Demographic changes in workplaces in recent years where the number of employees from minority groups has increased has created a significant challenge to organizations on how best to deal with the issue of diversity. Predominantly, the majority of organizations have opted either for colorblindness strategy or the multicultural approach to dealing with the increasing need for variety. While the multicultural approach was perhaps best placed to address the issue of diversity, overemphasis on minorities has contributed to resentment from employees from nonminority side. The AIM approach as proposed is based place to deal with the challenges that arise when either of the strategies is used.
The article “Unlocking the Benefits of Diversity: All-Inclusive Multiculturalism and Positive Organizational Change” is authored by Stevens, Plaut, and Sanchez-Bucks (2008). The focus of the article is the issue of diversity in workplaces and how organizations can unlock the demographic change in the U.S. for their benefits. For organizations to profit from the diversity in their workforce, Stevens et al., (2008) argue that they need to move beyond the strategies of colorblindness and multiculturalism. In place of colorblindness and multiculturalism as the two main approaches to dealing with diversity among employees, the article proposes the AIM model as it enables all employees to grow to their full potential. In an era when the number of minorities within organizational ranks has significantly increased due to demographic changes (Healey, & Stepnick, 2013, Chapter 4), the article observes that is no longer sustainable to continue using colorblindness and multiculturalism strategies of dealing with workplace diversity. There is an increasing necessity for organizations to create work environments that are receptive to diversity where there is more sense of inclusivity and less resistance.
Colorblindness as a strategy to diversity focuses excessively on fostering greater nonminority-minority collaboration while ignoring differences within the workforce tends to disfranchise employees from minority ethnic-racial groups (Stevens et al., 2008, p119). On the other hand, the multicultural approach explicitly recognizes employee differences as a source of strength that needs to be promoted. While multiculturalism should be able to create a constant environment of inclusivity and acceptance, the various strategies often used to encourage diversity to tend to fade. In most of these instances, employees from nonminority groups often feel left out as an organization implements a strategy where minorities are highly embraced (Stevens et al. 2008, p.122). To address the weaknesses in the two approaches, Steven et al (2008, p122) proposes that organizations adopt the AIM strategy as it recognizes the importance of individual differences necessary for gaining minority workers support while at the same time addressing the issues of exclusion likely to prop up among nonminority workers when the multiculturalism approach is used.
Colorblindness is one of the two main strategies that employees have been using for years to address the issue of diversity in the workplace. According to the article, this strategy is highly intertwined with the American culture of individualism, assimilation and the “melting pot” narrative. Organizations using this strategy to deal with issues related to diversity often focus on creating a work environment where conformity broader organizational culture is highly encouraged (Steven et al., 2008, p120; Healey, & Stepnick, 2013, Chapter 4). In a company where colorblindness is highly embraced, one is likely to encounter situations where the structure rewards nonminority-minority collaboration. While there is nothing wrong with promoting cooperation, Stevens et al., (2008, p.120) argue that demographic differences are often ignored in this type of strategy, an issue that ends up disfranchising employees from minority groups as their weaknesses are often masked to nonexistence. From the review of the literature, the article finds that this strategy is the most dominant strategy in the American culture where all people are treated the same despite differences. The problem with the approach is that minority employees are likely to be exposed to cases where their issues and challenges are not addressed, a situation with leads to a feeling of resentment and lack of inclusion (Healey, & Stepnick, 2013, Chapter 4)
The multicultural approach developed as a response to challenges and weaknesses associated with the colorblindness approach. Mainly designed to deal with the problem of lack of inclusion of minority employees in organizational activities, the multicultural approach is the better of the two main approaches to dealing with diversity. In an organization that embraces diversity, benefits of a diverse workforce and employee differences is highly promoted. Some of the activities that are often implemented to encourage diversity in multicultural approach include the use of networking, mentoring programs, workshops, and seminars. Diversity inclusivity strategy is likely to include a corporate strategy where an organization explicitly makes it clear in its mission statement, objectives and core value the place of diversity and inclusivity in its organizational culture. Additional resources including positions are usually set aside for minority groups to encourage inclusivity and make them feel appreciated. Though the approach was meant to create a lasting climate of organizational inclusivity in a diverse workforce, the various initiatives have been found to fail in the long run (Stevens et al., p122). Besides this, skepticism from nonminority workers who argue that the strategy is not sustainable as it excludes them and threatens a sense of purpose. As a response to a feeling of exclusion, nonminority employees are likely to engage in identity management where they are more likely to devalue outside groups. Use of the multicultural approach is further associated with cognitions and behaviors that could also make it difficult for organizations to realize the benefits of diversity. On this issue, it has been found that nonminority employees are likely to be less positive towards promotion opportunities and to organizational policies.
