Diversity: think globally for local success

How to ensure your diversity initiative brings business benefits

by Peggy Hazard

Global HR practices are becoming increasingly important to organizational success.

As professionals forge ahead, they have encountered one of the fundamental challenges of a multinational enterprise: determining the balance between global continuity and local flexibility. Introducing a country-centric strategy without considering the unique needs of other locations leads to pushback, lack of buy-in, and in some cases resentment. But determining the solutions – what is truly global and what must be local – can be difficult.

A good example of this global/local challenge is in the

area of diversity, primarily because the concept originated in the US as an offshoot of equal opportunity laws and affirmative action regulations. Many US-based corporations disseminated their diversity initiatives without adaptation to other countries. The results of this have been pronounced: few global diversity initiatives have yielded results; instead they have reinforced the belief that diversity is a US race/gender/legal mandate, and have created strong resistance to future efforts.

This is unfortunate because there are legitimate reasons for addressing the issue of diversity in each country – but only if we clarify what a “diversity initiative” is and honor what is truly global and what must be local.

What is a global diversity initiative?

A global diversity initiative is a process for achieving change in diversity-related behaviors for enhanced business results. This is achieved through a process, not a mere training program or series of special events. It is a change management strategy that addresses the special challenges of changing diversity-related behaviors and of doing so in different locations, cultures and businesses.

The Simmons change model includes ten essential components, including a specific sequence of events that enable an organization to reap the benefits of diversity and avoid the common pitfalls, including the “made in headquarters for export” syndrome. The components are:

  1. Strong business case.
  2. Unified corporate definition, vision and strategy, authored by international leadership.
  3. Global line ownership and accountability.
  4. Strategic sequencing.
  5. Aligned national diversity strategies.
  6. Strong management skills.
  7. Customized, position-specific skills education.
  8. Bottom-up authorship.
  9. Measure by objectives.
  10. Continuous improvement.

For this article I will focus on the first two areas, those where the distinctions between the country-centric and global must be made clearly and at the outset– the definition of diversity and the business case.

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About the Author: Peggy Hazard is a Managing Director with Simmons Associates Inc serves on the firm's Executive Committee and leads its Global Services business. She specializes in leadership development, global culture and diversity. She was the managing editor of a Fortune 50 company's web-based Global Diversity University serving 197,000 employees worldwide. Ms. Hazard has twenty two years of management experience in a variety settings, where she established a track record of strong leadership, increasing profitability, developing cost-effective operations and encouraging teamwork among diverse and multi cultural employees.

Peggy Hazard

Ms. Hazard is published in The Strategic HR Review. She has been a guest lecturer at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations on International Human Resource Management and a featured speaker at The Human Resource Planning Society Global Conference, The Conference Board, DIA Global Conference, Centre for Diversity and Business (EU), Linkage Diversity Summit, Working Mothers Conference, SHRM Morris Country, and Diversity Best Practices. She is a member of The Global Forum, Who's Who of International Managers, Organizational Development Network of New York, SIETAR and SHRM and serves on the boards of The Kopeyia Ghana School Fund, and Sickle Cell Anemia Association for Research and Empowerment and Figure Skating in Harlem.