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Diversity: think globally for local success [Cont]

These are just examples, providing a framework for thinking about a potential business case.

A strong business case must be specific and customized to the organization – and to each level. If it is general it will easily lose importance. There are many variables that influence the business case: country, industry/sector, company structure, demographics of the hiring pool and customer bases, local/national government laws, regulations and directives, societal influences, cultural norms and specific circumstances in the organization/business unit/department/team.

Determining the custom case requires an investment of time and analysis. Successful organizations use countryspecific information and their employee survey results to identify the local business case, customize training and guide local action planning. This is the best way to provide “proof’ on what does or doesn’t matter and provides evidence if headquarters seem to be forcing an irrelevant issue on the location or helps show local teams that there is an issue they may not realize or deny exists.

Finding the global/local balance

The most effective way to find the effective global/local balance is to bring a global team together face-to-face to address the issues. Be sure to use an experienced facilitator who is comfortable with both cultural differences and dealing with the diversity concept. Present the objectives and concepts and discuss whether and how they apply. Provide as much information as you can to ensure that participants can see themselves reflected in the concept, in the process and in the future business results. Then listen.

#1. Included too late in the game

#2. Half-hearted inclusion

#3. Narrow focus on race and gender bias

#4. Customization pays off

Click here to view the Case studies.

It is really important to do this in person – especially at the outset of an initiative. Meetings via conference call, videoconference, and e-mail simply do not create the same level of rapport and trust that are essential for successful global collaboration. In fact, those experienced in global culture know that there is an enormous distorting effect of technology due to cultural differences. Should you use “the D word”?

For all the reasons stated above, using the title “diversity initiative” can cause trouble from the start. Not only does it not translate in some languages, for non-Americans, the font of the “made in USA” label is bigger than the word itself. This may seem like semantics, but it is not trivial. It is such an obstacle that we encourage organizations to invest upfront in clarifying what diversity is and is not, and allow the title of the initiative to be debated.

In terms of the global/local balance, at the outset of the strategic planning phase ask the global team “what would the best global term be for managing differences for enhanced business results?” Diversity? Inclusion? Cross Cultural Business Strategies? Even if you end up with the term diversity it should be by consensus. Don’t let nine letters curse you from the start.

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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.