In response to the challenges associated with the two dominant approaches, the AIM model was developed to achieve an all-inclusive workplace. According to Stevens, et al. (2008, p.123), neither of the two approaches to diversity; colorblindness and multiculturalism to organizational diversity is likely to be received positively by all employees. The AIM approach emphasizes that difference is well addressed in organizations if it includes all employees. While the approach sees the role of minorities in the success of organizational operations, it does also recognize that the need to involve nonminority employees in the process of achieving benefits of workplace diversity. In this sense, the AIM approach is designed to address the concerns of exclusion that often arise when either colorblindness or multicultural approaches are used. Specifically, AIM recognizes how workers demographic backgrounds may affect acceptance of diversity initiatives.
Additionally, AIM is better placed to address threats to unity that may arise in response to multicultural policies (Stevens et al., 2008, p. 124). Recent studies on explicit inclusion of nonminority employees within the general multicultural approach to the diversity found that reduction in the feeling of exclusion. Specifically, this research found that Whites when included in a multicultural approach significantly supported the diversity initiatives. This finding informed the researchers proposes the AIM approach as it stands to involve all employees in diversity initiatives. As such, only an inclusive approach that fully develops and maintain identities is best placed to achieve diversity.
The findings show that the AIM approach as discussed above has the potential of helping organizations of getting the best from a diverse workforce. With the demographic changes suggesting the need for workplace inclusivity, it is crucial for organizations to move beyond focusing on single groups. Instead, they ought to come up with mechanisms that recognize diversity within their workforce to find a balance between the competing needs. Stevens et al., (2008) argue that it is essential that organizations focus on workplace relationships between different groups. In other words, the focus should move from satisfying interests of particular groups to an approach where concerns of all employees are addressed based on the uniqueness of the challenges that are affecting them. The authors argue that high-quality relationships are likely to emerge as long as organizations commit to implement AIM approach.
As discusses, the AIM approach suggested by Stevens offers the best strategy to diversity within organization. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to take up the challenge and put up measures that it is likely to promote an all-inclusive diversity approach. To succeed, organizations need to communicate in a language that does not disfranchise any of the groups of employees within their workforce. Minorities should design organizational structures in leadership positions where every employee has a proportionate opportunity for growth and development. If organizations commit to doing the above, they are likely to accomplish the many benefits that come with a diverse workforce which include commitments to organizational mission.
For the colorblind approach, benefits include ease of implementation since it’s intertwined with American cultural ideals. The approach is also beneficial since all employees are required to affiliate themselves with the broader organization (Chapter 4). Drawbacks include the possibility of resentment by minority employees as they are discouraged from acting and thinking in unique ways associated with their culture. Minorities also interpret the approach as exclusionary.
For the multicultural approach, benefits include many unique ways of solving problems. Workers are more likely to collaborate and work with one another to solve problems. Increases cultural awareness among minority employees. Potential drawbacks include the possibility of resentment and lack of support from employees who identify with the dominant group.
For the AIM approach, benefits include the possibility of the initiative gaining support from both the minority and majority groups. Helps to foster a cultural identity for both the nonminority and minority employees. Promotes, organizational trust, internal motivation, and satisfaction for all employees. Other benefits include the potential for recruitment and retention. Potential drawback consists of the difficulty of satisfying all the needs for each of the groups as employees have different needs.
Yes, I agree with the authors that the aim approach has the potential of addressing the problematic issue that arise when either the colorblindness or multicultural approach is used to deal with diversity issues. The fact that AIM addresses all the concerns for both the minority and nonminority employees means that chances of resentment are very minimal.
Healey, J.F. & Stepnick (2013). Diversity and Society: Race, ethnicity, and gender the 5th
Edition. Ney York.
Stevens, F. G., Plaut, V. C., & Sanchez-Burks, J. (2008). Unlocking the benefits of diversity:
All-inclusive multiculturalism and positive organizational change. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44(1), 116-133. Silver Spring, Maryland.