Chapter 4: Diversity and Multiculturalism

4.2 Diversity Plans

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to

  1. Apply strategies to create a multicultural work environment and diversity plans.
  2. Create a human resources (HR) plan with diversity considerations.

While provincial and federal laws must be followed to ensure multiculturalism, the culture of the company and the way the organization operates can contribute to the nurturing of a multicultural environment (or not). Most companies have a formalized and written anti-discrimination and harassment policies. For example, Zappos’ policy states, “The diversity of Zappos’ employees is a tremendous asset. We are firmly committed to providing equal opportunity in all aspects of employment and will not tolerate any illegal discrimination or harassment. Examples of such behavior include derogatory comments based on racial or ethnic characteristics and unwelcome sexual advances. Please refer to the applicable sections of the Employee Handbook for further guidance.”[1]

Implementing a policy is an excellent first step, but what is important is how the company acts on those formalized processes and written policies. Let’s say, for example, an organization has a published policy on inclusion of those with physical disabilities, but much “schmoozing” and relationship development with managers takes place on the golf course on Friday afternoons. While the policy states the company doesn’t discriminate, their actions and “traditions” show otherwise and do discriminate against those with disabilities. If this is where the informal work and relationship building take place, an entire group could be left out of this process, likely resulting in lower pay and promotion rates. Likewise, organizations that have a “beer Friday” environment may discriminate against those whose religions do not condone drinking alcohol. While none of these situations are examples of blatant discrimination, a company’s culture can contribute to an environment that is exclusive rather than inclusive.

Many organizations have developed diversity-management plans that are tied to the written diversity policy of the organization. In fact, in many larger organizations, such as Hilton, manager- or director-level positions have been created to specifically manage diversity plans and programs. Josh Greenberg, a researcher in the area of workplace diversity, contends that organizations with specific diversity plans tend to be able to facilitate changes more quickly than companies without diversity plans.[2] He says there are three main steps to creating diversity plans:

  1. Assess diversity. Employee satisfaction surveys, discussions, and open forums can provide insight into the challenges and obstacles to diversity. Including all workers for input is necessary to create a useful plan.
  2. Develop the diversity plan. Based on step 1, develop a series of attainable and measurable goals regarding workplace diversity.
  3. Implement the plan. The commitment of executives and management to the diversity plan is necessary. As such, the next step requires formulating action plans based on the goals developed in step 2 and implementing and measuring those plans must follow. The action plan should be the responsibility of the entire organization, not just the director of diversity or human resources.

In Section 4.2.1, “Recruitment and Selection,” we discuss some of the HR plan considerations in company culture and “our way of doing things” that are worth considering when creating a diversity plan.

Recruitment and Selection

As you saw in the opening of the chapter, “Diversity and Multiculturalism,” sometimes organizations do not mean to be exclusive or discriminatory, but their practices are discriminatory and illegal. For example, the B.C. Human Rights Act says it is illegal to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for a particular type of person or discourages someone from a protected group from applying for a job.

We address discrimination in the selection process in Chapter 5, “Selection.” However, a mention of the four-fifths rule, or 80 per cent rule, here is important to determine how we can quantitatively evaluate discrimination in our selection practices. The rule states that a selection rate for any race, sex, or ethnic group that is less than four-fifths of the rate for the group with the highest rate could be regarded as adverse impact. Adverse impact refers to employment practices that may appear to be neutral but have a discriminatory effect on a protected group. For example, let’s assume 100 women and 500 men applied to be firefighters. Let’s say 20 of those women were hired and 250 men were hired. To determine adverse impact based on the four-fifths rule, calculate the following:

  • Selection rate for women: 20 per cent
  • Selection rate for men: 50 per cent
  • Then divide the highest selection rate: 0.20/0.50 = 0.4

Because 0.4, or 40 per cent, is less than four-fifths, there may be adverse impact in the selection process for firefighters.


If employment tests are required, a test must be in direct relation to the job. For example, an organization that uses a personality test in hiring must be able to show that the personality-test results are non-discriminatory and do not exclude a population.

In addition, if a reasonable accommodation is needed, such as an interpreter, and it does not cause financial difficulty for the organization, this should be granted.

Employers should also consider the type of test and how it might exclude a certain group of people, such as those who don’t speak English as a first language. We will discuss multiculturalism and testing further in Chapter 5, “Selection.”

