Globalization and its impacts are very evident in the modern era. Organizations are operating at the international level in order to reach more customers, as well as resources. Among these resources are the human resources, which are critical for the success of any organization. Organizations are in search for the best personnel and skills to attain competitive advantage and success. As a result, they hire employees from different parts of the world.
These employees have different cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as races and religions. In addition, organizations hire both men and women, and people of different sexual orientation, physical abilities and heritage. Further, in any organization, it is normal to find people with varying mental abilities and ages. Therefore, it is the role of organization’s managers to effectively manage workplace diversity, which facilitates the working together of employees from different backgrounds for the common goal (Mor 130).
Consequently, managing diversity is becoming increasingly relevant to leaders and executives in business organizations and scholar as well. In fact, managing diversity is an important success factor in the fast changing and complex business environment. The term diversity refers to the differences that exist between people as a result of their varying backgrounds. Managing diversity, therefore, refers to harmonizing these differences for the benefit of the organization. It contributes to organizational success in the long run (Golembiewski 5).
The purpose of this essay is to examine an organization which has had a problem with managing diversity. It will discuss how the problem developed and how the organization has been able to deal with the challenge. The organization to be studied is Amtrak.
Managing Diversity: Amtrak Case Study
Amtrak, the short form of ‘American Track’, is the business name of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. The corporation began its operations in the year 1971, and it has been providing passenger train services across the United States of America in over forty six states. It employs over 20000 workers. The corporation has in the past faced diversity management problems. The problems hindered its performance and profitability since the leaders could not create harmony between the different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds in the workforce.
It is important to note the United States society is among the most diverse societies in the world. In fact, the country is a multicultural nation with people from almost all cultures in the world. Therefore, organizations in the country will always have multicultural employees and serve customers with varying cultures, ethnicities, religions and races. An organization that fails to manage this diversity effectively will have a downward performance (Cañas and Harris 56).
The major diversity problems that Amtrak was facing included poor representation of the minority communities in the organization’s workforce. The minor ethnic group was being represented poorly in the organization which is supposed to serve the whole nation. In addition, female workers were discriminated in the selection and recruitment process.
Female employees were also discriminated in promotions and thus not represented in the top management such that it was hard and almost impossible to find women in positions such as top level management, engineers, police and mechanic. Nonetheless, they were not offered lower positions such as the ticket staff and conductors. In fact, the organization was once considered as a male only railroad jobs. For this reasons, the organization lost so much talent in women who could have a positive impact in its performance (Cañas and Harris 89).
The treatment of other minority in the organization was no different. Minority in America refers to the ethnic groups with less people such as the African Americans and Indian Americans among others. They were not offered major jobs and contracts in the corporations. In addition, very few individuals from these races were in technical operation of the corporation. The corporation was made up of employees from dominant ethnic groups and most of them were men. Moreover, the few people from the minority races working in the corporation were paid less compared to the rest of employees. They were also denied promotions (Johnson 6).
Many people criticized the management of the organization. The minority groups were especially critical since the organization failed to give them equal rights as other citizens. Being a governmental organization, Amtrak was supposed to treat all ethnic groups, races and gender groups equally. Hiring of employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity both illegal and immoral. In fact, this highlighted the lack of government commitment in the fight against formal discrimination, especially in workplaces. For this reasons, various groups, labor unions and civil rights organizations criticized the management of the corporations. The campaigns pushed for the organization to change its diversity management strategy (Johnson 6).
Methods the organization used to overcome and manage the problem
Amtrak was able to overcome the diversity problem after its performance had already been affected by the problem. Today, it is one of the corporations that are very sensitive to diversity. The corporation believes that diversity brings new and diversified ideas in the company as well as different business perspectives. This has been very crucial in the manner with which it serves its customers and works towards achieving its goals. The organization is always committed to ensuring that its employees’ values and cultures are appreciated as well as the skills that they bring to the organization (Johnson 6).
Today, diversity is a priority at Amtrak. The corporation and the entire management are committed to ensure that their employees, consumers, as well as the suppliers and the community, are all satisfied. According to the director of employment diversity at Amtrak Kevin Marshall, “diversity plays a vital role in customer service delivery and ultimately impacts the success of our operations” (Diversity/Careers par 1).
The corporation is committed to ensure that there is a diverse workforce as well as other stakeholders in the organization. This is a strategy that has had a very positive impact to the success of the corporations operations. It is important to note that lack of proper management of diversity will lead to poor performance of the employees since they will have low morale, motivation and a negative attitude toward the employer (Diversity/Careers par 1).
