Drawing from the external environment, discuss three underlying reasons for the increase in the diversity of the Australian workforce.
Your essay should also analyse two advantages and two disadvantages of diversity in the workplace
Workplace Diversity in Australia
Throughout the past decade, Australia has seen tremendous sustained economic growth and high sense of productivity. Teicher & Spearitt, (2006, p. 3) note that this trend is attributable to the highly competitive, skilled, educated and diverse workforce that the country boasts of. Astoundingly, the Australian workforce is diverse in nature. It comprises of individuals who come from diverse cultural backgrounds, ages, lifestyles, religions, abilities and genders. According to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia, (FECCA) by 2011, the 21.5 million people population of the country was made up of 46% individuals who were either born outside the country or had one of their parents born overseas (FECCA, 2015, P. 1). The same trend characterizes the Australian workforce with 23% of Australian workers having been born overseas while 13% come from non-English speaking countries (FECCA, 2015, P. 1).
Erwee (1997, p. 2) acknowledges that the Australian workforce is typified by a wide range of capabilities, experiences and perceptions. This essay, therefore, aims at exploring and analyzing three major external factors influencing workforce diversity in Australia. Further, the essay discusses the merits and demerits of workplace diversity and their implications for managers. The essay is logically structured to describe these aspects in a comprehensive manner. To arrive at conclusions case analysis and the use of illustrations was used in relation to the topic of discussion.
External Factors Influencing Workplace Diversity in Australia
- CALD Population Policy (Demographic Environment)
Diversity means respect and acceptance. Diversity encompasses the understanding of people as being unique in their ways and recognizing individual differences. Individual differences include, but, not limited to race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, status, religion, gender, physical capabilities, etc. CALD simply means culturally and linguistically diverse (FECCA, 2015, p. 1). The Australian population policy is a significant consideration for the implementation of both employment and economic policies in the country. Progressively, the Australian workforce has been enhanced and correspondingly shaped by the presence and tremendous contribution of individuals from CALD backgrounds (Teicher & Spearitt, 2006, p. 8). Notably, the Australian population by 2011 was made up of about 55% of native Australians (FECCA, 2015, p. 1). The rest were either born in other countries or had one of their parents born overseas. Historically, it is evident that the effectiveness of a culturally diverse workforce is attributable to the ever increasing economic growth and development. Specifically, the nature of the Australian diverse population owes to the post-war immigration boom experienced in the country.
The rate immigration experienced after the war had a fundamental positive impact on the Australian economy. Significantly, the country’s workforce was reshaped during this period. The country needed to expand its global business/commercial interests by making use of new skills. The country further, substantially revised its immigration policies during the 1970s to an extent where the economy was opened up to provide more potential markets and opportunities (Erwee, 1997, p. 7). The Australian government has noted that increasing labor demands, fiscal challenges, and market competitiveness are the basis upon which resources and skills of culturally diverse workers should be put to best use to benefit both the individuals and the employers.
Remarkably, in 2012, demographic trends showed a possible increase in Australia’s aging population. It is estimated that the number of individuals with fifty years and above is likely to increase by over 20% annually (FECCA, 2015, P. 1). Although statistics depicts how Australians are willing to work even after retirement age, the low rates of population growth imply that rate of young individuals entering the workforce is low. As a consequence, the competition for skilled workers in different sectors of the economy is likely to intensify. Eventually, there will be labor shortages and lack of skilled staff. It, therefore, becomes critical to make use of immigrant workers. It is upon this rationale that the Australian workforce continues to depict a great sense of diversity compared to other economies.
- Government Legislations and Enactments (Political-Legal Environment)
Another reason influencing the diversity of Australian workplaces is the presence of significant government legislations on discrimination, especially at the workplace. Largely, this legislations have so far, been used to guide employment processes in Australia. Such legislations include the Disability and Discrimination Act of 1991. Erwee, (1997, p. 15) describes how this legislation covers issues such as impairment, age, marital status, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. All these are with regards to employment practices. Furthermore, it is specifically stated that actions deemed discriminatory are prosecutable in a court of law. The law requires organizations to embrace staff members from all backgrounds without any special preferences whatsoever (Erwee, 1997, p. 15). The government specifically intended to uphold equal opportunity in public employment. As a government directive, this law applies to all public and private businesses in the country.
Other significant legislations about the same include the Age Discrimination Act of 2004 and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act of 1999. The Age Discrimination Act was implemented by the federal government to restrain learning institutions, service stations, organizations and other institutions from marginalizing individuals basing on their age (Teicher & Spearitt, 2006, p. 10). Employment opportunities, promotions, benefits, and transfers should not be done on the age basis. All individuals are considered equal despite their age. Similarly, the Equal Opportunity for Women Act restrains marginalization of female workers based on pregnancy, potential pregnancy and marital status. It particularly emphasizes on the view of women as equals to men despite any other misgivings (Teicher & Spearitt, 2006, p. 10). Notably, Australian workplaces have been forced to adhere to employment procedures that are consistent with these legislations. As such, the result has been a highly diversified workforce. More significantly, government legislations have greatly influenced this trend.
- Strong Global Economic Relationships (Global Forces)
Business opportunities and commercial benefits that Australia receives from global partners (especially the Asian Century) are compelling (FECCA, 2015, P. 1). Among the top five global trading partners that Australia has, three are from Asia. These include the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China. Half of Australia’s global business is conducted in Asia. According to FECCA, (2015, P. 2) it is projected that if Australia develops and maintains closer economic ties with its regional neighbors; an estimated $275 billion will be injected into the local economy. Key among these neighbors is China and India. These statistics are conspicuous, not mere numbers. They present opportunities that are vital to economic growth and development.
