This paper is a critical review of a research conducted on an Australian based financial company, to investigate the perception of diversity from employees' point of view and also to measure their level of commitment based on certain criteria. The background of this research paper is mentioned in the introduction followed by critically reviewed literature in the main body. The arguments made by me are positive as well as negative and are made specifically on the methodology used by the authors that are subsequently supported by other authors work and justification. I have also attempted to show the possibility of improvement in this research if more time and resources are available and thus have concluded accordingly.
The research paper under analysis is titled "Managing cultural diversity and perceived organizational support" published by Emerald Publications is a study conducted on the non-managerial employees of a Large Australian Financial Organization specifically targeting non English speaking employees. The research paper has been selected from an academic journal "International Journal of Manpower" Aug 2009, Vol. 30, No. 4, Pg. 377 - 392.
"Managing cultural diversity and perceived organizational support" research work is accomplished by three authors namely Lyene Leveson and Therese A. Joiner from La Trobe University Bundoora, Australia and also by Steve Bakalis from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.
The authors in this research paper have discussed about diversity management from employees perspective in order to develop mediate model using organizational support to link cultural diversity management perceptions to commitment (Research paper). Since, authors have identified that the not many research has been prepared on the non-managerial level and also the fact that the authors were inspired by the question of "How do non-managerial workers view the way their organization manages cultural diversity and are these views associated with their attitudes to other significant aspects of their work, such as their feelings of organizational support and commitment?" (Research paper), is one of the factors in carrying out this research.
In this research the authors have used questionnaire method and regression path analysis in order to gain information on employees' perception towards their organization management on cultural diversity and their perception of support from and commitment to that institution. The authors have highlighted the fact that in order to develop positive workplace atmosphere the managers must acknowledge all the employees from diverse background through effective communication thus also mentioning the fact of not underestimating the effect of making employees feel taken for granted. These recommendation stated by the authors were backed by four hypothesis designed by them, which is described further below in more detail. In order to assess this paper critically, I have cautiously evaluated the information present in this paper, the methodology used by the author and lastly the conclusion drawn by the author and based on these factors. I have tried to make my judgments on the weight of the essay and the literature review in it. My opinions are supported by the works of the other authors and article writers as well as certain amount of help has been achieved from Internet using search engines like Google, Yahoo etc., as well as referring some important websites, which is mentioned in the reference section of this paper. The critical review of this paper includes positive as well as negative remarks and I have also suggested few ideas for future study.
"Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today" Jinato Hu (Source: Online, Accessed on 1/12/09).
The above quote explains the importance and the need for diversity in today's dynamic world. Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and is about recognizing individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. According to Taylor Cox et al. (1993, p. 6), diversity is a "mix of people in one social system who have distinctly different, socially relevant groups afflictions". Nowadays, it exists everywhere. Nowadays diversity can be found even at workplace. Diversity emerged as an autonomous research domain in the 1990s, following practitioners' growing interest in how to 'manage' an increasingly diverse demographic workforce (Nkomo & Cox, 1996).
Workplace diversity refers to people's issues, focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization. It is usually defined broadly to include dimensions beyond those specified legally in equal opportunity and affirmative action non-discrimination statutes (Online, accessed on 2/12/09). Even though diversity at workplace can be beneficial but the company faces a lot of challenges accomplishing its desired goals along with overcoming these differences. At the start, the author explains about the diverse work environments found in Australian organizations. Since there is a high demand for highly skilled labour around the world, many large organization recruits international workers in order to meet their needs. Therefore, with increasing diverse workforce, it is important to manage diversity properly. This research is conducted in Australia which has a rich history of diverse population since 50,000 years (Online, accessed on 2/12/09).
In Australia, small and medium sized business units employ about 70% of workers (Syed, 2006) and Australia is turning overseas to improve a growing skills shortage in key industries, there is an increased focus, thus on how organizations can best manage cultural diversity among their employees. As mentioned in the paper by the authors, in Australia, there is policy named "Productive Diversity", influenced by which should be the company's policies regarding managing cultural diversity. This policy seeks to manage the same in all its forms, be it racial, ethnic but also on the basis of age, gender and so on. Besides, this policy stresses upon employees exposure to knowledge of overseas markets and business experience of people raised overseas so that effective management can be promoted. But according to Gill Kirton et al. (2005) "Managing diversity aims specifically to meet organizational goals: in this sense the concept or model is business driven, rather than underpinned by broader notions of social justice (Kaler, 2001).
The authors are justly putting their point forward, that not only in Australia but internationally, the results carried out show managers' practices and attitudes regarding diversity at workplace but very fewer have tried to explore employees' or rather non-managerial workers. The above statement can be justified with the statement that is mentioned by Peter Murray and Jawad Syed in their research paper that "While companies remain conscious about equal opportunity, notably through legislative prerequisites, only a few have affirmative action programs that go beyond the minimal fulfilment of legal requirements (O'Sullivan and Sheridan 1999; De Cieri and Kramar 2003)". Even though managerial practices and their behavior is important when it comes to influence or formulate companies policies regarding cultural diversities but it is the non-managerial staff who can actually affect or influence the tone of its effectiveness in working environment. Diversity management is related to many aspects of business be it employees performance, company's outcome, organization's working climate, job satisfaction, commitment of employees towards an organization and etcetera. Thus, the question that is often raised is that how do non-managerial employees view the way their company manages or tries to manage cultural diversity as according to Gill Palmer (Journal, pg. no 15 ) "Modern management has from the start been concerned to manage with and redress the impact of socially derived diversity seen as irrelevant to organizational effectiveness". Knowing this will further help to know about their nature, behavior or attitude behind their work or why they behave in a particular way in a particular situation arising out of cultural diversity problems.
