In the West, particularly in the US, the concept of workforce diversity emerged at first from the civil rights and women’s movement, and the increase in the population of ethnic minorities. Workforce diversity started gaining popularity when discussions directed at a management audience generated an argument about how the changing arrangement of the workforce indicated very serious consequences for employers who ignored such issues.
From the business management perspective, most companies became concerned with diversity as a result of the ethical and legal implications generated by anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action. As time went on, management then became interested in how diversity can be best managed innovation strategies in order to reduce conflict and increase performance. Presently, diversity is being viewed as a business strategy as well as a source of core competency since a diverse workforce attracts diverse customers which are very good for the business. Hence, at the advent of the 21st century, workforce diversity became an important concern for innovative businesses as recent studies have shown that organizations that are successful are those who include people. Workforce diversity is now very prominent as even more conventional organizations are beginning to adopt diversity initiatives and incorporate it in their business strategies and customer approaches believing that there is a business case for workforce diversity which can lead to successful innovation of product or services.
Despite the fact that the concept of workforce diversity is increasingly becoming more important in today’s workplace, many organizations still lack an understanding about the benefits and it can produce as they still regard legal obligation as the major reason for participating in diversity policies and practices. One of the reasons for this myopic view is that, not much work has been done about how a diverse workforce can essentially contribute towards an organization’s success in terms of helping it to realize its business objectives and to gain more competitive advantages in the global environment where innovation is a challenge. Most researchers have concentrated on discussing about the different dimensions of diversity especially when it comes to an organization’s cultural perspective. Others have focused on the impact of workforce diversity on one aspect of organizational performance (for example, innovation) without relating it to how it can help the organization fulfill its objectives, and therefore limiting the benefit that diversity can bring, to just one aspect of the firm rather the overall business performance.