Employee Attitudes towards Organizational Diversity on Business Performance; Perspectives from the Small and Medium Enterprises Employees in Kisii Town
Erick Nyakundi Onsongo, Zirwel Rasugu Maina
Review of Contemporary Business Research, 2(1), pp. 30-40.

The study focuses on barriers encountered by employees in dealing with workplace diversity in small and medium enterprises in Kisii Town. Discrimination, prejudice and ethnocentrism are cited as the most common challenges in managing organizational diversity. The study clearly emphasizes that organizations should take measures to manage diversity to harness and leverage the potential of employees for competitive advantage in the Organizations with diverse employees. The organization management should ensure that the employees are better suited to serve diverse external customers an increasingly global market. The organizations should have a better understanding of the requirements of the legal, political, social, economic, and cultural environments. The data for this study was collected through a comprehensive survey on the employee attitudes towards organizational management of diversity on business performance, the perspectives of small and medium-sized business operating in Kisii Town. A total of 145 small and medium enterprises were chosen out of a sample of 420 firms, representing 30% of the population, which satisfies the sampling criteria. The target population was stratified sampling into the business industry it represented. The study found out that discrimination was the most frequently encountered barrier for managing workplace diversity; employee performance was not based on their abilities, but on arbitrary characteristics of religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or physical handicap. The study recommends systematic learning about cultural differences and the way business is conducted where the employee is working, training employees to learn about and be sensitive to cross-cultural differences, encouraging employees to accept diversity, and offering training, which can improve employees’ ability to work with diverse others with cultural differences and increase inclusiveness in an organization.

Key words:Managing Diversity, Sexual Orientation, Employee attitude


The needs of the 21st century demand an employer that is culturally sensitive and internationally focused, with an orientation toward the future rather than the past. Diversity is “in,” much to the dismay of defenders of the past, the likes of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Dinesh D’Souza, E. B. Hirsch, Allan D. Bloom and Rush Limbaugh.

Globally the demographic landscape is changing such that more and more the corporate work place will be influenced by People of Colour (Zane, N.C 2002). This is that non-dominant, non-white status segment of the population, which, by virtue of the negative meaning placed on them, has been granted limited access as a group to the societal rewards of wealth, power and prestige, and whose value and contribution to society is continually minimized. Moore, S (1999) indicates that the business sector is changing constantly and rapidly in order to cope with a lot of challenges and to respond to the many new needs and demands in society. The place and the role of the employee/ customer have become of very high importance in these changes and reforms. Managing customer satisfaction is therefore indispensable for business sector organizations in order to see if they are doing the right things and if they are doing things right. In being a public service this is not always the easiest thing to do, due to the nature of the “client” on the one hand and due to the nature of public services on the other hand. Employees/customers have different faces and different roles. This is also translated in a difference in public and private service delivery.

Schein, G.H (1996) observes that Multiculturalism, as the new paradigm for business for the 21st century, is a political ping pong term greatly misused and highly misunderstood. Since for many it is also a value leavened concept, it has come under fire from diverse segments of the population, who due to their social position view the world differently. The fact that where you stand determines what you see is a reality in most situations, and it is especially true for the concept of multiculturalism and the practice of managing diversity.

To survive in today’s competitive business arena, more employers are adopting fair employment practices to attract talent. This inevitably creates a diverse workforce pool with different values and beliefs. If not well managed, it could create tension among staff and affect their performance and morale (Wright P.M & Snell S.A 1999) On the other hand, if handled effectively; a diverse workforce could produce amazing results for the organization. For this reason, diversity has evolved from a windowdressing initiative to a business survival tool. However, managing diversity goes beyond accommodating people of different ethnicity, gender or even values. It is acknowledging that people have distinctive values and these beliefs are invaluable to the organization. It is creating an inclusive environment that engages the varied workforce and treats every employee fairly.