Thus, the author has adopted a non-managerial view of cultural aspects of diversity. The study tries to explore the responses of general employees working in a large multinational financial institution in Australia regarding the relationships between their perception of organization's management of cultural diversity and their perception of support from and commitment to that organization.
THEORETICAL ASPECTS AND HYPOTHESIS
The basic need for managing cultural diversity is explained rightly by the author, as organizations are going more and more diverse these days. Thus, the need for having a well-balanced and positive working environment is very much necessary to maintain the aesthetics of the business. But to achieve this, it is very much necessary that the steps taken by the company to achieve the same should be well-known by the employees who are working not only at the managerial level but for others too and this can be done by making the information available through all formal or informal communication channels.
Here, the author has chosen to find out about the perceptions of non-managerial employees as it would provide the insight into whether the knowledge or message of diversity-related initiatives has reached properly to all the ranks. Thus, employees' perceptions on two main aspects have been explored:-
Employee's perceptions on whether and how their organization supports cultural diversity and whether they have got access to informal networks. The author also explains the need and importance of developing personal networks (groups or sub-groups among employees) within organizations because it will help different employee groups to gel with each other properly and will also help in interaction among different sub-groups and also talk of the way language helps in communication. With inclusion of these things in an organization, other problems like the sense of being an outsider among employees (coming from overseas) can be eradicated.
ABOUT AFFECTIVE COMMITMENT
According to David Ulrich et al. (1994), employee commitment develops where employees perceive their firms as mass - customizing employment relationships. The author rightly explains the basic meaning of affective commitment that is when an employee member identifies with a particular organization and its goals and wishes to work for the further development and achievement of goals. Thus, in this study it is very important as it will give an insight into whether the organization's cultural diversity management is affecting employees or not and to what extent is it affecting their behavior in the company.
PERCEIVED ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT
Perceived organizational support actually reflects employees' perceptions about their organization's readiness to work for the development of an individual employee because if the employee feels that he is being looked after properly and is rewarded on account of his work for the company then he is more likely to respond with increased commitment. In short the employee is laying his trust on the organization as Charlotte McDaniel (2004) defines trust as a core ingredient in the workplace, influencing the relationships between employees and employers. Therefore, more the organization support their employees' needs, the more they are likely to be emotionally attached to their company.
On the basis of above discussion, the author proposes four hypotheses:
- There is direct positive association between employees' cultural diversity management perceptions and affective commitment.
- There is a direct positive association between cultural diversity management perceptions and perceived organizational support.
- There is a direct positive association between perceived organizational support and affective commitment.
- There is an indirect positive association between cultural diversity management perceptions and affective commitment through perceived organizational support.
In the whole research paper, the author (with the help of research results given by different author) tries to prove the above proposed hypothesis helps in understanding these concepts better.
EVALUATION OF METHODOLOGY
The authors have used a primary research method by distributing questionnaires to conduct the research thus starting from distributing 300 questionnaires through Divisions heads thus targeting mostly 75% of non-English speaking sample. Based on the work of De Meuse and Hostager (2001) the authors designed questionnaires in such a way that would allow them to measure affective commitment, attitudes and perception towards workplace diversity of the employees. The authors have also tried to acquire information about employees feeling towards being accepted in informal group thus went further to design 15 more questions. Thus, an additional research was piloted on 30 students from graduate school of management which had likert type style questions. These approaches by the authors are rather vague or too complicated to comprehend as the flow of research becomes complicated as it progresses further.
The data analysis was done by using regression-based path analysis. I personally appreciate this method as it known to provide precise data. As mentioned in Jeremy j. Foster et al. (2006) book 'the goal of path analysis is to provide plausible explanations of observed correlations by constructing a model of cause and effect relations' which is a key elements of path analysis and according to Michael Patrick Allen (2004) 'Regression analysis allows us to assess how accurately an independent variable predicts a dependent variable'.
ALTERNATIVES TO IMPROVEMENT
In order to determine employee's perception towards cultural diversity in organization and to measure their commitment level in the workplace, the authors have conducted survey on non-managerial employees in an Australian Based Financial Company. The research method adopted by the authors is fairly a good way of obtaining quantitative data
The research seems to be more of quantitative research method as the research focuses attention on measurements and amounts (more or less, larger or smaller, often or seldom, similar or different) of the characteristic displayed by the people and events that the researchers study (Robert Murray Thomas, Blending qualitative & quantitative research methods in theses and dissertations, pg. 1, 2003).
