Instructions - Read the text and notice the highlighted words and phrases. After reading the text, select the vocabulary and grammar tabs to complete the activities. Have a discussion with a classmate/s about some of the terms.

The term workforce diversity is used to describe the composition of a workforce in terms of differences among the members. These differences include gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and able-bodiedness. In Australasia the legal context of human resource management is very strict in prohibiting the use of demographic characteristics for staffing decisions such as hiring and promotion. However, the discrimination against older employees continues in some sectors. Australasian organisations have been reluctant to hire older staff in spite of evidence to indicate that beliefs in their lessened capacity are false. Similarly, other forms of discrimination persist, despite laws designed to prevent them.

The issues of managing workforce diversity extend beyond legal considerations. Today’s increasingly diverse and multicultural workforce offers great opportunities with respect to potential performance gains. By valuing diversity organisations can tap a rich talent pool and help people work to their full potential. But what does this really mean? It should mean ‘enabling every member of your workforce to perform to his or her potential’. A female vice –president at Avon once posed the challenge of managing diversity this way: ‘consciously creating an environment where everyone has an equal shot at contributing, participating, and most of all advancing’.

Although easy to say, meeting social responsibilities to truly value diversity has proven harder to accomplish. Even though progress in equal opportunity continues to be made, lingering inequalities remain in the workplace. However, not only will the composition of the workforce change in the future, but the nature of the relationships people have with organisations will also continue to change. The past two decades have been characterised by an upward trend in all types of non-standard forms of employment. There has been an increase in casual work, temporary work, outsourcing and the use of agencies and other labour-market intermediaries. Given the continuing need for organizations to respond quickly in the marketplace, we could expect these forms of flexible employment to increase; but differences in approaches to pay, conditions of employment and opportunities for development are ready examples of the inequality this can involve.

Diversity bias can still be a limiting factor in too many work settings. Managing a diverse workforce needs to take into account the different needs of members of different identity groups. This latter point is illustrated very clearly by Fiona Krautil, who makes reference to wild animals in the zoo. She says:

Imagine your organisation is a giraffe house. Equal opportunity has been very effective widening the door of the giraffe house to let the elephant in, but home won’t be best for the elephant unless a number of major modifications are made to the inside of the house. Without these changes the house will remain designed for giraffes and the elephant will not ‘feel at home’.


Schermerhorn, J. R., Woods, P., Chau, S. L., Davidson, P., Poole, D., Simon, A. (2011). Management foundations and applications (1st Asia-Pacific edition.). John Wiley & Sons.

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