Diversity has been an evolving concept. The term is both specific, focused on an individual, and contextual, defined through societal constructs (Moore, 1999). Many current writers define diversity as any significant difference that distinguishes one individual from another—a description that encompasses a broad range of overt and hidden qualities. Generally, researchers organize diversity characteristics into four areas: personality (e.g., traits, skills and abilities), internal (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, I.Q., sexual orientation), external (e.g., culture, nationality, religion, marital or parental status), and organizational (e.g., position, department, union/non-union) (Friday, E & Friday, S 2003)). The trend in defining diversity “seems to favour a broad definition, one that goes beyond the visible differences” that, for many people, are too closely linked to affirmative action (Al- Lamki S, M 2002). One of the first researchers to use this inclusive definition, R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., was pivotal in moving diversity thinking beyond narrow EEO/Affirmative Action categories. In his landmark work, Beyond Race and Gender, he argued that to manage diversity successfully, organizations must recognize that race and gender are only two of many diversity factors. Managers and leaders must expand their perspective on diversity to include a variety of other dimensions (Thomas, 1992). Workplace diversity management, in his model, is also inclusive, defined as a “comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees.” (Thomas, 1992)

The variety of experiences and perspective which arise from differences in race, culture, religion, mental or physical abilities, heritage, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. It's important to understand how these dimensions affect performance, motivation, success, and interactions with others. Institutional structures and practices that have presented barriers to some dimensions of diversity should be examined, challenged, and removed. Patrick ( 2010) A good startingpoint for thinking about diversity is to become familiar with “It is the policy of the organization not to engage in discrimination against or harassment of any person employed or seeking employment with the organization on the basis of race, colour, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation or status as a covered veteran. This policy applies to all employment practices, including recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, merit increase, salary, training and development, demotion, and separation.”(Patrick, 2010)

In today’s business environment, corporations depend on their employees more than at any other time in the past. This is particularly true in hi-tech, biotech, finance, and other market segments where employee contribution does not directly depend on the nominal time spent at work. Employee dedication and employee care of corporate interests are part of employee loyalty. Formally defining employee loyalty in a constructive way is not an easy task. According to Powers “employee loyalty (unfortunately) is whatever the employee and employer agree that it is”. Johnson, D.W (2003) makes the point that although employee loyalty has been widely discussed in literature, the concept of loyalty remains loosely defined. They suggested a three-tiered, psychologically-based definition of loyalty that included “the variety of obligation types that loyalty can imply, and anticipates the potential for asymmetrical loyalty configurations between employers and employees”.

Loyalty cannot be expected without reciprocity. To expect a high level of loyalty from its employees, a company is expected to show a similar, or even higher, level of loyalty to them. Most of the time, however, this is not happening in the U.S. corporate environment. Despite being dependent on employee loyalty, U.S. corporations show little or practically no loyalty to their employees. It is typical for a company to lay off employees without warning, taking them by surprise. Most employees in corporate America realize that they can be let go at any time and that management would do their best to hide layoff plans. Even the expectation of losing one’s job so suddenly, and in quite an intimidating manner, may be enough to destroy employee loyalty. This is just one example of how corporate America is shooting itself in the foot. There are many other examples of corporations showing very little loyalty toward their employees (Johnson D.W 2003)

Debbs, M. P (1996) observes that Managing diversity provides a distinct advantage in an era when flexibility and creativity are keys to competitiveness. An organization needs to be flexible and adaptable to meet new customer needs. Heterogeneity promotes creativity and heterogeneous groups have been shown to produce better solutions to problems and a higher level of critical analysis. This can be a vital asset at a time when the business is undergoing tremendous change and self-examination to find new and more effective ways to operate. With effective management of diversity, the business develops a reputation as an employer of choice. Not only will you have the ability to attract the best talent from a shrinking labor pool, you can save time and money in recruitment and turnover costs.

Kwak, M (2003) Companies with loyal employees have a significant competitive advantage and a higher rate of survival compared to companies with less loyal employees: “The long term success of any company depends heavily upon the quality and loyalty of its people” Loyal employees are assets to a company, and their retention is key to its success; for one, they bring in loyal customers.

