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Globalization, Diversity, and the Environmental Context

The United States, Canada, and Mexico are virtually eliminating all barriers to free trade, creating through the North American Free Trade Act a North American trade bloc. At the same time, the European Union is becoming more closely integrated, creating another zone of free trade. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay are working steadily toward the creation of yet another trade bloc. And east Asia,led by Japan, contains some of the world's leading exporters. At the same time, deregulation of transportation, airlines, and financial institutions within the United States has increased the intensity of competition in those industries. Even governments at the federal, state, and local levels are under considerable budgetary pressures to perform with limited resources. These and other trends have placed growing pressures on organizations to perform better in terms of productivity, quality, time, and service;

Although technology, capital, materials, and energy are vital inputs in any. organization, improved performance ultimately rests with the people who use those resources. But just as the demands on employees are increasing, HR experts and managers in the United States, Canada, and many European countries are confronted by a rapidly diversifying workforce._ Consider these trends and their potential impact on HR management:

  • In the United States, "an estimated 14.5 million employees work nonstandard hours-evenings, overnight, rotating shifts and split shifts-and in, an economy gone global arid a culture hungry, for 24-hour everything, the numbers are growing.?
  • By the year 2000, 63 percent of all women over age 16 will be in the work- force, up from 57 percent-in 1990.18
  • The black workforce is projected to increase twice as fast and the Hispanic labor force is expected to increase four times as fast as the white workforce,"
  • Annual immigration into the United States will average 600,000 a year during the 1990s.20
  • "Non-Caucasians, women and immigrants are projected to make up more than five-sixths, or 83%, of the new additions to the work force between now and the next century.'?'
  • More than 85 pecent of those who will be working in 2001 are already in workforce today, and most will need training and retraining."
  • Half of children under age 1 live in families where both parents work."
  • The workforce in the United States will grow only 1.2 percent a year during the 199Os,down from 2.9 percent as recently as the 1970s.24
  • The number of people employed by temporary-help firms has increased 400 percent,"
  • Part-time workers represent 20 percent of the workforce in Denmark,
  • Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands, with 17.4 percent of the U.S. workforce composed of part-timers."
  • Mandatory retirement ages in the United States have been abolished."
  • People ages 50 to 60, though still energetic, are being passed over, pushed out, or shot with the so-called silver bullet of early retirement in extraordinary numbers.?"
  • According to one study, 85 percent of employers will conduct drug tests at least some employees."
  • The number of AIDS cases is growing rapidly. More workers are likely to from AIDS in the 1990s than from automobile accidents; already AIDS killed more U.S. citizens than did the Vietnam conflict."
  • The United States has posted the slowest productivity growth among all major industrialized nations.
  • To put some of these statistics in perspective, consider what a plant manager
  • Digital Equipment Corp. faces:

Harold Epps, who runs the Digital Equipment Corp. plant that makes computer keyboards, manages the work force of the future. The Boston factory's.350 employees come from 44 countries and speak 19 languages. When the plant issues written announcements, they are printed in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole."

The implications of increased competition and workforce diversity are countless. One obvious implication is that HR departments will be pressured for additional employment flexibility and additional child-care and elder-care assistance by their workers. This flexibility probably will be achieved through flexible benefits, flextime schedules, part-timers, temporary workers, and telecommuting. Rapid rises in health-care costs and slow productivity growth rates will put downward pressure on real (inflation- and tax-adjusted) wage increases, causing compensation almost certainly to be tied more closely to performance.

Posted on September 7, 2014 in The Human Resource Management Model

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