Diversity and Globalization

One of the most significant challenges facing employers is an increasingly diverse workforce. Different demographic groups may have sociological and cultural tendencies that lead to different attitudes about health care, retirement savings, and workplace relationships. “U.S companies are preparing for significant demographic changes in the next five years, but few are looking beyond recruiting to key issues such as retention and promotion strategies, according to a recent Hewitt Associates survey” (Preparing for the workforce of tomorrow, 2006). Within many organizations there are various diversity issues within the organization. With a diverse workforce come diverse issues. Diversity, at its most basic level, is simply all the ways in which people are different. The most powerful differences are age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and physical ability. But diversity is not limited to these dimensions. “A diverse organization is itself laden with rich resources of human capital waiting to be tapped in creative ways. In order to be competitive and remain so, executives in today’s market must engage in the management of diversity on a continuous basis” (Miller, E., Sept-Oct 1993).

From Recruiting and Staffing to even ongoing training diversity issues appear and must be recognized within the organization. Along the way, competition for the best and the brightest has altered recruitment strategies and orientation programs, as well as employee development, compensation and other human resources practices. When we hire, promote, and evaluate people we often do so in our own image or the image of the organization or work environment. That is, we tend to bring people into the organization and promote employees who “fit,” or are similar in many respects to the decision makers or gatekeepers that control such decisions” (Ferris, G., Frink, D., & Galang, M., Feb 1993).

But how is diversity impacted by the globalization of an organization? With globalization comes more opportunity, not only to be involved in complex transactions that impact on customers’ global business, but also greater risk from the need to adhere to global trade, technology, antitrust, intellectual property and employment laws, to name a few. “Diversity in the workplace is important because of its contribution to organization decision-making, effectiveness, and responsiveness. Those from diverse populations have experiences, insights, approaches, and values from which can come many different perspectives on and alternative approaches to problems, and knowledge about consequences of each alternative” (Wilson, P., Fall 1994).

Our cultural “norms” must be viewed from various perspectives or actions and words get lost in translation. A major factor emphasizing the relevance of workforce diversity to top executives includes the increased importance of global business operations. Companies go global to either acquire high-skilled individuals for increased technical knowledge and skill or to attract low skills associated with low-wage levels. In firms that pursue a global strategy, the higher levels of integration required between affiliate and parent company operations lead to the need for the company to be both globally integrated and locally responsive (Porter, 1986). More work is being done for companies in India, Europe, Asia, and Latin America than ever before. From technology to call centers to document processing what was once only found in the US is now supported globally. And with that support come the need for increased awareness to the laws and cultures of its own associates.

Organizations can take various actions to meet the growing needs of diversity and to address the issue of globalization. Organizations can create an effective diversity program beginning with training at all levels of the organization that would focus on inclusion. Providing “eye-opening” experiences such as temporary assignments in foreign cultures are recommended to help specific employees better understand the challenges faced by others. Mentoring is also important in gaining the full value from a diverse workforce. Succession planning addresses the talent pool at the top of the organization, but employee development efforts must extend down into the organization where diverse candidates are being lost. Mid-level managers and supervisors must be encouraged to identify and develop a diverse pool of candidates. Hewitt needs to identify and develop the human capital that will keep its organization profitable in the global marketplace. Hewitt has always sought to find talented people to fill challenging roles.

The business case for diversity in the workplace–of race, gender, age, ethnicity and more–has been examined and debated over the years. Mary Jo Green explains the rationale behind the diversity initiative, saying that every organization must welcome diversity in order to be successful. “The business world today is made up of a diverse population, and by having a diverse membership, we bring additional viewpoints and talents to the organization, which are more reflective of the world in which we operate” (Orenstein, E., May 2005). For an organization to succeed it must not only help its clients but help itself by not just talking the talk but walking the walk. “Some companies truly understand the importance of having a diverse workforce, especially as it relates to the changing face of their customers,” said Tapia. “However, for those organizations still not convinced, they should realize that by 2008, minority buying power will exceed $1.5 trillion, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia” (Preparing for the workforce of tomorrow, 2006).