Given their importance, employers need to be able to identify and retain loyal employees (Homan, A. C 2004) the fact that an employee has been working for a company for 20 years doesn’t automatically guarantee his or her loyalty. For example, an employee might have difficulty finding a better job opportunity due to a lack of marketable skills. An analysis of retail stores in the U.K. showed that a loyal workplace generates significant benefits for the company. The study found that “employee loyalty in this industry is multi-faceted and can be understood in relation to commitment to the retailing industry. In the past, most employees would work for one company their entire life. Altman noticed that, in the past, having a job meant a commitment for life. People would get hired by one company and retire from the same company the employers were also more loyal to their employees. There was strong sense of trust between these two parties that would bond them for a long time. Levin concluded that in the past employees looked for job security in exchange for their loyalty and hard work; the same situation does not remain in the present context now, employees look for a more independent, mobile workforce. Loyal employees help in the growth and sustainability of a company. Employee loyalty reduces a company’s financial strain, saving on investment in the recruiting process of new staff. Providing proper training to employees also brings new customers to the company (Lockwood, N.R 2004)

Matter, C (2005) argues that Gaining employee loyalty is not a one-time task, but requires constant care. It comes from mutual relationship building and it is not recession proof. The article “The Death of Corporate Loyalty” posed a question whether companies that are cutting thousands of jobs will be able to generate loyalty and commitment among their remaining employees. In the past, long-term job tenure was much higher; however, such expectations are fading quickly with voluminous job cuts. Managers empowered in this way are likely to flex their muscles at every opportunity. Told to act like risk-taking entrepreneurs, they will expect entrepreneurial rewards as well.

Small enterprises are not an exception in the economic and social world, but a fundamental aspect of the way in which a society organizes itself and produces. While the performance levels of small businesses have traditionally been attributed to general managerial factors, such as manufacturing, marketing and operations, accounting systems may have a strong impact on the survival and growth of SMEs. A large number of business failures have been attributed to inability of managers to plan and control properly the employees of their respective firms. In particular, the small firms may face serious problems due to their operating conditions and specific characteristics. The ‘resource poverty’ that small firms may face creates a situation where the owner manager has many functional responsibilities and financial management may just be one of the responsibilities.

Problem Statement

Employee Diversity encompasses a wide variety of differences, including work experience, parental status, educational background, geographic location, and much more. Managing diversity means more than simply observing legal and policy requirements. It also means actively promoting community and comfort with difference, “We recognize, value, and affirm that social diversity contributes richness to the organization community and enhances the quality of life for individuals and groups. We take pride in our various achievements and we celebrate our differences. Workplace diversity can provide tremendous benefits in terms of improved morale, outside-the-box thinking, greater teamwork, and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect.

There has been a trend under which organizational management Ignore diversity issues which costs time, money, and efficiency.

Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions; loss of productivity because of increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people of all kinds; complaints and legal actions; and inability to retain valuable employees, resulting in lost investments in recruitment and training.

This prompted the researcher to conduct a study to find out the Employee attitudes towards organizational diversity on business performance among the small and medium enterprises employees in Kisii Town

2.7 Conceptual framework

Theoretical framework is the foundation on which the research is based on

Source: Researcher, 201

Research Methodology

The data for this study was collected through a comprehensive survey on the employee attitudes towards organizational management of diversity on business performance, the perspectives of small and medium-sized business operating in Kisii Town. The study was confined to the business sector, an important sector of the economy in terms of wealth creation and contribution to economic growth where employee diversity is more significant. A total of 145 small and medium enterprises were chosen out of a sample of 420 firms, representing 30% of the population, which satisfies the sampling criteria. The target population was stratified sampling into the business industry it represented.

The researcher with the help of supervisor used the Content Valid Index (CVI) which is a scale developed by computing or rating the relevant items in the instrument or questionnaire by checking their clarity, their meaningfulness in line with all objective of the paper stated dividing by the total number of items. After the computation the instrument was considered valid since the value gotten was above 0.060 (0.77>0.060)


Secondly in handling reliability, it ensures the degree of consistency/stability; hence it involved examining several times, as the researcher checked for reliability in relevance, clarity and ambiguity of items in the instrument. In achieving this, a pilot study was done at another town which was not part of study so as to detect any major challenge likely to result from the research instrument to be applied. A total number of 25 respondents were used for the pretesting by though SPSS. The research instrument was considered reliable since Cronbach’s coefficient α was above 0.70.

