Diversity Executive - March/April 2010 - (Page 19)
Physical ability: Physical ability is an important factor to consider by those in a wide variety of countries, yet few companies are dealing with this as part of their D&I training. Social class: Social class is seen as one of the most important topics that need to be addressed in a diversity training program. It is particularly critical to certain regions, such as Latin America. Senior diversity leaders from Latin America often require a Latin American-specific series of training programs because most U.S.-based diversity training programs do not address this issue. Sexual orientation: Sexual orientation is one of the least important factors for companies outside the U.S., but this topic will be an important area for diversity leaders to address globally. In a recent case, LGBT employees wanted to join a U.S.-based corporate LGBT affinity group because they could not start one in their own country due to potential threats to their safety and possible discrimination, and the organization had no way to address their request. Strategies and Best Practices When mapping out a strategy for global diversity training, diversity executives must first answer the following questions: • What is the meaning of D&I in each country where the organization is operating? • What are the critical issues and concerns about diversity in each country? • How would diversity programs be received in each country? • How should the content and methods of delivery be localized to meet the specific needs of each country? • What are the key demographic and social trends that impact diversity in each country? • Will affinity groups be available on a global or local level? • How does diversity and inclusion link to global business strategies? • Is D&I training linked to cultural intelligence training? • Are D&I best practices shared across the global organization? It is incumbent that diversity leaders localize initiatives to avoid the appearance of an irrelevant or even irreverent headquarters-based diversity mandate. This starts with a clear understanding of the business imperatives for D&I. Samantha Bidwell, director of diversity and inclusion at American Express, said that diversity and inclusion are linked to talent, marketing and workplace transformation. Yet the company’s approach varies by country. For example, some countries see gender as a top priority while others focus on generations. To be successful, global companies need to bring together diversity champions from each country or region to de- sign a corporate diversity survey focused on the meaning and business case for diversity in each country where they operate. Once this is completed, the next step is to identify which diversity topics and themes are critical to the integrity of the universal corporate culture and which topics should be addressed locally. Where possible, locals should be given autonomy in the design and delivery of diversity initiatives, with support from corporate and local diversity leaders. Clear and unequivocal support from senior leadership is an important factor for success. One of the key success factors for a Latin American diversity initiative, undertaken by a leading pharmaceutical company in 2008, was that training was localized, delivered by corporate leadership in each country. This gave the topic more credibility than could have been achieved otherwise. Diversity executives should be prepared for and open to a paradigm shift in their understanding of diversity. They should constantly survey the global news and solicit feedback from global colleagues. For example, there is a need to import workers in many countries due to low birth rates. This has created conflicts and misunderstandings based on the acceptance of guest workers and their children in receiving countries. Further, in many countries, diversity is the result of changing borders due to treaties signed at the end of wars. For instance, currently central Europe is struggling with numerous ethnic enclaves that feel an attachment to their home nationalities across the border. There are going to be numerous pragmatic issues that D&I leaders will have to contend with. For instance, how do U.S. anti-discrimination laws apply to U.S. companies operating outside the U.S.? Do they apply to local country nationals or only to U.S. citizens? Employee termination for sexual harassment may not comply with local laws. While many countries are just beginning to institute quotas for protected classes, other countries, such as Malaysia, are repealing their quota systems. Whenever possible, link D&I to initiatives that promote a global mindset. There is a compelling case to be made for understanding how cultural diversity impacts all aspects of business acumen, including marketing, leadership, team building, communications, human resources, supply chain, operations and R&D. There is a clear need for organizations to work more effectively across borders. Diversity must be seen as an opportunity to be leveraged for competitive advantage, not an obstacle to overcome. Diversity will continue to become more important over the next five years in all countries and companies. In many respects, the global journey to promote diversity and inclusion has just begun. We are all pioneers on this journey, and like pioneers, the more we can do to support and sustain each other along the way, the greater the chances are that we will achieve our goals. « Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. March/April 2010 | www.diversity-executive.com | Diversity Executive 19
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Diversity Executive - March/April 2010
Diversity Executive - March/April 2010
Think Globally, Act Locally
Is Training the Answer?
Personal Foul: The Faulty Paradigm of Tolerance
Diversity Executive - March/April 2010