, Volume 107, Issue 4, pp 511-531

Transforming Human Resource Management Systems to Cope with Diversity

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine how workgroup diversity can be managed through specific strategic human resource management systems. Our review shows that ‘affirmative action’ and traditional ‘diversity management’ approaches have failed to simultaneously achieve business and social justice outcomes of diversity. As previous literature has shown, the benefits of diversity cannot be achieved with isolated interventions. To the contrary, a complete organizational culture change is required, in order to promote appreciation of individual differences. The paper contributes to this discussion by exploring the implications of this change for human resource management, and explaining how the systems of practices should be changed when they are directed to diverse groups. The model designed to test this notion includes: (1) demographic and human capital diversity as independent variables, (2) group performance (measured as innovation outcomes) as the dependent variable and, (3) the orientation of the strategic human resource management system as a potential moderator of this relationship. The main conclusion of the empirical analysis developed is that different patterns of human resource management practices can be used, depending on the type of diversity that the organization faces, and the specific effects that it wishes to manage. Concretely, three alternative management systems are identified in this paper, with different moderating effects. This result has interesting implications for human resource management professionals, explained in the last section. The limitations of this study are also discussed, as well as some issues that future research in this field should address.