The first problem for Diversity & Inclusion initiatives outside of the West is that the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” do not translate cleanly into many languages, meaning that many leaders and employees cannot absorb the terms.
In simple terms, diversity refers to variance and variability from a cultural norm. In organizational terms, diversity refers to bringing in employees who do not confirm to what is expected, reinforced and rewarded as “successful and desirable” by the organization’s culture.
Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to a climate that allows this variance and variability to exist and flourish. Company cultures that are inclusive ensure that employees who do not conform to the norm flourish within the organization.
Generally, there are three specific forces that make Diversity & Inclusion relevant to all organizations:
1) Globalization – The globalized business world brings into contact different societies with distinct historical, linguistic, economic and cultural backgrounds. Yet the sheer scale and scope of differences that characterize the global business environment pose significant obstacles as well as opportunities.
It requires specific awareness, knowledge and skills to be able to manage diverse talent and collaborate with colleagues of dissimilar backgrounds and experiences.
2) Marketplace And Workforce Developments – The complexity of globalization becomes only more apparent when companies realize the following market trends:
• The workforce in industrialized economies is maturing.
• The percentage of immigrants and minorities in the workforce of industrialized countries is increasing.
• The proportion of women in the workforce and in decision-making positions is increasing.
• People with disabilities are increasingly represented in the workforce.
• Social and legal acceptance and recognition of gay and lesbian employees is increasing.
Each of the above trends has significant implications for organizations. For example, regarding the first trend, the aging of the workforce will require organizations to rethink retirement ages and flexible work arrangements, and design policies and work systems that consider the need for dependent care.
3) Legal Compliance Mandates – Equal-opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation has been a major driver of Diversity & Inclusion, particularly in Western countries. Such legislation currently exists in 68 countries. Out of these, 36 percent, or 25 countries, have reporting requirements, and 20 of them monitor compliance.
Besides negating the costs of legal noncompliance, Diversity & Inclusion can directly affect the bottom line and competitive position of an organization. Companies that do not comply risk endangering their brand image, which invariably alters customer behavior.
However, the lack of legal mandates in some countries does not render D&I efforts irrelevant or invalid in those places. It simply suggests that the sources of efficiency and performance improvements linked to D&I need to be sought elsewhere.
When done well, D&I initiatives can greatly improve the performance of individuals, teams and entire organizations. Initiatives that are based on careful mapping and analysis, and that act on links between individual behavior and business results, yield prescriptions for changes. Productivity gains, expansion, growth, and sometimes simply survival, justify the investment of cost, time and organizational energy demanded by these changes.Back to Navigating Culture Blog