Diversity and Knowledge Sharing in the Workplace

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Thesis: Diversity Facilitates Knowledge Sharing in Inter-unit Collaborations in Non-profit Organizations

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Project Aims

The following are the aims of the research:

- to determine the characteristics of workplace diversity with specific attention to the amount of knowledge;

- to determine the impact of diversity management on knowledge sharing within the departments of an organization.

Research Questions

The main research question guiding this study is whether diversity can help facilitate the sharing of knowledge among employees in a not-for-profit organization. Knowledge sharing is a very critical aspect of enhancing the knowledge and experience of the workforce informally (Noe, 2013). In a highly diversified workforce, each employee will have their own level of skills, experience, knowledge, and understanding (Noe, 2013). Through a collaborative framework such as teamwork, the employees are expected to share their knowledge and experiences in a manner that facilities others to learn from the other employees (Morfaw, 2009). While this model of operation has been successful in profit making companies, the same has not yet been ascertained in the not-for-profit sector, since the focus in nonprofits is only on providing human services rather than making profits.as such, there is little focus laced on the skills of the workforce, but rather on a desire to contribute positively in the society (Noe, 2013).

Besides this man question, the study will also seek to respond to various other related research questions, which are all linked to the main objectives of the study. These are:

- To what extent does diversity influence individual behavior in nonprofit organizations?

- What are some of the issues raised in contemporary literature on the topic?

Project Significance

In the past decades, organizations depended much on homogenous workforces whereby workers thought and behaved in the same way. On the contrary, managers in contemporary organizations are demanding for workforces that are slightly different from those of former years (Noe, 2013). This is because of the ever changing nature of the business environment that places pressure on companies to conform to new developments if they have to keep thriving. Organizations today recognize workplace diversity as the catalyst for competitive advantage (Hazard, 2004). With diversity, organizations can capitalize on larger quantities of knowledge that characterize diverse work environments. Knowledge is a useful resource for an organization. In a dynamic and competitive economy, knowledge has been proven to provide sustainable competitive advantage (Foss & Pedersen, 2002).

Due to their complex areas of specialty, non-profit organizations have to adopt staffing and training systems, which focus on the selection of employees with specific knowledge for various tasks. The organizations have to transfer knowledge from persons who have it to those who need to know across departments (Hinds et al., 2002). Precisely, organizations should pay more attention to the exploitation of knowledge-based resources that come with diversity of the workforce.

Project Background

The diversity of the society today reflects in many places including workplaces. So broad is the concept of diversity, that it surpasses gender, race and ethnicity among other factors. Previous studies have defined diversity in a number of ways. According to Deloitte (2011) diversity is what makes people and entities unique; it includes backgrounds, life experiences, personality, and beliefs (Morfaw, 2009). Put differently, diversity is what makes people and entities what they are. Diversity is the combination of the invisible and visible differences that inform peoples view of the world as well as perspectives and approaches.

Today, knowledge is a distinct form of workplace diversity. Understanding how knowledge affects competitiveness at the organizational level is very critical. There is the need to examine, challenge, and remove the institutional structures and practices hindering knowledge sharing for better competitiveness of an organization. Sound diversity management is the only tool to achieve this goal. Iwata (2004) defined the management of diversity to include the planning and implementation of organizational systems and practices in such a way that maximizes the potential advantages and minimizes the potential disadvantages.

Knowledge sharing is a critical channel through which the workforce can contribute to innovation, knowledge application, and eventually the competitiveness of the organization (Jackson et al., 2006). The sharing of knowledge among the workforce and across teams allows the organization to exploit its knowledge-based resources (Cabrera and Cabrera, 2005). According to previous research, knowledge sharing positively relates to lower production costs, speedier completion of projects, firm innovation capabilities, team performance, and firm performance in the form of revenue growth (Collins & Smith, 2006).

Literature Review

Diversity is a very crucial concept in human resource management today. While much of the existing literary studies have centered on the impact of diversity on profit making organizations, the not-for-profit sector is also feeling the impact of workforce diversity. One of the key areas where not-for-profit organizations are benefiting from diversity is on knowledge sharing (Noe, 2013). Not-for-profit organizations work with different communities empowering them and making positive contributions in life changing situations (Morfaw, 2009). Therefore, the need to have a knowledgeable workforce is very eminent for successful operations.

