups.  Offering fast-track positions once high potential candidates have been hired and trained is essential.  Once a person has been targeted for fast track promotions, a good succession plan to develop the manager must be developed and followed (p. 1).

According to the survey results the practice that ranked highest in importance by the largest percentage of respondents was “The organization has policies against racism and/or sexism” (Schreiber & Price, 1993, p.7).

In the Spring of 2000 Palma-Rivas reported on the results of a study of eight multinational organization’s diversity initiatives.  All of the study participants indicated that their corporations had initiatives to recruit and promote women and minorities.  The majority (88 percent) of the corporations also had in place initiatives that aimed to retain women and minorities.

All of the study participants indicated that their corporations were focusing on increasing the representation of women and minorities at the managerial level.  The study participants indicated that the best and brightest candidates were increasingly made up of people who were diverse.  Therefore it is imperative, according to the study participants, for companies to recruit, hire, develop, and promote from the diverse talent pool in order to be productive and remain competitive (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 2000, p. 6).

In 1998 Went and Palma-Rivas reported on the results of a study of diversity expert’s perception of diversity trends.

According to the survey the following components were most frequently mentioned: commitment and support from top management, with twelve citing (100 percent); inclusion as part of the organizational strategic plan, with eight citing (67 percent); programs that meet the specific needs of the organization, with eight citing (67 percent); qualified trainers, with seven citing (58 percent); combination with other diversity initiatives, also with seven citing (58 percent); mandatory attendance; with six citing (50 percent); inclusive.

Commitment from top management was the only component that all the diversity experts identified.  They stated that top management’s role should include communicating throughout the organization the importance of diversity and why diversity training is being offered, emphasizing how diversity is linked to the organization’s overall business goals, and providing resources to support diversity training.  Furthermore, top executives need to start by setting an example for others in the organization to follow.  They need to show others through their actions how important diversity is to them and to the organization (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p.5).

Sixty-seven percent of the experts believed that to have better results diversity training initiatives need to be included as part of the organizational strategic plan.  For diversity training to work efficiently and effectively, it must be connected to the organizational needs and business objectives. These efforts will not be successful and cost-effective if they are not directly tied to the business strategy for managing organizational change and improving productivity (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

Developing organizational policies that mandate fairness and equity for all employees was another frequently mentioned strategy. The diversity experts indicated that revising organizational policies and procedures so that they support diverse needs is one of the most critical initiatives (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p.5).

The range of possibilities is very broad and, for example, could include changing recruiting policies to focus on recruiting women, people of color, older workers, and people with disabilities.  Developing mentoring programs was also frequently mentioned as a strategy.  According to the diversity experts, it is extremely important to offer mentoring programs for minority employees (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

Minority employees need mentors who will assist them in understanding the organization’s standards, offer feedback on their performance, make them aware of organizational norms and politics, suggest strategies for advancing in their careers, and encourage them to meet high performance standards.  The experts stated that poor career planning is one of the main reasons why minority and women employees fail to advance in many organizations (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 5).

More than half of the experts felt that to be most effective diversity training needs to be combined with other diversity initiatives.  Diversity training should only be one part of an organization’s comprehensive diversity strategy and should not stand alone.  In isolation, diversity training is not likely to have a major impact, but as part of an overall strategy it can help move an organization forward (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 6).

One expert had this to say, “Linking diversity training to existing training programs such as leadership training, team building, total quality management, and employee empowerment and participation will increase its effectiveness” (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 6)

The movement of managing diversity in the workplace is at a critical stage.  Given the realities of the changing workforce and workplace, diversity issues will not go away; organizations of the future will need to develop systematic efforts for managing diversity they will need to connect their diversity efforts to organizational needs and business objectives through needs assessments and measures for feedback and evaluation of their efforts.  A long-term perspective and integration with other organizational change efforts will be needed in order to ensure that diversity becomes an effective corporate strategy (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1998, p. 8).

The Role of HR in Diversity Management

An essential role for HR in a culture change effort is assisting organizational leaders to realize that people are their most important resource.  To create a sustainable, high performing work culture, the people of the organization must be treated as valuable resources that are essential for the continuing success of the organization.  Barriers to their full involvement and contribution must be identified, removed and replaced with inclusive norms and values that allow all people to do their best work.  HR professionals’ tools for helping to bring about this culture change include training, coaching, mentoring, modeling, monitoring and measuring (Miller, 1998, p.8).