However, during the selection of sample, there are couple of important questions that arises -
Firstly, why did author select only one company and why not two or three?
Secondly, as it is mentioned in the paper the strength of the company is of 2000 employees and still the size chosen was relatively small.
Thirdly, the choosing of questionnaire method than any other method is a key point of my critical review.
Fourthly, the authors have conducted another research on researcher's university and its need and relevance to the current study?
In order to carry out this research the authors have obtained written permission from the organizational head to distribute questionnaire to approx. 300 non managerial staff through the division head and the response rate is only 36 percent. According to me, the sample size was relatively very small whereas compared to strength of 2000 employees. Also, according to Bryman and Bell (2007) it is of utmost importance to have to have absolute size than relative size. By expanding the size of a sample increases the likely precision of a sample. "The bigger the sample the more representative it is likely to be (provided the sample is randomly selected), regardless of the population from which it is drawn" (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Also the fact that the random sampling was not carried out by the authors. The authors have mentioned that there was a constraint due to cost and time issue, but there is no indication of time frame and total cost involved or any budget assigned to carry out this research.
LIMITATION & RECOMMENDATION
The authors have used four hypotheses to carry out this research. Therefore in order to prove the outcome, they have conducted ample of research thus trying to cover various aspects ranging from employees perception to the cultural diversity to access to informal network and the feeling of being accepted or part of organization. These methods, used by the authors, according to me have only complicated this work. The reason I say this is because, the flow of information is not in accordance, as in the abstract or introduction doesn't give the picture of the entire research method. While reviewing the methodology, what I found out was that they have not mentioned the kind of research that they are going to conduct for e.g. there is not sign of this research to be primary one or a secondary research. Also at the beginning this research seems to be quantitative one but further down as we read it goes ahead with qualitative analysis. However, I appreciate the fact that the authors, themselves have come out with limitations on their research work thus starting from the sample size being very small to using different methods, with high level of limitations. The authors have mentioned their limitation in their paper and I must say this that all my doubts are coinciding with their points.
Throughout this evaluation process, I have realized that, if I have satisfactory amount of time and resources, if I would have extra time and resources, I would have conducted this survey in two different organizations as in current research the authors have taken a banking organization. By this we could have known the different diversity culture practiced in different organization and the result generated from this research would have helped in determining the satisfaction rate amongst non- managerial employee and their level of commitment towards their organization. With this information, Mangers could be given a distinct approach towards managing diversity in their organization.
This research paper have outlined certain important points pointing towards the way a manager should handle diversity in this organization, the places where a manager should take cautious steps to insure that employees won't have the feeling of being an outsider and lastly the importance of effective communication in the organization. Also there is huge scope (as also stated by the author) of research in this area. Future research could carry out this research probably with more sophisticated and straight forward approach as I have argued on the methodology used by the author upon few points that I have mentioned above. Although a few gaps were identified as a part of this critical review, the overall value of this paper can be rated as brilliant.
- "Brainy Quotes" [Online], 2009, Available at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/diversity.html , Accessed on 1/12/09].
- [Taylor Cox, Ruby L. Beale, 1997, Developing competency to manage diversity: reading, cases & activities, Published by Berrett -Koehler Publishers Inc.]
- [Cox, T. & Nkomo, S, 1990, 18(3), 39-48, Factors affecting the upward mobility of black managers in private sector organizations. Review of Black Political Economy]
- "Cornwell University ILR School" [Online], Available at: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/library/research/subjectguides/workplacediversity.html, Accessed on 2/12/09]
- ["Australian Explorer" [Online], Available at: http://www.australianexplorer.com/australian_history.htm , accessed on 2/12/09].
- [Syed, J. (2006), "What is the Australian Model of Managing Diversity?", Paper presented at the 20th Annual Australian and New Zealand Association of Management, Rockhampton.]
- [Gill Kirton, Anne Marie Greene, 2005, Edition 2, The dynamics of managing diversity, Published by Butterworth-Heinemann publication ltd]
- [Peter Murray and Jawad Syed, Journal, 2005, Pg. no. 210, Critical issues in managing age diversity in Australia, Published by Sage Publications]
- [Gill Palmer, Journal, 2003, Pg. no. 15, Diversity Management, Past, Present and Future, Published by Sage Publications]
- [David Ulrich, John H. Zenger, Jack Zenger, W. Norman Smallwood, 1999, Pg. 68, Results-based leadership, Published by Harvard Business School Press]
- [Charlotte McDaniel, 2004, Pg. 88, Organizational ethics: research and ethical environments, Ashgate Publishing Ltd.]
- [Jeremy J. Foster, Emma Barkus, Christian Yavorsky, 2006, Pg. 90, Understanding and using advanced statistics, Published by Sage Publication Ltd ]
- [Michael Patrick Allen, 2004, Pg. no 3, Understanding Regression Analysis, Published by Plenum publishing Corporation].
- [Robert Murray Thomas, 2003, Pg. no 1, Blending qualitative & quantitative research methods in theses and dissertations, Published by Sage Publication Ltd]
- [Bryman, A. and Bell, E., (2007), Business Research Methods, (2nd Edition), Oxford University Press Publications, New York]