Table 2: Reliability

The data were analyzed using the statistical package for social sciences (SPSS), applying both parametric and non-parametric tests. In order not to discriminate between firms managing employee diversity and firms not managing diversity, a binary logistic regression was used.

Research Findings and Discussions

TThis section presents the data, its analysis and interpretation. It dealt with employee questionnaire, document analysis, and observation schedule. The five-point scale ranging from “strongly agree” (SA) to “strongly disagree” (SD) was used to show the respondents’ response, “strongly agree” (SA) and “agree” (A) in some cases were combined to be “agree” (A) and “strongly disagree” (SD) and “disagree” (D) in some cases were combined to be “disagree” (D). “Undecided” (U) did not change. To indicate how often some discrimination activities took place, terms such as always, frequently, occasionally, seldom and never were used.

Biographical Data of the Respondents

Below is a table discussing the gender age and educational level of the employees?

Table 1: Biographical Data of Respondents

Source; Researcher, 2012

Table1 indicate that 100(68.9%) of the respondents are male while 45 (32.1%) are female. It also shows that 23(15.9%) of the employees were below 30 years of age, 17(12.7%) were between 31 and 40 years, 102(69.0%) were between 41 and 50 years, while 3 (2.4%) were above50 years of age. The table also shows that 15 (9.5%) of employees have attained secondary education, 6(4.0%) have college education, 105(83.3%) have attained university education while4 (3.2%) have attained masters level of education. It is clear from this table that there were more male employees than female employees in the selectedsecondary organizations. This implies that most of the organizations managing employee diversity staffs are male dominated. It also shows that a majority of the respondents were between 41and 50 years of age. This is an indication that most of the employees are mature people. It is also clear from the table that majority 120(83.3%) of employees are highly trained with attainment of University level of education. It is also clear that a small number of employees 15(9.5%) are untrained with only Secondary level of educational attainment.

Respondents on the Years Worked in the Organization

The study sought to establish the experience in years for the employees working in the small and medium enterprises in Kisii Town. The results are shown in figure 4.3 below.

Figure 2. – Respondent years of experience Source: Field Study 2012

The study shows majority respondents have experience ranging from 5 – 20 years, with the respondents having 16-20 years representing 59% and those with experience ranging between 10-15 year, constituting about 35%. Overall, the employees involved in the study have a wealth of experience which is necessary on managing employee diversity.

Employees Response on the Discrimination Based on Diversity in Organization

Below is a table showing employees responses on various employee discrimination practices based on diversity in the organization.

Table 2: Employees Discrimination on Diversity in organization

Source: Field Study 2012

From table 2, indicate 16 (10.7%) stated that they were always discriminated against Religion, 17(11.7%) frequently, 53(36.3%) occasionally, 36(25.0%) seldom and 23(16.3%).It can be concluded that, majority of employees, 60(41.3%) stated that they were not discriminated by their Religion. The respondents also indicated that they are always discriminated because of their marital status 39(26.8%, 49(34.1%) were frequent, 37(25.2%) occasional, 15(10.9%) seldom and 4(3.0%) never. Majority of employees, 86(59.3%) stated that they were discriminated based on their marital status as compared to 20 (13.9%) of employees who stated otherwise. Regarding culture, 54(37.1%) stated they are always discriminated based on culture, 55(37.9%) frequent, 100(19.8%) occasional, 11(2.2%) seldom and 15(3.0%). Majority of the employees 108 (70%) are discriminated by other employees based on their culture. Gender in the organization was also a strong factor, 20(13.9%) stated they were always discriminated based on gender, 68(47.4%) frequent, 38(26.2%) occasional, 12(8.3%) seldom and 6(4.2%) never. This shows that majority of employees 89(61.3%) were victims of gender discrimination in the organizations.

Methods Used by Employers in Managing Diversity

The table 3: below presents employees responses on the various methods used by the employer in managing diversity in the organization.

