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Background

Companies are increasingly recognising that there is no such thing as a standardised workforce. Society is changing and with it the wide-ranging demands of work / life situations are evolving, with more skilled employees requiring flexibility in their working patterns (Bolen & Kleiner, 1996)[1]. This is potentially very useful for employers as it gives them a much greater pool of people from which to recruit and can bring in new sets of skills that would not necessarily be as well developed if the pool of employees remained narrow or restricted (Sadri & Tran, 2002)[2].

One of the most obvious and commonly cited issues in terms of managing diversity is the encouragement of women (and specifically mothers) to return to work on a flexible basis, following maternity leave. This area of diversity is actually heavily controlled by law. However, this is not to say that companies do not voluntarily see the benefits for themselves and deliberately work towards ensuring that opportunities are made available to all types of staff members (Strachan, et al., 2004)[3]. Considerable research has been undertaken, predominantly by management and employee based journals, in to how these diverse policies can be established and what the likely impact is on staff members and performance; this body of research will be drawn upon throughout the project (Smith, 2002)[4].

There is also a traditionally-held view that those in highly skilled or professional roles are seen as more valuable to an organisation. Therefore, these individuals generally receive more management time and effort when attempting to manage diversity or offer flexibility within their jobs. Increasingly, as the number of manual workers declines and the age demographic shifts, this is no longer the case and diversity issues are just as prevalent in the manual sectors as in the professional sectors.

This research aims to look at the various different ways in which the organisation in question, which has a combination of manual and professional workers, can use diversity within the workplace to the advantage of the organisation. Consideration will be given to which factors are the most important (e.g. flexibility in working times or flexibility with job roles) and which policies should be put in place to manage the diverse workforce. This will take account of a wide range of issues including sex, marital status, religion and culture (McAllister, 1997)[5].

Research Questions and Objectives

As this is a diverse organisation, the research objectives are two-fold. Firstly, the research will focus on what is currently happening in the organisation. How is the organisation currently managing diversity? What types of employees are currently in the organisation and how are their needs being managed? Furthermore, are there any individuals or social groups that are not well represented? If there are, why are these under-represented within this workplace? (Wright, et al., 2006)[6]

The initial aim of this stage of the research is to identify the current practices and their effectiveness, both in the context of this individual organisation and in terms of the productivity of the various teams (Harisis & Kleiner, 1993)[7].

Secondly, the research will look at opportunities to improve the position and to see how diversity can be better managed across all roles within the organisation. From this first stage of the research, it is likely that areas of concern will be identified, for example, teams that seem to make very little use of the diverse employee pool available (Kirton & Greene, 2004)