Pay and Promotion

Developing policies related to pay and promotion is key to fairness in a multicultural situation. It is widely published that women make about 77 per cent of what men earn for similar jobs.[3] Many studies have tried to determine a cause for this pay inequity, and here are some of the possible reasons studied and researched:

  1. Hours worked. Studies have said that women tend to work fewer hours because of child-care and housework expectations.
  2. Occupational choice. A study performed by Anne York at Meredith College found that women tend to choose careers that pay less because they are worried about balancing family and career.[4] In addition, numerous studies show that women choose careers on the basis of gender stereotypes (e.g., nurse, teacher) and that this leads to lower pay.
  3. Stereotypes. The concept of male bias is a possibility. In many studies, people were more likely to choose male doctors over female doctors, even when experience and education were the same.[5] There appears to be a perception that men may be more competent in certain types of jobs.
  4. Maternity and family leave. Women leaving the workforce for a short or extended period of time may affect the perception of their promotability in the workplace.
  5. Salary negotiation. A study performed by Bowles and Babcock showed that men were eight times more likely to negotiate salary than women. In addition, when women did negotiate, they received lower monetary returns.[6] Another study performed by Cornell University found that women were often negatively affected in their job when they negotiated salary, as compared to men not being viewed negatively after negotiations.

But whatever the reason for pay difference, all managers should be aware of these differences when hiring and promoting. Allowing managers to determine the pay for their employees can also bring out negative stereotypes—and lead to breaking of the law. Determining a set pay schedule for all new and promoted employees can help remedy this situation.

A factor in promotions can also be the mentor-mentee relationship. Most individuals in organizations will have an informal mentor who helps them “through the ranks.” Traditionally, this informal mentor relationship results in someone “pairing up” with another who has similar physical characteristics, is the same gender, or has a similar mind-set. As a result, if the organization has, for example, mostly men, it is likely the female will not be informally mentored, which can result in lack of promotion. Likewise, if the workforce consists of mostly Caucasian females, it is likely the African-American male may not develop an informal mentor relationship with his female counterparts. Developing a formal mentorship program to ensure that everyone has a mentor is one way to alleviate this situation.

Now What?

Now that you have an awareness of the aspects of HR that could be affected by multiculturalism, you may consider what steps you can take to create a more multicultural workplace. The first step would be to create a diversity plan, as discussed earlier in this section. The second step would be to look at the operation of the HR department and to figure out what departmental measures can be taken to promote diversity.

HR, for example, can provide a training series on power and privilege and how it relates to the workplace. Awareness is the first step to creating a truly multicultural environment. Once employees recognize their own power and privilege, the training could be developed to include laws related to diversity, and discussions on bias can take place. Then discussions can be held on how to improve HR plans such as job analysis, recruitment, and selection to create a multicultural work environment. Rather than thinking about this training as one of many objectives that must be accomplished, think about the training from the conversation perspective. Getting the conversation started is the first step in this personal- and professional-development process for employees.

Possible multiculturalism training might do the following:

  1. Build cultural knowledge about customs, religions, and histories.
  2. Discuss treatment of people based on them as individuals, rather than as part of a “group,” which can result in stereotyping.
  3. Teach employees to listen actively, which can help raise cultural awareness.
  4. Train employees to rethink current policies and how those policies might be exclusive to a certain group.
  5. Work on resistance to change. Many employees think, “This is the way we have always done it, and now we have to change it because we have a group of ____ working here now.”
  6. Evaluate if the leadership team has a multiculturalism perspective. Are many ethnic backgrounds and other multicultural traits represented in senior positions?

While these suggestions may not eliminate power and privilege, the ability to talk about differences and expectations can be a key ingredient to creating a more inclusive environment. Sometimes this type of training can help people evaluate their perceptions. For example, suppose a complaint came through that a woman was making derogatory sexual comments to only one group of men in an organization. When talked to about it, she said she made comments to the “techies” because she thought the comments would provide them a needed confidence boost, but she generally wouldn’t make those types of comments. This is an example of her perception (that “techies” need confidence boosts from women) followed by her action (the comments) on this perception. When we assume our perceptions are correct, we are usually wrong. Training can get people to consider their emotions, stereotypes, and expectations. Besides training, asking ourselves a series of important questions can be the start to making diversity and multiculturalism work.

Things to Consider When Creating a Multicultural and Diverse Work Environment

The University of California, San Francisco HR department developed the following list of questions to help uncover personal and professional bias.[7]

  • Do you test your assumptions before acting on them?
  • Do you believe there is only one right way of doing things, or that there are a number of valid ways that accomplish the same goal? Do you convey that to staff?
  • Do you have honest relationships with each staff member you supervise? Are you comfortable with each of them? Do you know what motivates them, what their goals are, and how they like to be recognized?
  • Are you able to give negative feedback to someone who is culturally different from you?
  • When you have open positions, do you insist on a diverse screening committee and make additional outreach efforts to ensure that a diverse pool of candidates has applied?
  • When you hire a new employee, do you not only explain job responsibilities and expectations clearly but orient the person to the campus and department culture and unwritten rules?
  • Do you rigorously examine your unit’s existing policies, practices, and procedures to ensure that they do not differentially impact different groups? When they do, do you change them?
  • Are you willing to listen to constructive feedback from your staff about ways to improve the work environment? Do you implement staff suggestions and acknowledge their contribution?
  • Do you take immediate action with people you supervise when they behave in ways that show disrespect for others in the workplace, such as inappropriate jokes and offensive terms?
  • Do you make good faith efforts to meet your affirmative action goals?
  • Do you have a good understanding of institutional -isms such as racism and sexism and how they manifest themselves in the workplace?
  • Do you ensure that assignments and opportunities for advancement are accessible to everyone?
  • What policies, practices, and ways of thinking have differential impact on different groups?
  • What organizational changes should be made to meet the needs of a diverse workforce?

Human Resource Recall

Why is multiculturalism important in the workplace? What is your role, as an employee in your organization, to ensure a diverse workforce?

How Would You Handle This?: Refer a Friend

Your manager is very concerned about the cost of hiring the three new people you need. As a result, she doesn’t want to post the advertisement in a variety of places; she thinks it’s best to just use a “refer a friend” recruitment strategy. When she moves forward with this strategy, 10 people turn in résumés. Upon looking further, it appears all applicants went to the same private religious college and graduated around the same time. You are concerned that this method of recruitment lacks diversity.


How would you handle this with your manager?

Key Takeaways

  • Often there are cultural aspects to an organization that make it resistant to becoming an inclusive environment. These are often not obvious, but it is important to be aware of how your own company culture impacts multiculturalism.
  • One way to begin the discussion within your organization is to create diversity action plans, for which the entire company is responsible and for which HR is the change agent. In addition to companywide initiatives, HR can also look within its own HR plans to see where it may be able to change.
  • In recruitment, awareness of how and where you post announcements is crucial.
  • Testing should be fair and unbiased and shouldn’t negatively impact someone based on race, national origin, gender, social class, or educational level.
  • There are many reasons for differences in pay. Development of a set pay scale can alleviate some of the issues surrounding unfair pay, especially between men and women.
  • Formal mentorship programs can create multicultural understanding and can ensure people do not stick with their own race or gender when helping someone move up the ranks in an organization.


  1. What are some things we can do, personally, to promote multiculturalism?
  2. What are the advantages of having a set pay scale? What are the disadvantages?

  1. ", Inc. Code of Business Conduct and Ethics,", accessed August 25, 2011,
  2. Josh Greenberg, “Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, Solutions,” The Multicultural Advantage, 2004, accessed July 12, 2011,
  3. "Pay Equity and Discrimination," Institute for Women's Policy Research, accessed August 25, 2011,
  4. E. Anne York, “Gender Differences in the College and Career Aspirations of High School Valedictorians,” Journal of Advanced Academics 19, no.4 (Summer 2008): 578–600,
  5. David R. Hekman, Karl Aquino and Brad P. Owens, “An Examination of Whether and How Racial and Gender Biases Influence Customer Satisfaction,” Academy of Management Journal 53, no.2 (April 2010): 238–264.
  6. Hannah Riley Bowles and Linda Babcock, “When Doesn’t It Hurt Her to Ask? Framing and Justification Reduce the Social Risks of Initiating Compensation,” IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper (December 14, 2008), accessed August 25, 2011,
  7. University of California, San Francisco, “Managing Diversity in the Workplace,” chap. 12 in Guide to Managing Human Resources, accessed July 11, 2011,


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Introduction to Human Resource Management - First Canadian Edition Copyright © 2017 by Zelda Craig and College of New Caledonia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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