blogs / 20 JUL 2021
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency Development
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) program rollouts must, axiomatically, be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
In today’s increasingly competitive talent market, having a diverse work force is critical for workplace success. Organizations with greater diversity benefit from increased innovation, improved brand reputation and better employee engagement, resulting in greater talent attraction and retention.
For HR professionals managing offices in multiple locations, the impact and focus of DE&I initiatives will naturally be different due to cultural context. For example, in the United States, this might be linked to human rights, race, gender and civil liberty. In Europe, language and cultural heritage are probably more at the forefront. In Asia, ‘collective accountability’ and racial tolerance may be a stronger definition of diversity.
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Leveraging cultural differences becomes key in developing the approach. The one-size-fits-all approach works only on paper and rarely in practice, as in many intercultural business scenarios. Bear in mind that requests from headquarters can result in a rush of eager, affirmative results, when the reality may be more negative.
Where possible—and this is harder in the middle of a pandemic, face-to-face discussions on the best approach serve to strengthen relationships, reveal more of the true picture, and represent the company as a learning (and listening) organization across the globe. Regional differences will emerge regarding the goals of the program.
develop intercultural skills?
educate staff with little exposure to diversity?
Should training be:
online or face-to-face?
Instructor-led, active or passive participation?
Are there sensitivities surrounding the issues to be discussed that need to be addressed by the program facilitators? Which topics to be included or excluded? Organizations may also consider outsourcing for expertise, flexibility, and cost effectiveness.
In successful organizations, evidence of a successful global DE&I initiative should be seen in the application of increased intercultural competencies by staff. Global teams are more able to end the exclusion of certain groups, along with unproductive, polite stand-off situations. Business units in multiple countries are better able to unite and collaborate. Centers of excellence assemble local knowledge and turn it into global expertise. In a worldwide context, if one crucial goal of diversity schemes is to feed into bottom-line results, then the execution must place heavy emphasis on the way they are rolled out and the areas of importance.
Ultimately, the goal of DE&I is to support positive behavioral change, and this drives corporate results in a progressive and positive way. Research repeatedly points to diversity as being absolutely key to innovation. If innovation is defined sometimes as breakthrough between disciplines (look at the vital linking of art and science in smartphone design), then combining cultures is powerful indeed. We can see this empirically, to give but a few examples, with the presence centuries ago of the Quakers in firing up finance in the City of London, or more recently, in the considerable proportion of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs coming originally from India and China.
Additionally, the upheld values of DE&I drive innovation. Cultural centers with multi-ethnicity, a cosmopolitan outlook, same-sex-relationship inclusion, gender equality, permissive social norms and liberal ideologies attest to this historically: Athens, Florence, Elizabethan London, fin de siècle Paris, today’s Shanghai, the list goes on.
Intercultural coaching as an important enabler
International assignments, executed well and with the right approach to ‘difference’ provide an engine and mechanism for innovation and development unlike any other. Assignees—and those managing across cultures—must be equipped to bridge diversity to thrive. When these employees are attuned to cultural realities, recombining and redefining ideas, processes and practices becomes second nature: innovation occurs and businesses see progress.
Intercultural coaching delivers the tools to help employees and families manage transitions across cultures as they embark on assignments, and the ability to recognize what is appropriate and what will work best in a different context. Targeted language coaching equally supports cultural transitions in a very fundamental way. Both areas must be cornerstones in the mobilization of the modern, global workforce.