Today, many Western companies are becoming outspoken advocates for diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural understanding. Of course, in many cases, they are doing this because it also has been proven to be significantly more profitable to develop a globally inclusive organization. A recent study of 450 companies by Deloitte found that those with “a highly inclusive environment generated higher cash flow, profitability, and employee retention over a three-year period” (http://www.clomedia.com/2016/04/04/learningplays-a-pivotal-role-in-diversity-and-inclusion/).
The culturally diverse and geographically dispersed workplace and marketplace is the new reality, and organizations that fail to adapt to this reality will perish. The population of the U.S. is increasingly diverse, and more than 60 percent of the world’s population resides in Asia. How can any company survive without encompassing these revolutionary changes to human demography? A proactive approach to diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization is essential.
No other institution (government, military, religion) has such a self-interest in promoting true inclusion and respect for diversity. Corporations, because of their pecuniary self-interests, know that if they want to survive, they will have to hire, retain, and develop the best talent. Enlightened self-interested corporations know their next big innovation will not likely come from headquarters. Increasingly, new markets are located across national boundaries, and products require adaptation to local cultural preferences. There are thousands of examples of business failures due to ignorance of cultural and diversity factors, such as sneakers with country flags on them that are an insult in India and the Middle East.
BRINGING THE DIVERSITY MESSAGE HOME
So how are organizations meeting the challenge?
1. Corporations are recognizing their own myopia. They recognize that they select and develop leaders who are replications of the existing leadership. This results in “group think” and a narrow view of the world. They are well aware of the fact that their global leadership development programs are failing to develop diverse talent.
2. To create a more global pipeline of talent, organizations are identifying candidates from developing countries and putting them through extensive executive training programs.
3. Training programs for existing employees are focusing on cultural competence and unconscious bias. Due to recent findings in neuroscience that our brains are “hard-wired” to make myopic decisions that can cost a company in lost talent and innovation, senior leaders and managers are being trained to use their brains more effectively by being more consciously in control of their unconscious minds.
4. Senior leaders are being coached to be seen as role models and champions of inclusion.
5. Innovative short-term international development programs are being created to “push” domestic high potentials overseas and to “pull” international high potentials to come to company headquarters.
6. Organizations are creating programs to attract domestic employees and potential leaders from diverse backgrounds. This can include domestic diversity factors such as reaching out to underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, those with physical and neurological differences, the LBGTQ community, and others.
7. Project leaders are being made aware of their own “blind spots” in the selection of project team members and cultural differences in collaboration.
There is a compelling argument to be made that, given the partisan and fundamentalist movements in our world, some corporations have become the vanguard of creating a more tolerant and respectful world. As leaders in Training and Development, we must share diversity and inclusion best practices and recognize leaders in our field who are promoting globally inclusive organizations.
Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.global-dynamics.com.