4 Ways to Develop a New Employee Orientation Process That Attracts and Retains Top Diverse Talent

The first day at a new job can be nerve-wracking. We’re given what looks like three inches of paperwork to fill out. We don’t know how to log in to our computer or check our voicemail. We don’t know about the practices and protocol necessary to be a success in a new work environment.

For people of color entering a workplace that’s lacking in diversity, these feelings of confusion and nervousness can be even more acute than they are for white employees.

If a company committed to attracting top diverse talent focuses exclusively on its recruiting strategy, but then bungles the new employee orientation process, the results can be grave:

o Diverse candidates may feel as though a bait-and-switch tactic has been played on them. Getting them onboard and then expecting then to muddle through as best they can without a well-planned new employee orientation process is not a strategy, it’s a slap in the face.

o New hires of color may spread the word about their unhappy orientation experience. When friends and family ask them how it’s going, as they certainly will, the new employee may spread negative feedback about the firm to the very people the firm hopes to persuade to become future employees.

o In a worst-case scenario, a new employee may even renege on his or her commitment to work at the firm and accept another offer or go back to their former job.

Having an adept new employee orientation process (sometimes called new employee onboarding) is vital, especially as it relates to helping diverse hires feel welcome from day one.

Here are four tips for designing a successful new employee onboarding process that will help attract and retain top diverse talent:

1. Determine the goals of your new employee onboarding process

Decide what a successful outcome will look like; then design a new employee orientation process to accomplish it.

Goals might include making sure the new employee can identify with the new employer; making sure the new employee feels valued; finding ways to reduce the anxiety that is so much a part of every new position; and decreasing the new hire’s learning curve.

2. Introduce the new hire to an employee affinity group or mentoring program as soon as possible

Let them know about any social networks the company offers. Employee affinity groups can help eliminate the feeling of social isolation because people with similar backgrounds are found in these groups. Mentoring programs make it plain that the firm is planning on a mutually-agreeable long-term future together.

Consider assigning a mentor to each new hire on their very first day. A mentor can explain the corporate culture, make introductions to the right people, and explain protocol and programs. A mentor can also keep tabs on the new hire’s progress and offer suggestions when they get stuck or struggle in an area. For best results, ensure that the new employee’s mentor is not a direct supervisor or a peer who is in direct competition with the new hire.

3. Ask the new hire what they want or feel they need to learn

Orientation is a great time to learn from diverse hires about their expectations, hopes, and ambitions. Find out what they want to learn, the kind of people they want to build relationships with, and about any concerns they may have. Repeat the questions a month or two later, after they have settled in a little and know enough to be able to answer the questions better. See how they feel at that point. Showing genuine interest in the new hire’s concerns goes a long way toward establishing a sense of rapport, trust, and team-building.

If your company is having a hard time retaining diverse employees, and has no real idea why they’re leaving, it’s imperative to ask employees of color where the lack is and what might be implemented to correct the issue or issues responsible for the exodus. Don’t wait until the exit interview or a diversity audit to do this.

4. Involve the new hire’s manager in the onboarding process

In January 2007, the Level Playing Field Institute took a Corporate Leavers Survey. http://www.lpfi.org/workplace/corporateleavers.html The results were eye-popping, revealing that more than two million professionals and managers leave their jobs every year due to workplace discrimination. When asked what would have kept them onboard, 34.1% of people of color chose this option: “Better management that recognizes abilities.”

A significant part of the new employee onboarding process should be a meeting between the new hire and his or her manager to develop a 100-day progress plan. Each party’s expectations should be made clear: What the new hire is expected to be able to accomplish in the first few days and weeks; how success will be measured; what kind of support or learning the new hire will need and can expect to receive, etc. Part of the plan could be a strategy where the manager identifies the areas in which the new hire can benefit from increasing knowledge, along with a way to equip him or her with the tools and/or training necessary to fill the gaps and achieve a considerable degree of success.

