International Diversity Management: Examples from the USA, South Africa, and Norway

International Diversity Management: Examples from the USA, South Africa, and Norway

Joana Vassilopoulou (University of Sussex, UK), Jose Pascal Da Rocha (Columbia University, South Africa), Cathrine Seierstad (Brunel University, UK), Kurt April (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Mustafa Ozbilgin (Brunel University, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3966-9.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter develops earlier work in the field by Ozbilgin and Tatli (2008) and uses examples of three countries–the USA, South Africa, and Norway–to illustrate the complexity of managing diversity across national borders. Key challenges of international diversity management are highlighted. These three cases have been selected using a theoretically driven, maximum variation approach. The concept of diversity management initially evolved and was developed in the USA. In contrast, South Africa is of interest due to its specific Apartheid past and its post-Apartheid challenges related to diversity management. Lastly, Norway is ranked among the best and most equal countries in the world. By exploring these different examples, we question the assumption that there can be a one best way to manage diversity in an international context.
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The Multicultural And Diverse Organisation In The Usa

It is crucial to highlight the role legislation and public policy has played to sustain diverse practices in organisations. This is even more so for the business world, as it typically responds to “what is good for business” (i.e., if corporate executives decide that diversity management no longer benefits the financial goals, then this trend may disappear). This is certainly the case in the USA where the progression of civil rights legislation from the 1960s and later outlawed job discrimination on the basis of sex, race, colour, religion, pregnancy, national origin, age, and disability. Those acts do not provide any protection against discrimination based on political beliefs and membership in organisations, except for a membership in unions. The latest addition to these strong legal acts (in comparison to the EU or other states) is the Lilly Ledbetter Wage Bill, signed by President Barack Obama (AKA Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009)), aimed at closing a loophole in the US legislation related to equal pay for equal work. In addition to these and other related acts, the strongest measure for companies to accept and allow for diversity management is the matter of compliance with current regulations.

Non-compliance with existing legislation which supports diversity in organisations comes at a high cost for companies since the federal Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) standards sanctions organisations to meet the criteria. This is even the case for multinational corporations, and the EEO Commission has repeatedly disseminated public policy documents based on court based decisions in regards to non-compliance by a foreign employer that is controlled by an American employer in the field of financial control, common ownership, common management, and others (EEO Commission vs. Arabian American Oil Co, 1991). Required by law, EEO/AA programmes tend to be focused on the recruiting policies of companies to attain a certain percentage of minority employees, ensuring that HR policies are not discriminatory in nature and keeping the company out of trouble regarding non-compliance. Yet, the mere creation of conditions which allow for the raw nature of diversity to exist and to subsist are just the beginning of a long story (Harvey & Allard, 2002). Having legally secured and sustained diversity in the company, the creation of long-term mechanisms and strategic initiatives in order to manage diversity are equally important, as they allow for the active development, promotion and inclusion of different skills and perspectives of previously disadvantaged groups. Subsequently, this inclusive politic of diversity will lead to organizational change.

However, a brief overview of available literature on the topic shows an incoherent list of best practices (Schneider, Smith, & Paul, 2001; Kossek, Lobeland, & Brown, 2006; Garcia, Posthuma, & Colella, 2008) or lessons learned (Cox, 1994; 2001), which lack the sophisticated analysis of empirical- and data-driven research. This leads to a distorted understanding and appreciation of beliefs versus facts and the majority of the literature does not allow for evidence for what constitutes an effective strategy and appropriate measures of achievement. Measures of accountability tied to pay and promotion do not necessarily address the actual process of re-designing compensation or performance evaluation systems (Kossek & Lobel, 1996). There is not enough comparative perspective on how various programmes and policies complement one another in an overall diversity strategy. It is also unclear what makes a best practice for an individual firm tick better than for another. It seems overall that best diversity practices were concentrated in certain industries rather than a “one-size-fit-all”-strategy. Therefore, type of industry, company size (smaller companies usually fare better in adaptive strategies), age of a company, location of HQs and affiliates, history with diversity issues, and demographic trends might be various key criteria to look for when attempting to research the linkage between policy and implementation of diversity strategies.

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