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Inclusive Identities in the Context of Increasing Culturally Diverse Workplaces

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Strength in diversity

Globalisation and migration have meant that a culturally diverse workplace is increasingly the norm. And because meaningful employment is a vital factor in successfully integrating into a new country, understanding how different ethnic groups interact within the workplace has become critically important.

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An EU funded research project set out to better understand the formation and role of inclusive identities within the workplace. The goal of the 'Workplace diversity' project, due for completion in 2011, has been to identify possible means of establishing a sense of togetherness while accepting and appreciating mutual differences. The rationale behind the project is grounded in theories of social identity, self-categorisation and acculturation. From the beginning, the project assumed that different policies and histories of migration, country-specific demographics and unique cultural belief and value systems would influence the direction and strengths of the diversity effects within particular society. Partners in Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand gave researchers the opportunity to make a cross-national comparative study, and to identify general trends within the context of increasing culturally diverse workforces across Europe. During the first part of the project, researchers aimed at identifying issues of cultural diversity on the national, organisational and personal levels. Studies were then conducted with participants of different cultural backgrounds and positions, within different types of organisations and across different countries. These studies included face-to-face interviews with employers and employees of different cultural backgrounds. The researchers also developed a survey in German, English and Dutch to conduct comparable studies in the three countries of interest. These surveys were used to test the impact of organisational and personal factors on workforce composition, diversity management and performance. In order to have cross-culturally valid and reliable scales and measurements, several pre-tests with students and employees were carried out. These covered the perceived benefits and threats of diversity, diversity perspectives and inclusive identities. A model was then designed to describe national and organisational effects on the implementation of action programmes for ethnic minorities. The project has so far successfully identified different organisational and national mechanisms to broaden and manage diversity. It has also shed new light on the relevance of the personality and attitudes of primary decision-makers. In both the quantitative and qualitative studies carried out, it is evident that a person's personal intercultural experience and attitudes towards diversity affect how he or she conceptualises and perceives diversity. This significantly determines whether he or she will work towards a diverse workforce and implement diversity management practices. It is expected that this research will lead to recommendations for successful diversity management and a deeper understanding of the cultural context of the workplace.

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