Chapter 1. Reaching Our Potential with Transformational Diversity
The latest research in diversity, Global Diversity and Inclusion: Perceptions, Practices and Attitudes, commissioned from the Economist Intelligence Unit by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), points out that although North America ranks high for diversity, the potential is far from fulfilled, with the region scoring only 70 out of 100 points. The need to reach our potential is more challenging in our uncertain times. At the same time, organizations need to grow and remain competitive, more so now than ever before. This reality is why the business rationale for transforming diversity and inclusion that we advocate and substantiate in this book rests with synergy-boosting intercultural training for everyone.
In this book we introduce Transformational Diversity© — a new vision of diversity developments that seeks to revise and transform current diversity programs through a strong infusion of an intercultural perspective with intercultural business competencies training. This new brand of diversity is taking the “old” diversity beyond race and gender, proposing the shift of focus from traditional race-gender to minorities-integration-synergy-performance issues. The shift — which we believe to be of special significance in the time of economic challenges and rapidly changing demographics — needs special attention: women, as well as U.S.-Americans of color, are regarded as easier to integrate into corporate cultures (for they share the prevailing national cultural norms), while other ethnic minorities and overseas employees may present more complex issues of cultural backgrounds and styles of thought. Many business professionals already understand that different demographic groups think and communicate differently, and these cultural differences need to be understood by all stakeholders — so that the newcomers to the workplace can be integrated sooner rather than later. Integration is not easy to achieve, but the expectant prize of an enhanced bottom line resulting from an inclusive, harmonious, and collegial organizational culture is well worth the effort.
The necessity to complement traditional diversity efforts with consistent, frequent intercultural training that regards national culture as a key differentiator is validated in the above-mentioned research. The aforementioned SHRM research report states:
“As organizations recognize the importance of developing greater cross-cultural competence, diversity and inclusion practitioners are often at the forefront of this work. This makes sense, as these professionals have long been engaged in helping individuals in ways that allow people from all backgrounds to hear and be heard, understand and be understood, and work together productively. And some will suggest that one’s national culture is the most powerful differentiator there is, greater than ethnicity, gender or language.”2
This thought has been convincingly outlined in recent intercultural research, such as The Cultural Imperative by Richard Lewis, who explains how some cultural traits are too deeply ingrained to be homogenized.3 Also worth remembering is that presently many established concepts and approaches are becoming outdated and therefore require considerable modifications to survive and thrive. Transformational Diversity, a diversity practice imbued with solid intercultural business competencies training, is inclusive by its nature, and it embraces some best “old” diversity practices (like compliance, affinity groups, and such), but it moves them off center stage as things once necessary but insufficient in today’s organizations. It is Transformational Diversity that the nation embattled by change needs.
The concept of Transformational Diversity was developed in response to broadly expressed client needs for moving forward while making diversity work more effectively to enhance productivity and performance. The diversity function or discipline of human resources focuses on employee differences as expressed by their experiences, backgrounds, personal qualities, and work style orientations, such as race, age, ethnicity, and disability that can be recognized and used for an organization’s business objectives. Inclusion, on the other hand, recognizes that the presence of diversity alone is not a guarantee of success and represents commitment and actionable steps to achieve business benefits; primary among these is a corporate culture that makes people feel respected and welcome.4 The coupling of inclusion-as-action with diversity developments has been brewing for years,5 but now more than ever, diversity should contribute more visibly to productivity and the bottom line to justify its investment. In other words, diversity should change to achieve its full potential.
Transformational Diversity was designed for an increasingly multicultural workplace, which we characterize as the presence and interaction of groups of people of different national and ethnic backgrounds to include their linguistic, socioeconomic, and religious characteristics. In this regard, Transformational Diversity serves as a large umbrella for North American diversity with international interests. It offers powerful potential not only for global but also for pre-global organizations. Transformational Diversity is about a new diversity imperative that transcends traditional diversity and inclusion programming by placing inclusion in the driver’s seat. This is the essence of Transformational Diversity. We offer strategic and tactical resources for seamlessly bridging the current diversity-inclusion gap and for making diversity globally prepared — within the context of dramatically changing demographics and increasingly multicultural human capital that is in need of appropriate talent development initiatives.
We wrote this book with several goals in mind.
First, it will help HR and diversity leaders who may need to reenergize or revisit their work, as we will explain, in light of pressures from increasingly diverse workforce populations to develop globally minded corporate cultures during challenging economic times. We will discuss the main purpose of examining human capital’s intercultural competencies initially in Chapter 2 and more substantially in Chapters 3, 4, and 5. This book was written to deliver a call to action in response to domestic diversity practitioners who are struggling to reawaken their efforts in more meaningful directions.
Second, we intended to write the book not only for the “best in class for diversity” companies but for all organizations, big and small, where HR professionals and business leaders are concerned with workforce talent development and productivity. We offer new and different strategies and plans that deal with what is not working in many current diversity programs and what is needed now. The book tackles, foremost, the complex issues of cultural diversity for the benefit of employee engagement.
Finally, we believe that diversity today, to a considerable degree, boils down to its ability to support the organization’s ultimate goals of growth and productivity (that is, profitability, market share, innovation, and more) and needs to embrace intercultural understanding of both global and local human capital to achieve those goals. The new incarnation of diversity that we present in this book is pragmatic, practical, and productive — and also entertaining and exciting with its connection to people’s interests in their own professional growth and in putting a new set of skills to work for the good of their organizations. We think of Transformational Diversity as a diversity renaissance totally in sync with modern times.
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