A firm’s new employee orientation process can make or break its diversity strategy. Wise companies recognize that recruiting diverse candidates is not enough. If they want to retain and promote them, it’s critical to create a welcoming and supportive environment from day one.

7 Reasons Why Law Firm Diversity Intiatives Fail

Many law firms understand the importance of building a diverse workforce. The changing demographics within the United States have signaled to firms that diversity is an important goal that will affect the firm’s viability and ultimately the bottom line.

In response, many firms have launched diversity recruitment efforts designed to bring more women and attorneys of color into the firm. The problem has been that within a few years of being hired attorneys that qualify as “diverse” leave the firm in search of more inclusive, diverse and culturally competent work environments. Below are some critical reasons why attempts at creating diversity have failed.

1) Lack of Commitment at the top: In order for diversity initiatives to succeed, there must be vigorous support for it at the senior level of the firm or organization. Partners are the change agents of the firm. Committees formed to address issues of diversity, recruitment, retention and cultural competence must be lead by key leaders within the firm.

2) Failure to assess the firm’s environment: Assessment is critical in helping to create and implement an effective diversity initiative plan. It’s critically important to understand an organization’s level of development before launching a diversity or cultural competence initiative. Firms must be prepared to assess their hiring practices, overall culture, interpersonal relationships, views about diversity and promotion practices

3) Over emphasis on recruitment and hiring: Relying on recruitment as a primary means of creating diversity will prove to be an ineffective strategy. Instead, recruitment is simply an initial step in the overall process. Firms must ensure that their work environment can support a diverse staff. Next, firm-wide, culturally effective systems and practices must be implemented in order to prevent excessive attrition among women and attorney’s of color. Retention and development of a strong and diverse pool of attorneys depends upon the firm’s ability to create a work environment that values and leverages difference, mentors cross culturally and consistently measures and monitors the progress and development of all attorneys.

4) Failure to include diversity objectives in the organization’s strategic plan: Many firms fail to include diversity goals into the firms overall vision and plan for growth and development. Organizational change is a process and in order to successfully reach objectives related to diversity, goals must be included in the firm’s strategic plan. Firms successful in building a diverse workforce have implemented specific strategies in the areas of hiring, retention, professional development, communication, promotion, mentoring etc.

5) Lack of understanding of diversity phases: Many firms fail to view the creation of a diverse organization as a developmental process. Diversity and cultural competence develops along a continuum. In the early stages of the process, firms need to define diversity, identify problems and opportunities, provide education and awareness, and develop a leadership plan along with the business case for diversity, a clear vision and well defined goals. Finally firms must understand that building a diverse and inclusive work environment is an ongoing effort.

6) Ignoring the importance of training and development: Cultural competence and diversity training with a focus on building awareness and alliances vs. “blaming and shaming” is critical to creating a productive, diverse and inclusive workforce. Staff must have the opportunity to explore current views and misconceptions around issues of inclusiveness, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and individuals with physical challenges. Failing to link training and development with firm-wide diversity objectives will result in the firm’s inability to build an inclusive and diverse organization.

7) Cultural Incompetence: Many firms communicate a desire to build an inclusive and diverse work environment yet they still place a high value on “sameness”. Whether consciously or subconsciously this value for sameness is communicated to others in the firm. Instead, firms need to develop a high level of cultural competency. Cultural competence requires that organizations:

o Have a defined set of values and principles and demonstrate behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally.

o Have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage, appreciate and leverage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of their employees and the clients and communities they represent. Think of cultural competence as fertile ground upon which to plant, grow and develop a successful recruitment, retention and firm wide cultural diversity program. Without the necessary foundation, efforts to build a diverse team of attorneys will prove to be unsatisfactory.

Contact Info:

Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill, J.D., CPCC

704 814 6135

[email protected]