Table 3: Managing employee diversity Methods used by employers

Source: Field Study 2012

According to table 3, 60 (41.9%) indicated that lecture method was used always, 32(21.6%) stated frequently, 38(26.8%) occasional, 4(3.0%) while 10(6.7%) stated never. This shows that lecture method is widely use in organizations as indicated by a majority of the respondents that is, 91(63.5%).it only in few organizations that this method is used as suggested by 14 (9.7%) of the respondents.

From the table, 46(31.7%) of respondents stated that Demonstration method was used always, 47(39.9%) stated frequently, 31(22.0%) occasionally, 9(6.2%) seldom while 1(0.2%) stated never. This shows that employee in most organizations employ demonstration method as suggested by 103 (71.6%) of the respondents. It is in few organizations where this method is not used as suggested by 9 (7.2%). Respondents stated as follows regarding the use of organization discussion, 50 (34.9%) always, 59 (40.9%) frequent, 34 (24.0%) occasional, 1(0.2%) seldom while 0(0.0%) stated never. This implies that organization discussion is widely practiced in organizations may be due to its benefits as suggested by 109 (78.5%) of the respondents.

When asked about how often their employee used Question and Answer method, 15(10.5%) stated always, 65(45.0%) stated frequent, 61(42.5%) occasional, 2(1.6%) seldom and 1(0.8%) never. This implies that question and answer methods are widely employed as suggested by 80(55.5%) of the respondents. In other organizations, this method is used sometimes as suggested by 61 (42.5%) of the respondents.

Concerning group presentations, 40(28.2%) stated always, 55(10.9%) frequent, 84(58.5%) occasional, 7(1.4%) seldom and 5(1.0%) never. This suggests that although group presentation has been embraced in some organizations, as suggested by 56(39.1%), this method is practiced sometimes in majority of the organizations as indicated by 84(58.5%) of the respondents.

The Relationship between the Managing Employee Diversity and Business Performance

A multiple regression model has been used to describe the relationship between the managing diversity (Y) which depends on business performance (X1), Gender (X2), Religion (X3) and Organizational Position (X4). This is given by the equation;

Y= βо+β1X1 +β2X2 +β3X3+β4X4 + ei,

Where e is the error term.

Table 4: Relationship between managing diversity and Business performance

As shown in Table 4, none of the predictor variables had coefficient of correlation between themselves which is more than 0.5; hence all of them were included in the model. The analysis also indicated high correlation between the response and predictor variables.

Table 5: Coefficients determination

Analysis in Table 5. Shows that the coefficient of determination (R2) equals 0.846, Gender, Marital status; Religion and organizational Position that is, explain 84.3 percent of business performance leaving only 15.7 percent unexplained. The P- value of 0.000 (Less than 0.05) implies that the model of business performance is significant at the 5 percent level of significance.

ANOVA findings (P- value of 0.00) in Table 5. Show that there is correlation between the predictors’ variables (Gender, marital status, Religion and organizational position) and response variable (Business performance) the estimated multiple linear regression equation was found to be:

Y = 0.260 + 0.131X1 + 0.170X2 + 0.051X3 + 0.048X4

Model Elasticity

Constant = 0.260, shows that if managing diversity through Gender, Marital status, Religion and organizational Position were all rated as zero, business performance would be 0.260. X1= 0.131, shows that one unit change in managing gender results in 0.131 units increase in business performance . X2= 0.170, shows that one unit change in managing employee Religion results in 0.170 units increase in business performance, managing employee organizational position. X3= 0.051, shows that one unit change in the results in 0.051 units increases in business performance, employee discrimination. X4=0.048, shows that one unit change in managing employee against discrimination results in 0.048 units increase business performance.

Study Conclusion

Many factors impact employee attitude on managing organizational diversity and one of them is workspace conditions. Hofstede, G. (1994) pointed out that although economic factors are important in managing employee diversity and creating employee loyalty, identification with the organization’s goals often carries greater weight. The study found out that each employee has a unique character and thus one single approach is not effective for everyone, employee engagement means pace, anxiety, schedule, technology, turnover, productivity, revenue and profitability. Employee engagement is defined as “The degree to which a person commits to an organization and the impact that managing organizational diversity has on how profoundly they perform and their length of tenure feeling that they need to embrace diversity and improve the performance of the small and medium enterprises.


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