Diversity and Multiculturalism


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Diversity and multiculturalism are two concepts that relate to differences in people based on various characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and background among other factors. Diversity and multiculturalism are mostly used interchangeably, although the concepts have diverse aspects. While diversity suggests differences between people, multiculturalism focuses on the emergence of a greater understanding of the differences within society as a function of power based on inequality. The concepts play an imperative role in the successful operations of a firm. Diversity has pros and cons in various strategic functions of an organization, including recruitment and selection, pay and benefits, affirmative action, and retention.


Diversity and Multiculturalism

Diversity and multiculturalism are two concepts used in a similar context, explaining why the two aspects are mostly confused to have the same meaning. People mostly use the two terms interchangeably. However, scholars argue that diversity and multiculturalism are essentially different in their meaning and usage. While diversity suggests differences between people, multiculturalism is used in a comparable perspective but focuses on the emergence of a greater understanding of the differences within the society as a function of power based on inequality (Lisak & Erez, 2015). The concepts play an essential role in the management of organizations and determine their potential for success. While diversity might have a negative connotation due to the implication of differences, it plays a vital role in the workplace. Hence, its use in human resource management has both advantages and disadvantages relating to recruiting, selection, pay and benefits, promotion, retention, and affirmative action.

The Differences between Diversity and Multiculturalism

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Diversity often gets confused with multiculturalism in various aspects. However, the use of the concepts in research evokes various questions regarding whether the two concepts mean the same thing or they can be used interchangeably. Another critical question relating to the use of the two aspects is whether an individual is denoting differences between or within cultures. It is critical to establish if the context of their use makes any difference in distinguishing the meaning of the two terms. A proper definition of the concepts is vital to understanding the differences between the two terms and their usage in human resource management. Diversity is the actual disparity between people based on characteristics such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and background among other factors (Koppelman, 2016). Therefore, the term suggests how diverse people depend on observable traits.

Conversely, multiculturalism suggests something dissimilar though within the same context of cultural differences. Koppelman (2016) argues that multiculturalism is a bit deeper than diversity when focusing on the actual understanding of differences, regarding inclusiveness and respect. The concept also refers to the comprehension of the unequal power in society that emanates from the characteristics that make individuals different. People experience different treatment in society, such as in the workplace due to the multicultural reality. The differences give some people a more privileged or powerful position than others. Consequently, those in power can either use it positively or negatively when relating to others. The reality is most evident in the workplace where people from different cultures come together and interact regularly.

From a human resource perspective, diversity plays a vital role in building an inclusive workplace. Diversity relates to the “otherness” and has the objective of ensuring that policy-making in organizations allows equality among all employees. While the treatment is legal and right, multiculturalism considers the advantages that some people have over others based on their gender, race, and sexual orientation among other aspects, usually known as power and privilege (Koppelman, 2016). The system emanates within societies when some race or gender are more prominent in society than other groups. Thus, the power and privilege play a significant role in the setting of societal rules and norms that govern personal and work relationships. In some cases, the privilege is invisible due to the reality that it is hard to recognize because it becomes a norm in a multicultural society.

Pros and Cons of Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity has significant implications in human resource management, considering the importance of maintaining a balance in the workplace. Managers should understand and combine the knowledge of the systems, allowing for privileges and power to operate within the organization. By accepting these essential aspects of diversity and multiculturalism, it makes it possible for the human resource management team to eliminate or minimize the negative implications of the underlying differences. According to Fitzsimmons (2013), managers should manage the differences effectively to create a balanced and inclusive workplace. Diversity in the workplace refers to an environment with people from diverse perspectives that bring profitability and the capacity to achieve the goals and objectives of the firm. Diversity is also critical as part of compliance standards for all workplaces. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of the agencies, which ensures specific standards are met in all workplaces.

Proponents of workplace diversity argue that an inclusive workplace is beneficial to the business. One of the benefits is the synergy that occurs between individuals of different backgrounds and cultures. Working together with people from diverse backgrounds and with various perspectives promotes collaboration and partnership between individuals and groups. In turn, such a setting is characterized by creativity and innovation since employees can bring together their different ideas. A diverse workforce makes a significant contribution to the success of an organization. However, Fitzsimmons (2013) reveals that employees support the kind of innovation that occurs naturally rather than diversity forced on them. Hence, companies with a reputation for inclusiveness and positive business practices are most likely to attract diverse employees (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Such corporations are also highly effective in the management of diversity to achieve the organizational goals and objectives. The positive image and reputation are critical in attracting customers to the business, hence improving revenue and profitability.

However, research has revealed some drawbacks in building a diverse workplace. Managing those differences is sometimes challenging for the human resource management team based on the inherent conflicts that emanate from the diversity. Members of the majority race might conflict with those of the minority groups due to perceived preferential treatment for one over the other. Consequently, the management spends a considerable amount of time resolving conflicts instead of using such energy for productive activities of the company (Canas & Sondak, 2013). It is detrimental for corporation in a situation where employees become resentful of diversity. In some cases, diversity costs the company considerable resources by hiring experts to develop diversity programs to comply with the necessary standards. While diversity is critical for companies, the management should understand the pros and cons associated with the various functions of managing employees to gain positive results for the business.