Workforce diversity brings together individual employees from different backgrounds in terms of their culture, religion, race, age, abilities, and ethnicities (Morfaw, 2009). Therefore, each person in the workforce has their own way of approaching issues and challenges in the organization. The more diverse a workforce is, the more it will benefit the organization in terms of learning opportunities (Kunze, Boehm, and Bruch, 2013). The employees will learn from each other on how to solve problems, make decisions, and interact with different communities. This learning process will help advance the organizations goals, thus, helping it achieve its objectives.

Not for profit organizations thrive on the basis that their employees are capable of delivering their mandate to the communities. In most cases, these employees are mostly volunteers who wish to join in the course by supporting the organization. In an environment where there are many employees and volunteers working in the community, diversity can be used as a strategy for training, educating, and empowering the workers (Kunze, Boehm, and Bruch, 2013). For instance, a more diverse workforce in terms of the age, gender, culture, and abilities can create a favorable environment for the workers to learn from one another through their experiences (Morfaw, 2009). For example, it is much easier for one to learn new languages, get to know other cultures, and improve on their communication and leadership skills when in a multicultural environment.

Also, the concept of diversity is important for organizations, more so in the not-for-profit sector because it not only affects how the employees view themselves, but also how they perceive those around them. As such, it influences how people within an organization relate with each other given the differences that exist among them (Kunze, Boehm, and Bruch, 2013). Therefore, it is very critical that an organization creates appropriate mechanisms for dealing with issues such as communication, change, and adaptability, which ultimately affect relations in a diverse workforce. Eventually, these will form a strong foundation for workers to interact and learn from each other for the benefit of the organization.

Diversity gives an organization an edge in the global environment. For a not-for-profit organization, a highly diversified workforce can help the organization position itself in the world as its employees will be more knowledgeable with global issues, which they will learn from each other through their interactions as they get to know each others culture (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006). Therefore, the organizations diversity strategy can also been aligned to its environment. For instance, the organization that operates in a global environment with major offices in each of the continents globally can benefit from the intercultural communications that the employees will acquire through their interactions as they shape their intercultural competencies and skills (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006). This implies that the company is under pressure to deliver on its commitment to promote unity in diversity through its products, services, and strategies (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2010). Diversity helps the organization maintain its global image as one of the most diverse and inclusive organizations in the world.

Effective diversity management in organizations is very critical in strengthening an organizations competitive advantage. Diversity management helps the organization to address issues of change management, organizational behavior, and customer relations (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006). As such, it is a very critical aspect of organizational management. If all these aspects of diversity are addressed, the organization will be better placed to serve its customers, offer high quality products and services, and face off any emerging or existing competition (Morfaw, 2009).

In an organization where diversity in the workforce lacks, there are bound to be tensions among the different cohorts of workers, which may derail the company from functioning properly to achieve its objectives. Part of the reasons why the tensions between the younger and older employees in the company keep growing is social stereotypes (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006). Based on these stereotypes, young people are considered less experienced and less knowledgeable, hence, are unfit to hold powerful positions in the organizations hierarchy.

On the other hand, the older employees perceive themselves to be more knowledgeable and more experienced to take up leadership positions in the company. However, such stereotypes are baseless in the modern society where younger people have access to more information via the internet, the chance to advance their education, and various opportunities to learn new leadership skills (Kunze, Boehm, and Bruch, 2013). Therefore, any young employee who shows great potential in leadership must be given an opportunity to put their knowledge and experience into action for the benefit of the organization.

Therefore, if an organization takes its diversity management seriously, it will be able to educate its employees on the importance of building strong relations and creating a good environment for every person in the organization (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006).

Diversity in large organizations encourages cross cultural communication and intercultural interactions. Cross cultural communication refers to the ability of an organization to successfully create, facilitate, strengthen, and improve on the relationships between members of different cultural backgrounds within an organizations environment (Iwata, 2004). Intercultural networking on the other hand, entails interactions between pe...

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