Effective Diversity, Understanding Employee Needs, and Employer Advantage
Author: Cynthia Ozeki, California State University Dominguez Hills
To help students think about what employees from different groups need from their managers and organizations to be effective, and the advantages of hiring and supporting them. This exercise was developed for use in a human resource management course but could be adapted to many other types of classes.
1) Introduction: discuss the way the workforce is changing, with white males who have a full-time spouse at home being replaced by working mothers and fathers, people in dual-career relationships, people with eldercare responsibilities, and workers with different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Explain that this presents both challenges and opportunities for employers.
2) Divide the students into small groups. In a diverse class, students can be asked to choose a group that they identify with. In a less diverse class with mainly young, single students, you may wish to assign students to adopt the perspective of a group they don’t necessarily belong to. Groups may include:
- eldercare givers
- parents of children under 12
- parents of teens and older 4
- those in dual-career relationships without children
- age under 25
- age over 50
- working women
- grew up speaking language other than English
- other strong ethnic/racial identity (fit to groups represented in class and/or community)
3) Ask the each group to think about the type of people they have been assigned.
- What do they need? What kinds of support would they like from their managers and organizations? What benefits, policies, and management approaches would they find most helpful?
- What can they add to the organization that should make employers want to provide that support? What special skills, knowledge, or attributes do they have?
4) Have each group report back to the class, and list their responses to those two topics on the board. Compare the needs and advantages that are presented. Usually, students representing ALL groups will say that flexibility, understanding, and respect are important to them. They also usually recognize that employees who have strong outside relationships and commitments to family tend to have good people skills and a sense of responsibility at work, as well. Workers from different groups also bring new perspectives that may help an organization understand new types of potential customers.
5) Highlight conclusions: Having a diverse set of workers does present challenges, but hiring those workers and supporting them can bring benefits for employers.
Content contributed by Cynthia Ozeki as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity