Monocultural Management For A Multicultural Workforce?

Noticing my iPod battery was low again and therefore being caught in the daily crossfire of opinion leaders in the Berlin underground made me think of the actual immigration debate we are facing (just to mention Mr Sarrazins latest publication, see also posts by Saiid and Thomas) and the correlation to our blog topic. So I thought I’d give you some basic ideas for a discussion plus an insight into how Diversity Management is being practiced here.

1. Living in Berlin, Germany’s most liberal state, I followed the discussion around the Senate aiming to introduce a new bill to favour immigrants for jobs in public services like public transport or waste disposal. Comparable to the women’s quota, which is a loved topic within our group… With his article in a Berlin newspaper, the BZ (rather boulevard press than investigative journalism), columnist Gunnar Schupelius caused a debate stating “Because I am a man, not gay, without foreign roots, and proper German, those quotas would discriminate me inevitably.”

2. Another thing is the discussion around the expected shortage of skilled labour. Some parties are discussing the need to integrate foreign workers further; some are discussing the need to train German workers more. Anyway, last week, Die Zeit, a nationwide weekly newspaper, claimed that even experts are discordant of whether there will be any shortage of labour. The article reported that in most professions there are more students than employees at the moment, e.g. engineers (number of students twice as high number of employees), doctors (number of students three times as high as number of employees) and data processing (number of students even five times as high as number of employees).

Is it just our German habit to discuss the undiscussable? Should we calm down, wait and see what is really going to happen? And overall, what does this imply to Strategic Management?

As Mr Müller already mentioned in his comment, (Cultural) Diversity Management lags behind in Germany. According to a study by Bertelsmann Stiftung, surveying 1200 companies, 44% of German companies stated that they were practicing Cultural Diversity Management (compared to 75% of European and 92% of US/UK companies). Here, it has to be considered that due to legal requirements, Diversity Management is deep-seated in US companies. In addition, whereas 16% of workers have a foreign background in the US/UK, in Germany it is just 11%. (Image: Spreading of Diversity Management in different regions/sectors)

Nonetheless, why don’t we care about our diversified workforce? In my opinion, 11% is a number worth of recognition!

Putting aside legal requirements set by the state, one factor might be the definition of Cultural Diversity Management by German companies. The same study showed that the German approach is learning by doing instead of systematically applying Diversity Management into specific management systems.

Management Systems
In the UK and US, Cultural Diversity Management is 100% operationalised in Human Resource Management and Public Relations. Even in technical areas like Supply Chain Management (69%) and Process Management (77%), US and UK companies apply systems to manage diversity. In Germany, which lags behind in almost every area except Knowledge Management and Marketing, Cultural Diversity Management is a topic still driven by HR (93%).

Contact to foreign cultures and Coaching
93% of companies understand the contact with foreign cultures in assignments abroad as a positive side effect but do not systematically support them. Just 50% of managers are offered coaching. This gap points out that contact alone is not able to build up intercultural competence, but might even help to build up stereotypes.

Let me know what you guys think of the first two points and if German companies should copy some of the US/UK approaches!

8 Responses to “Monocultural Management For A Multicultural Workforce?”
  1. Izzy says:

    Very good writing Mary! I love the structure of your post (big bullet points and headlines encourage me to keep on reading). I also liked the articles that you linked, especially the one from “Die Zeit”. Although I haven’t heard about the debate from this point of view, I was wondering a long time already how everyone was talking about labour shortage. I was impressed though that according to “Die Zeit” by now, there is a surplus of students in areas such as physics and engineering. However, one can seriously not state that there is no labour. There is, they just spread over millions of different subject areas. If you ask me, it always felt wrong that people spend years and years studying some seemingly ridiculous stuff without anyone telling them that there are no jobs. Instead of paying the “wrong” people enormous amounts of Bafög, why isn’t the government thinking about introducing some kind of scholar ship for those who study what is currently needed in the labour market?

  2. thob84 says:

    I also wanted to thank you Mary and compliment you for your great layout. It makes your post very attractive and user-friendly to read. Also, you have chosen a very thoughtful title. Referring to your highlighted question, if Germany should just wait and see: In the context that we already “lag behind” it is favourable to initiate processes soon in Germany. Did I get your question right there?

    Again, thank you very much.

  3. Mary says:

    Thank you very much for your comments!!

    @Izzy: Totally right. Why not plan and support students to learn things that will be needed once they graduate? However, I think it is better to promote those studies without making it harder to study ‘ridiculous’ things, because in my eyes studying is not just about getting a great job, but also (and more important) about gaining knowledge and developing intellectual skills. But I do think that schools could need a great deal of support in terms of course guidance – this could be a first point where the state could start – in telling a-level students what might be beneficial for them in terms of jobs.

    @Thomas: Totally right, too. I think that Germany needs to do something to cope with “multi-culti” at the workplace. Maybe you guys can imagine additional things to those mentioned above?

  4. martinjaja says:

    Thank you Mary for the really great post. Absolute great writing and interesting composition of arguments. I want to shortly to add something to topic of “multi-culti” workplace as you named it.

    I think the opinion of Gunnar Schupelius is just absolutely ridiculous. The only good thing about his article is that it maybe promote the public discussion on that topic. However, in fact discrimination in the job application process or more general in the workplace is really an issue. The initiative of Berlin’s senat is not the only one.

    Just a couple of month ago, a huge pilot-project for anonymous job applications was introduced by L’Oréal, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom und Procter & Gamble.

    Furthermore, a study by the European Working Conditions Observatory highlights that there are indeed positive effects of anonymous job application.

    I guess many similar initiatives and studies will appear soon! It seems to be the economy as well as politicians have found the importance of the topic!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] In this field you can take a political and a company’s perspective. In political terms we have discussed the benefits of a Women’s Quota in depth (see these posts by Katrin and Thomas). We have shown that although there is an increasing labor participation of women there are also several Career Obstacles (see post by Katrin, Thomas and Maria). Consequently, there are diverse opportunities to increase labor participation. In terms of a company’s perspective we considered Diversity Management as a crucial role to manage a multicultural labor force (see Maria’s post). […]

  2. […] Die Zeit However, so does the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. The article picks up the debate on a study by DIW (German Institute for Economic research), another study by IW (Institute of German Economics) and another one of HIS (Institute for Research at Hanover University) and compares all these findings against each other. (See also my post Monocutural Management for a Multicultural Workforce?) […]

  3. […] myself faced the term Diversity Management in a broader view. Within Monocultural Management For A Multicultural Workforce? I brought up some issues for discussion and examined the role of Diversity Management in US/UK and […]

  4. […] such as: Monocultural Management for a Multicultural Workforce, Burn Out, Another Dimension: Age, Diversity Management and Stakeholder Value clearly show our […]

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