Pollar (1998), explains the role of the human resource department as “…the catalyst that finds and develops opportunities and resources that support the company’s diversity program”.  Human resources are the researcher that gathers the comprehensive information that organizations will need to develop an effective initiative.

The department may be the most effective advocate for the program, using a sort of “shuttle diplomacy” between departments, upper management, the diversity task force, and different employee groups to ensure that the intent and benefits of the initiative are well understood (p.2).

The HR professional is attuned to the entire organization, not just one department or function.  He or she deals with employees at all levels from the boardroom to the production floor to the marketing department to accounting.  She or he also deals with the issues such as recruiting, retention, compensation, employee-assistance-programs, health and safety, and training and development that span the entire organization.  The HR professional focuses on the characteristics of a company’s human resources, including all of the knowledge, skills experience, and commitment of the employees and their relationship with each other and with those outside the company.  In addition, HR practices include all of the programs, policies, and practices that a company uses to manage its human resources (Rowden, 1999, p.4).


The literature review focused on two different types of workplace diversity strategies. One of the diversity strategies discussed was the awareness and sensitivity training strategy that is generally a one to two day training workshop that focuses on training participants to become tolerant to the differences of minorities.  The other diversity strategy discussed was the human resources policy driven diversity strategy that examines the hiring practices, promotion and retention policies of the organization.

Racial discrimination lawsuits were discussed in the literature review because it is one of the driving forces for diversity management.  Discrimination lawsuits can cost organizations millions of dollars.  Also discussed was the role of human resources professionals.

The human resources professionals are generally the employees in the organizations that are responsible for developing and implementing training programs and dealing with recruiting, retention and promotion issues.

The workforce in the United States and in many nations of the world is becoming increasingly more diverse.  It has been estimated that by approximately the year 2000 a majority of public school-age children in the United States will be non-White.

It is therefore imperative for organizations to implement systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximized while its potential disadvantages are minimized (Cox, 1994, p.4).


One goal of diversity management in the workplace is to implement policies, strategies, and programs that will support the fair and equitable treatment of minority employees.  The findings in this study suggest that a large number of organizations are addressing racial discriminative behavior in their organization by implementing diversity strategies.  Additionally, the data suggest that organizations that implement more than two diversity strategies experience a more significant decrease in racial discriminative behavior than organizations that implement only two diversity strategies.

It is interesting to note that statistical significance was found numerous times when analyzing several categories.  For example, statistical significance in the Lawsuits and Grievances categories (chi-square=57.174, df=3, p< .000) suggest that some companies take diversity strategies seriously, possibly because of huge financial losses incurred from lawsuits claiming employee discrimination.

Hiring and Retention – Statistical significance in this category (chi-square = 47.697, df=2, p< .000) suggests that some Fortune 500 hiring management and human resources staff may have achieved some level of success in hiring and retaining minorities as a result of applying more than 2 diversity strategies.

Promotion of Minorities – Statistical significance in this category (chi-square=19.327, df=4, p< .001) suggests that institutions implementing more than 2 diversity strategies may have had a positive impact on the promotion of minorities within these Fortune 500 companies.

Employee Denial of Biases – Statistical significance in this category  (chi-square=32.149, df=4, p< .000) suggests that implementing more than 2 diversity strategies may have had a positive impact on reducing employee denial of the existence of biases in the workplace.

Management Support – Statistical significance in this category (chi-square=54.142, df=3, p< .000) suggests that implementing more than 2 diversity strategies may have a positive impact on management support of minorities in the workplace.

Overall, the results from these analyses strongly suggest that institutions that implement a combination of diversity strategies are more likely to have less perceived racial discriminative behaviors than institutions that only implement one or two of the diversity strategies described in this study.

Overall, the results from these analyses strongly suggest that institutions that implement a combination of diversity strategies are more likely to have less perceived racial discriminative behaviors than institutions that only implement one or two of the diversity strategies described in this study.

Doris Lena Papillon, MHROD is currently employed as an Adjunct Professor at Heald College’s Business Department. Doris teaches Principles of Business (entrepreneurship), Human Resources Principles, Psychology, Keys to Success as well as other business courses. Doris has 15 plus years experience working in corporate leadership roles as a coach and facilitator to executive management in Organizational Development services. Doris received her Master’s in Human Resources/Organization Development from the University of San Francisco and her Bachelor’s in Human Services from Holy Names University.

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