Considerably, Australia has so far, benefited from the economic ties between her and Asian countries. Additionally, the country intends to enhance its economic growth to counter the stiff competition from close neighbors such as China, which is currently a superpower (FECCA, 2015, P. 2). The greatest challenge, therefore, is maintaining strong and positive economic ties in an environment characterized by both regional and global competition. Vital trade links are noticeably substantial for economic growth and development. Thus, firms in Australia are left with no other alternative other than maintaining innovativeness by guaranteeing resources and skills from the diverse workforce are put to maximum use.
Besides, there is an increasing priority on the need to attract workers who comprehend how to conduct business in Asia and hence, effectively build positive relationships. All this is in a bid to remain successful in a highly competitive business climate. Therefore, organizations in Australia are seeking to develop staff that has diverse cultural heritage, skills, knowledge and linguistic abilities that are crucial for successful future business and also guarantee an enhancement of Australia’s competitive edge in the global arena (Erwee & Innes, 1998, p. 25). As such, it can be noted how global pressure is an influencing factor in the workforce diversity depicted in Australia.
Advantages of Workplace Diversity
- Diverse Experience at the Workplace
A workforce is considered as a team. Workers from different backgrounds bring into the organization unique experiences and perceptions about work that are crucial for success and effective accomplishment of organizational objectives (Kersten, 2000, p. 9). When skills, knowledge and experiences from diverse backgrounds are pooled together, an organization can benefit significantly from improved productivity and flexibility in responding to changing business environment. Categorically, each worker in a diverse organizational workplace has unique strengths and weaknesses (Kersten, 2000, p. 5). A proper management of diversity ensures that individual weaknesses are complemented while their strengths are leveraged to enhance the positive impact of a diverse workforce.
- Learning, Personal Development, and Individual Growth
Kersten, (2000, p. 12) further, notes that; workplace diversity offers individuals a chance to learn from their colleagues and hence, enhance their personal growth. Notably, diversity at the workplace exposes workers to new ideas, business perspectives and cultures to a level where they can develop intellectually. Studies have also shown that diversity at the workplaces can gradually break subliminal barriers of xenophobia and ethnocentrism. Individuals will always turn out to be all-round and able to work in any given environment (Kersten, 2000).
Disadvantages of Workplace Diversity
- Challenges in Communication
According to Kramar (2001, p. 5) diversity can impede effective communication between top management and staff and also between co-workers. Inappropriate communication, on the other hand, can compromise productivity and group cohesiveness among small organizational teams. When cultures clash especially at the workplace, orientation periods by co-workers can be long and difficult basing on an individual’s first impression (Kramar, 2001, p.7). Furthermore, relationships with customers can be dampened by diversity. It is possible for a customer to feel uncomfortable by the way a worker conducts his or her duties in regards to his or her culture.
- Integration Challenges
Controlling social integration is sometimes intricate. It is hard to influence social integration at the workplace because it is a natural process. Diversity can, therefore, result in informal divisions among a workforce. Kramar, (2001) notes that; culturally diverse workers are likely to avoid the company of their co-workers for risk of exposure of their cultural identity or personality. This can hinder sharing of expertise and knowledge critical for improved performance. Furthermore, the effectiveness of teams is also compromised with negative social integration.
Implications for management
Managing diversity at the workplace is vital for increased productivity and improved performance levels. Given the uniqueness of culture, management should ensure that each worker’s weaknesses are complemented while their strengths are leveraged to enhance the workforce impact rather than the addition of its elements. The management should also ensure that diverse workers spend enough time with their counterparts to encourage them and eliminate barriers such as xenophobia and ethnocentrism. This way, workers can turn out to be all-rounded to an extent where they can work in more diverse environments for the benefit of the organization. Remarkably, spending time with co-workers can also break communication impediments, although, over the long run. Workers can be paired up with individuals from a customer’s specific background so that they feel comfortable both with the diverse worker and the firm as a whole. The management should encourage the development of interpersonal relationships among workers that are purposely aimed at making communication and integration effective.
Conclusively, diversity is the recognition, understanding and respect for the uniqueness and individual differences. Australia is considered as one of the countries with a diversified workforce. There are three major external reasons explaining this scenario. They include; population policy based on CALD, government legislations and enactments and the strong relationships that Australia has with global business partners. Diversity at the workplace is beneficial in many ways. It is a means of learning and personal growth for individuals and also presents a firm with diverse skills and experiences vital for improved productivity. However, if not managed properly, diversity may also be disadvantageous. It can bring about communication challenges in an organization thereby compromising team cohesiveness and general output. Furthermore, it can pose social integration challenges that can divide a workforce based on worker’s identity. It is, therefore, crucial for management teams to appropriately manage, mitigate and eliminate challenges posed by diversity in their workplaces for improved performance and increased productivity.
Erwee, R. & Innes, P. 1998. Diversity Management in Australian Companies: Compliance or Conviction, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba
Erwee, R. 1997. Diversity Survey, Department of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. Toowoomba: University of Southern Queensland,
FECCA, 2015. Harmony in the Workplace: The Australian Workforce-Delivering the Diversity Dividend. Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia
Kersten, A. 2000. Diversity management: Dialogue, dialectics, and diversion. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Vol.13, no. 3. Pp.1-23
Kramar, R. 2001. Managing diversity: challenges and future directions in Management and Organizational Behavior, Brisbane: John Wiley and Sons,
Teicher, J & Spearitt, K. 2006. From equal employment opportunity to diversity management: the Australian experience. International Journal of Manpower, vol.17, no.4. Pp.1-34