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Diversity and Inclusion: A Global Approach for Maximum Business Results [Cont]

Since we focused on the most pressing issue for their location, diversity and inclusion

were viewed as closely linked to business imperatives and employees were very open to an on-going focus on diversity. It’s interesting that the next issue they identified was gender. I’m sure if we had insisted on starting with gender the entire effort would have failed.

Establishing a set of diversity variables that reflect the realities faced by local employees and business colleagues requires patient inquiry and a willingness to set aside preconceptions based on one’s own background and agenda.

There may also be distinctive aspects of the local organization that cause one or more diversity variables to take on greater or lesser prominence than would be the case for the country as a whole.

Diversity Variables and the Business Impact

The table below provides a sample of the variety of diversity dimensions that make a difference in several countries along with potential actions to better leverage local diversity for greater business impact:

Country Diversity Variables and Related Business Issues Possible Actions to Better Leverage Local Diversity
China Regional Origin: - Salespeople from Shanghai face obstacles selling to customers in Guangzhou. Salespeople based in Guangzhou prep colleagues from Shanghai prior to customer visits to familiarize them with local requirements and key phrases in Cantonese.
India Language: - Customers in many states prefer to buy software products in their own language. Employee language skills are leveraged to develop new business in selected states or regions that require products in a specific language.
Mexico Socioeconomic Status: - Factory absenteeism and turnover are high because employees are from other parts of the country, live far from the factory site, and do not have reliable forms of transportation. Employee housing, meals, and transportation to the job site are provided in a maquiladora environment in order to increase retention of economically disadvantaged workers from other parts of the country.
United Kingdom Race and Ethnicity: - Highly qualified job candidates are increasingly available from minority groups whose members the company has not sought out in the past. Qualified minority employees are recruited aggressively in order to make the company an employer of choice with a fast-growing segment of the population.

Key questions to consider:

  • What support are we providing to diversity councils, strategy teams, and other multicultural teams?
  • What is the level of awareness of the impact of culture on decision making, problem solving, conflict resolution and other team processes?
  • What opportunities can we create for face-to-face meetings in order to accelerate the trust and teambuilding?

Multicultural Teams: The Engine Driving the Diversity Process

The most successful global diversity and inclusion initiatives effectively utilize multicultural teams as the engine to drive the process. Diversity councils, strategy teams, employee affinity networks, and executive sponsors all play critical roles. These groups are often diverse by design in order to ensure a cross-section of perspectives, ideas and experiences.

Bringing diverse groups of people to work together is not enough. Multicultural teams need support to ensure they are fully leveraging the diversity of the team and working together effectively. A diversity council member at a global consumer products company shares her experience:

The first few meetings we were all so entrenched in our own viewpoints that we barely listened to one another. We didn’t take the time necessary to build trust and understand the different perspectives we were brought together to express.

Multicultural teams working on global diversity and inclusion initiatives can benefit by paying special attention to the following best practices:

Team Foundations: Create a shared team operating system and working agreements. During the start-up phase, it is important for the team to discuss and clarify expectations about how the team will work together, including approaches to meeting protocol, decision making, and feedback.

Cultural Diversity: Create an environment that encourages the team to draw upon the diverse cultural backgrounds of its members. Awareness of the diverse styles each team member brings to the team process is the first step; leveraging diversity for improved team results requires steady attention and commitment from all team members.

Conflict Resolution: Utilize appreciative inquiry and open-ended questions with the goal of understanding team members' perspectives. The process of discovering the reasons behind differing perspectives frequently leads to a new openness on all sides, and to solutions that could not have been reached in the absence of this information.

Key questions to consider

  • What support are we providing to diversity councils, strategy teams, and other multicultural teams?
  • What is the level of awareness of the impact of culture on decision making, problem solving, conflict resolution and other team processes?
  • What opportunities can we create for face-to-face meetings in order to accelerate the trust and teambuilding?

Global Diversity Journey

The momentum in the diversity world has been shifting from “Why should we do this?” to “How can we get this done?” Although global diversity is a journey rather than a destination, along the way it offers compelling benefits worldwide such as access to new markets and customers and the sourcing of superior talent. It would be a mistake for companies to assume that they are finished with diversity issues in their home country and move on to tackle diversity elsewhere. Yet they should also not be so preoccupied with the challenges and opportunities at home that an even wider set of potential advantages in other countries is neglected.

We can keep creating our own story even as it is interwoven with, but not forced upon, the forms of diversity that exist elsewhere, learning about ourselves as we learn about others. Cultural competence takes on a new and more complex meaning when global diversity and cultures within cultures are considered, but the opportunities are greater as well.

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About the Author: Anita Zanchettin is the co-author of Global Diversity:

Winning Customers and Engaging Employees within World Markets and Chief Learning Officer and Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion of Aperian Global. She has more than eighteen years’ experience providing training and consulting for global corporations on the business impact of culture on job effectiveness, teamwork, and leadership.

Her book, Global Diversity takes into account the true variety that exists within each country while enabling every employee in a global enterprise to become an engaged and accountable contributor. Vital cultural insights are presented for:Individual managers selling their products and services in foreign markets; Expatriates working with headquarters and subsidiary operations; Leaders looking to leverage capabilities of their workforces in key growth markets; Diversity professionals extending corporate diversity initiatives abroad.

The final chapter presents a six-step approach to developing an effective global diversity strategy.