Among the steps that the company took to solve the problem is the introduction of diversity training programs. In these programs, the company ensures that each of the employees is offered training that will help them cope with other employees from different cultures. The corporation provides information as well as resources and the background that is necessary to help employees work in a diverse environment (National Railroad Passenger Corporation, par 2).
According to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (par 2), “this training is mandatory for all management employees, and has been integrated into existing operational training programs for all other employees to ensure a consistent message throughout the entire organization. At Amtrak, it is essential we provide employee education to assist in maintaining accountability for promoting a diverse inclusive environment”.
The program is meant to be a continuous process, and it always emphasizes on major diversity principles. This creates awareness among the employees on the importance of diversity in workplaces (National Railroad Passenger Corporation par 3). Additionally, the program identifies and solves the negative impacts of workplace diversity, for the benefit of the organization and the workers. The program has had a positive impact on the organization’s employees to understand what the company expects them to do in order to sustain a diverse and inclusive working environment (National Railroad Passenger Corporation par 3).
The company also took other initiatives to increase the number of minority people in their organization as well as increase the number of women employees. In addition, these people could be given higher positions than before. It engaged in leadership development program facilitate this initiative. The program main target was to develop a design which could attract and retain high potential employees at Amtrak.
Under this program, Amtrak trains young graduates from college and recruits them to work with the corporation. The program targets women as well as minority groups such as African Americans, the Indian Americans and other minority racial and ethnic groups in America. The company also took an initiative to change its recruitment and selection, promotion and performance appraisal processes. In addition, the company made a decision to fully revamp its internal equal opportunity investigation and enforcement procedures (Johnson 6).
The decision to curb discrimination in organizations can either be voluntary by the organization or a legal requirement. In most cases, the law deals with the issues of discrimination. The law can force the organizations to offer equal opportunities to all people. In fact, there are legislation and laws which have been enacted by governments (both state and federal) to protect the minority workers and women against all forms of discrimination. In addition, there are laws which are meant to protect the workers welfare by ensuring safety in the work environment, and harassment by the management (Johnson 6).
Amtrak has in the past been involved in some cases of discrimination. It has been involved in racial discrimination, most notable against the African Americans. In a discrimination court case in which Amtrak was made to pay $8, the company was accused by the plaintiff of putting the African American employees under intensely hostile working environment and racially discriminating them. The African American employees were also highly disregarded by the management due to their race. The management used to hire less qualified white employees at the expense of more qualified African Americans. In one court case, Morgan v. Amtrak, the company was forced by the court to compensate worker 500000 dollars for racial based discrimination and harassment (Johnson 6).
After solving the problem
After Amtrak solved the problem of diversity management, its performance improved significantly. In fact, the corporation today appreciates the importance of diversity in its workplace. It believes that proper management of diversity has a positive impact on an organization especially in the modern business environment. Diversity of suppliers, customers and employees helps the organization get a wide variety of ideas from people of different diversities (National Railroad Passenger Corporation par 3).
Additionally, the organization will be able to get a wider variety of expertise. People from various ethnic groups, races and gender have a large pool of knowledge which can be beneficial to the organization. Today, Amtrak is an organization that offers equal opportunities to all employees regardless of their races, gender, ethnic groups or sexual orientation. Its performance has been significantly better since all employees have the chance to make their contributions, they feel motivated, and their morale is always high due to good treatment (National Railroad Passenger Corporation par 3).
Diversity management is one of the key factors that employees and management should embrace for their organizations to succeed in today’s business environment. The world is becoming small due to globalization and as a result, multinational organizations are hiring employees from different backgrounds. The labor markets have become more competitive due to globalization and integration of modern societies, and, therefore, business organizations are forced to source for workers in the international labor market. Amtrak is one of the corporations that have been involved in discrimination cases in the past.
The corporation was sued by a number of employees for discriminating them. It was involved in the court cases, and it was forced to change its discrimination behaviors and adopt sound diversity management strategies. Today, it can be argued that Amtrak has over the years been able to overcome diversity management challenges in the increasingly divers workforce.
Cañas, Kathryn, and Harris, Sondak. Opportunities and Challenges of Workplace Diversity: Theory, Cases, and Exercises, Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.
Diversity/Careers. Amtrak is hiring for its technical operations, 2012. Web.
Golembiewski, Robert T. Managing Diversity in Organizations, Tuscaloosa, Al: University of Alabama Press, 1995. Print.
Johnson, Eunice. “Amtrak pays $8 to settle a racial Discrimination lawsuit.” Jet, 96.7 (1999): 5-13. Print.
Mor, Barak M. E. Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2011. Print.
National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Diversity Training, Amtrak. 2012. Web.