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).