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Why and How Intercultural Competencies Can Help Organizations to Survive and Thrive
By Fiona Citkin, Lynda Spielman
Society For Human Resource ManagementCopyright © 2011 Fiona Citkin and Lynda Spielman
All rights reserved.
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."
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. 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. The coupling of inclusion-as-action with diversity developments has been brewing for years, 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.CHAPTER 2
The Essence of Transformational Diversity
This chapter will describe the fundamentals of the Transformational Diversity approach and how it compares with the "old" diversity practices.
We begin with the definition of Transformational Diversity and outline the vision leading to distinguishing diversity from inclusion. Next we explain our concept and innovation recognizing the current reality in which "old" diversity challenges abound, while multiculturalism and inclusion issues are often ignored, no matter how detrimental this action may be to the health of an organization's culture. We also advocate today's diversity value proposition by briefly introducing the new diversity imperative that accepts Transformational Diversity as effective in confronting the multicultural issues in organizations today.
Transformational Diversity is a call for change in current diversity and inclusion programs, which in our experience seems to be struggling from fatigue and from challenges to produce measurable results. Transformational Diversity incorporates and infuses a cross-cultural perspective with intercultural business competencies training. This vision represents a change that can produce a practical, tangible effect on the bottom line, as we will show, and makes Transformational Diversity a rainmaker, or a high achiever, as opposed to typical stagnating "domestic" diversity that is often challenged to contribute to improving the companies' financial realities. Transformational Diversity focuses on leadership and a workplace culture that are inclusive and also relevant to the organization and to its business objectives.
CONCEPT AND INNOVATION IN A NUTSHELL
Designed for the reality of an increasingly multicultural and global workplace, Transformational Diversity aligns with the new imperative to focus on inclusion as defined by practice over the past few years as company after company seems to have changed its "diversity" initiatives to "diversity and inclusion." The "new imperatives" for further diversity developments (addressed in detail in Chapter 3) include the need to compete worldwide for the best talent, which is usually more attracted to companies known for having inclusive cultures; the need to develop global workforce initiatives; the need to coordinate all domestic efforts with an increasingly multicultural workforce; the need to have diversity contribute more visibly to performance and the bottom line; and the need to organize inclusion-oriented systematic education for all populations. These new imperatives have been duly taken into consideration and embedded in our Transformational Diversity vision and practices that describe intercultural awareness and skill-building and that apply them to everyone in the organization — which is why Transformational Diversity is a natural fit with a focus on inclusion. More specifically, Transformational Diversity also offers a challenge to "old diversity," which is alive and well — presenting a revised value proposition for diversity work and a new imperative for action.
DIVERSITY IS THE STATE OF MIND WHILE INCLUSION IS ACTION
We believe that organizations and the general population have a general awareness of the concept of diversity. However, the inclusion capability (the goal of diversity) is often limited, with the grip of prejudice — or unconscious bias — still too tight, even for some highly educated people in both corporate and social/political arenas. Some social pundits would argue we are tired of diversity, and others, including legislators, are more direct in limiting their tolerances to certain groups, such as immigrants. As we write, the current downturn in the economy has led to greater job layoffs and a politicization of views as to how to move toward national economic health. In this regard, immigrants especially seem to be the target of local prejudice as more people vie for fewer jobs. There exists a broad, self-sufficient value assumption that if we have freedom from prejudice, everyone will be able to contribute to the best of one's ability, and then the overall results — including bottom-line results — will improve. This assumption value tells us loudly and clearly: we need to considerably extend current diversity efforts on behalf of inclusion to become a truly democratic society, with freedoms that include freedom from prejudice and freedom from unconscious bias.
Example. A diversity director based in the New York area recently shared this story with us:
Whatever we do — and you know how big we are with diversity numbers and women issues — we seem to be unable to eradicate some built-in intolerances ... Just the other day my own assistant who is retiring told me that she and her husband decided to retire to [X] "because there are no foreigners." Clearly, in this woman's mind, [the] northeastern U.S. has too many "foreigners." Perhaps, too, as a diversity practitioner she had reached the point of diversity "overload."
(Of course, plenty of Mexican Americans and Central and South American immigrants live in the southeast and southwest United States, so assuming she meant "foreigners" to mean these populations, her premise was as flawed factually as it was prejudicial.)
The point. If a diversity professional exposes deep social intolerance of "foreigners" — read as "anybody different from me" — in her mind and in her life, diversity is not connected with inclusion. Therefore, the "old" or traditional diversity achievements of the company failed with respect to its major goal, that is, to instill inclusion as social acceptance of diversity of minds and appearances. To achieve this goal, we must dig more deeply so that we can move from diversity as a state of mind, which is passive, to inclusion as action, a topic on which we will elaborate in Chapter 3 and also identify through specific training and development programs in Chapter 5. The objective is not for individuals to want to "run away" to avoid living near or working with certain groups, as was the case with the above-mentioned employee, but rather to acquire — through training — skills to work on one's own personal attitude toward inclusion and to take steps for actively "running toward," that is, coming to like, if not enjoy, a more tolerant environment and a more tolerant self. This solution is one way to appreciate the real positive contributions that inclusion can make in our lives.
Thus, the essence of Transformational Diversity is characterized by vision, strategies, and tactical applications for seamlessly bridging the current diversity-inclusion gap within the context of today's workforce, characterized by growing numbers of women, immigrants, and older employees. As the source of labor force data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the current rate of participation by women in the U.S. workforce at 47 percent is significantly higher than it was in the 1970s. What is most notable in recent years is that more employed women have children and are working full time and year round than in the past decades. More specifically, the proportion of women with a college degree has tripled over three decades.
With regard to the aging of our workforce, the projections offered in Figure 2.1 for both men and women indicates that by 2018, employees of age 55 years or older will likely represent almost 24 percent of the labor force.
Such changes in the workforce call for a consistent rather than a sporadic approach to diversity developments, as well as for appropriate resources and curriculum choices, which we will address.
"OLD" DIVERSITY CHALLENGES AND INCLUSION RESPONSES
Diversity models in the United States have historically been grounded in domestic issues arising from the government requirements and moral ground to redress past injustices and discrimination patterns, particularly against black people. Because of the resulting legal requirements and the tendency for companies to advertise their culture in ways that attract diverse prospective employees, most organizations project some commitment to diversity. Yet, we continue to learn that management is struggling with its diversity objectives and goals, in addition to its levels of diversity programming. Even for companies such as IBM that have mature diversity initiatives and that proudly trace their diversity commitment and activities over three or more decades, many globally expanding companies now have a need to consider a model of inclusion that can incorporate differences that exist within each of the national cultures they operate. DiversityInc, for example, continues to report on the demand by diversity leaders for information on global diversity best practices.
Despite today's challenge, we acknowledge that many U.S. companies and foreign-owned companies operating in the U.S. have yet to develop organizational cultures that support even traditional, much less new, diversity commitments for various reasons. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's latest 2010 report showed a record number of discrimination suits, which reflects some inadequacies in compliance. Most often, these reasons relate to prohibitive costs, an inability to measure results, and confusion as to what they need to do beyond matters of minimal legal and regulatory compliance. They might even relate to the assumption that biases cannot be fixed. And so, we offer the following value proposition, or our statement for achieving a higher level of effectiveness based on a new model of diversity, Transformational Diversity, using intercultural competence as its foundation.
Excerpted from Transformational Diversity by Fiona Citkin, Lynda Spielman. Copyright © 2011 Fiona Citkin and Lynda Spielman. