1.1 Background of the study
Due to the fact that today’s organizations are becoming increasingly diverse with respect to their workforce, diversity is becoming an issue of interest as far as organizational performance is concerned. According to Thomas and Ely (2010), diversity is said to exist in an organization when its members differ from one another along one or more important dimensions. Further, diversity can be said to be present when employees’ knowledge, skills and perceptions is considered and utilized to enhance organizational effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery and also to achieve public workers’ professional view point. Over a long time diversity has been a growing concept; with the term being both specific, focused on an individual, and contextual, defined through societal constructs (Moore, 2012). Many current writers define diversity as any significant difference that distinguishes one individual from another; a description that includes a broad range of open and hidden qualities.
In general, researchers organize diversity characteristics into four areas: Personality; covering traits, skills and abilities. Internal; which include gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. External; this refer to culture, nationality, religion, marital and parental status. And organizational; which include position, department, union/non-union (Johnson, 2003). Diversity in an organization promotes recognition, respect and teamwork among employees. Hence, organizations that overcome certain diversity issues mostly achieve greater productivity, profit due to increased employee morale.
Kreitner ; Kinicki (2011) defines organizational performance as a situation where an organization meets its set targets putting into consideration all other personality, external and internal dimensions that influence performance. This includes three specific areas of organization outcomes. That is, shareholder return; which covers total shareholder return and economic value added, product market performance; that is, sales and market share, and financial performance; which covers profits, return on assets and return on investment (Richard et al, 2010).
Bagshaw (2004) define workplace diversity management as the systematic and planned commitment by the organization to recruit, reward and promote a heterogeneous mix of employees. This means that the issue of workforce diversity emerged so as enhance the availability of equal opportunities in the workplace. Bryan (2000) observes that the view point of equal opportunities in an organization is aimed at ensuring that the organizations achieve the best out of the differences from a diverse workforce rather than losing talent which might assist the organization to be more efficient and effective. Generally the effectiveness of an organization can be measured using different criteria; which include rapid growth, huge profits, stability in the market, reduced employee turnover and above all productivity. Jackson, et al (2005) classified the content of diversity management as relations oriented and task oriented. Where relations-oriented diversity refers to the distribution of attributes that are instrumental in shaping interpersonal relationships, but which typically have no apparent direct implications for task performance. While task-oriented diversity refers to the distribution of performance-relevant attributes. Thus, in the 21st century the effect of workforce diversity on organizational performance is one of the vital issues which need to be addressed. Considering today’s global and competitive environment, the fact is that organizations that take advantage of diversity are expected to perform better than organizations which lack advantages that diversity brings.
Kinyanjui (2013) on his study on innovative strategies for managing workforce diversity found out that mismanaged Workforce Diversity may lead to a dissatisfied workforce; hence low performance in an organization. That is, when employees realize that they are to some extent being discriminated based on their gender, age, ethnicity, and disability; they may start engaging in disruptive activities that may hamper achievement of major planned organizational objectives. In the 21st century there is a clear indication that the organizations which have clear diversity policies and management systems tend to be more effective, productive and sustainable. Mutuku et al (2013) and McArthur (2010) argue that due to globalization, diversity is becoming an integral part of the organization life. Therefore, human resource managers must put systems at workplaces to properly manage diverse talents for the organizational benefits. Because by so doing, an organization attracts diverse talents which in turn improve the organizational capacity to make perfect decision, solve problem and enhance an organization to achieve competitive advantage.
The concept of diversity management was developed in the United States in the year 1980s; which was as a result of global completion and demographic changes within the workforce. The same was also a response to the introduction of equity legislation and practices in the country. Kelly and Dobbin (2008) acknowledged that a major drive to development of diversity management practices was a government commissioned report entitled Workforce 2000, which examined the changing demographics of the US workforce. Johnston and Packer (2007) noted that in the years between 1987 and 2000, the workforce would become older, more feminized and disadvantaged as only 15 percent of the new entrants to the labor force would be native white males, compared to 47 percent in that category in 1987. They thus emphasized changes in the organization of work and working conditions which could accommodate the needs of women and more so the need for national investment in education and training. They further discovered that ‘minority workers; the Blacks and Hispanics are not only less likely to have had satisfactory schooling and on-the-job training but they may have language, attitude, and cultural problems that prevent them from taking advantage of the jobs that will exist’. The authors then concluded that ‘both cultural changes and education and training opportunities will be needed to create real equal employment opportunities’.
The origin of the term managing diversity is attributed to R. Roosevelt Thomas, a management consultant who founded the American Institute for Managing Diversity in 1984 (AIMD 2009). To counter the global completion faced by organizations and the changing workforce demographics, Thomas (2000) proposed that a different approach towards diversity issues was needed; as the legislation meant to achieve the equity within organizations was inadequate. Thus he concluded that organizations have to learn how to manage diversity; to move beyond positive action, and not to reject it. That is, effective management of diversity would bring about a bonus in performance of an organization.
In Africa the concept of diversity management came as result of globalization and the need for more organizations to spread globally to reach customers across the world. Jain & Verma (2006) state that due to liberalization and globalization of markets, the 1990s saw the development of a new trend in the form of workforce diversity. The introduction of free market economies in Africa brought in the free movement for labor which has resulted in hiring diverse workforce all over the world; hence improving organizational performance.
Nigeria being a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religions, it’s a country characterized by intense ethnic polarization and conflict but it has sought to struggle with its heritage of ethnic diversity and conflict. Saji (2004) ascertained that practices of diversity management have been developed and sincerely supported by a huge number of management team so as to improve organizational performance. Carrel et al (2000) argue that diversity can improve organizational performance. This is because organizations that develop and implement diversity management practices are likely to attract the best personnel. While many organizations have embraced diversity, others still consider it merely an issue of compliance with legal requirements. However, in Nigeria in more recent years, the vision of diversity has radically changed to a more positive concept due to the benefits it brings to the organization in terms of performance. This was after many organization leaders begin to believe that diversity has important bottom-line benefits. Further, Allen et al (2004) stated that diversity in the workforce can be a competitive advantage because different viewpoints can facilitate unique and creative approaches to problem-solving, thereby increasing creativity and innovation, which in turn leads to better organizational performance.
In Kenya the concept of diversity is deeply rooted in the Kenyan Constitution (2010) that forbids any legislation and practices that promotes discrimination of all persons regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, class, race, physical impairments, and mental abilities. Thus, all corporate bodies in Kenya including the civil society organizations are expected to put in place strategies to curb workplace discrimination and promote workforce diversity. But despite such emphasis, some civil organizations have neither developed nor implemented diversity policies. In order to achieve a significance workforce diversity programme in Kenya, ethnicity and corruption in public and private sectors need to be reduced or eradicated. Hanappi-Eggar (2011) emphases that top management should strive to promote inclusion by discouraging negative attitudes and behaviors at workplace that encourage discrimination.
Munjuri (2012) observes that managing workforce diversity demands a comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees. Bagsawe (2004) defines it as systematic and planned commitment by the organization to resource, motivate and promote a heterogeneous mix of employees with an aim of achieving competitive advantage. Thus, managing diversity is based on the belief that undertaking specific practices designed to achieve specific strategic goals of organizations will have a positive impact on an organization, and will increase organizational performance. That is, it will lift morale of employees, bring greater access to new segment of the marketplace, and enhance performance.