Selection and Recruitment

The benefit of diversity during selection and recruitment process depends on the nature of the organization. Fitzsimmons (2013) indicates that some companies have built a strong sense of inclusiveness and respect from the aspect of diversity and multiculturalism. For such firms, it is easy to attract and recruit a diverse workforce. Consequently, the employer saves considerable cost in the recruitment process since there is no need to pay for consultation as the workplace sells itself to the potential employees. Staffing for the company can be more accessible and less resource intensive. A diverse firm also enjoys a broader talent pool since it has diverse cultures and backgrounds to select employees from. Diversity makes it possible for the management to get the right candidates to match the organizational needs from individuals based on different cultural and other backgrounds (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Having a successful team means valuing different opinions in the workplace that is possible through selecting and recruiting individuals from diverse backgrounds.

However, the selection and recruitment of people from different backgrounds can be complicated, especially where many potential candidates belong to the same culture. It could be a challenge for the management to decide on various aspects regarding diversity in recruiting the human resource team. For example, the manager might leave out more qualified individuals from the same culture to achieve diversity (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Furthermore, personal prejudice can occur when recruiting from diverse backgrounds. For instance, the candidates’ background can be subject to discrimination when making a decision that does not favor qualified candidates. Generally, when such factors play a role in decision-making, they are implicit and might not be realized by the decision-maker and even the potential employee (Harvey & Allard, 2015). Therefore, recruiting for diversity could remain unfair to some qualified candidates either due to prejudice or the need to achieve diversity by selecting from different backgrounds.

Pay and Benefits

Compensation for employees in a balanced workplace should prevent any form of discrimination. For example, employees working at the same level should be paid comparable salaries and benefits. Employees in a firm with people from different gender, personality, race, educational background, and age may face a challenge in ensuring equality in pay and benefits. Human resource managers could implement policies to support equality in compensation to improve the level of motivation among the different employees (Harvey & Allard, 2015). Human resource managers who compensate their staff adequately benefit from improved revenue and profitability.

However, ensuring actual equality in compensation is not always an easy task in a diverse workplace. When people from different backgrounds come together, discrimination becomes evident and could create decisions that favor some employees at the expense of others. Canas and Sondak (2013) reveal that most organizations that hire individuals from different cultures experience severe problems due to unfair treatment in various areas, including remuneration. Hence, managers have the greatest challenge of learning how to manage diversity while appearing impartial in all their decisions, especially during compensation and when providing benefits to employees.


Management makes promotion on merit and depending on the output of a particular employee. Hence, diverse workplace provides leaders with various skill sets from which to select the most qualified candidates for promotion. Each employee has various skills that might differ from those of another worker. Through effective competition within the workplace, employees can improve their skills and better their chances for promotion. Fitzsimmons (2013) reveals that workforce diversity makes it easy for the organization to use diverse views and opinions in decision-making to improve productivity.

However, promotion decisions should be carefully made to avoid conflicts and resentment, especially if some individuals perceive any form of favoritism. According to Harvey and Allard (2015), in a diverse workplace, such perceptions are common, particularly when employees compete for promotions. Furthermore, in such environments, some employees excel in some skills while others lack expertise in some department. Decision-making relating to promotion in such settings can be complicated, and hence, create antipathy among workers.


The main benefit of diversity in the workplace is that it boosts positive work values that improve the chances of employees to remain and support the organization. Employees prefer to work in an environment where they are respected and valued regardless of their differences (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Such a set up also promotes collaboration, which creates a supportive environment for all employees. The opportunity to work with individuals with diverse skills and experience may generate a high level of satisfaction and increased productivity.

Although diversity is essential for the retention of qualified employees, it can have some drawbacks. Success in such aspects depends on a culture that promotes respect to prevent problems among workers. However, such an environment is not always possible and may create tension among employees. Furthermore, communication challenges caused by the differences could bring conflicts and intentions to leave the workplace (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Communication is mostly affected if employees come from different cultures and use diverse languages. Personal prejudices could also create negative feelings among employees and could force them to leave their jobs. Diverse workplaces are also prone to harassment and bullying, which frustrates the management’s efforts to retain qualified employees.

Affirmative Action

Diversity in the workplace allows companies to achieve affirmative action. The practice enables companies to give an equal chance of employment to individuals who are historically discriminated. Diversity has made it easy for organizations to take advantage of skills and experience held by individuals who have faced a history of discrimination. Consequently, the diverse skills help the company to grow while maintaining social responsibility by being highly inclusive. Workplaces are open to people from different cultures, giving them a chance to get employment and an opportunity to grow as they improve their association (Harvey & Allard, 2015). Affirmative action is a source of motivation for employees from different backgrounds who would otherwise be unemployed due to discrimination.

The main drawback in this area relates to the misconception that diversity suggests the same thing as affirmative action. In organizations, affirmative action is either obligatory or voluntary. It is mandatory in cases such as where government contractors have to create a diverse workplace through various ways of reaching a diverse pool of potential candidates, including test outreach methods (Harvey & Allard, 2015). However, in other firms, it should be understood that diversity is not about affirmative action, and when this is the case, the company might fail to benefit from such differences. However, where human resource management teams understand that affirmative action is about a conscious recognition of the current changes in the society, then they can create a diverse team and enjoy the benefits of differences in the workplace.


Diversity and multiculturalism are constantly confused terms since they are used interchangeably. However, while the two words could be used in the same context, they imply various aspects relating to the differences inherent in people. While diversity suggests the differences in people based on various characteristics such as gender, age, race, and sexual orientation among other concepts, multiculturalism refers to the understanding of the differences as a function of power and privilege. Diversity in the workplace is significant and necessary for firms to be productive. Hence, there are substantial benefits of diversity in various aspects of the organization, including recruitment and selection, pay and benefits, affirmative action, and retention. However, if not well managed, diversity can create operational challenges of a business, hence affecting employees and the entire organization.

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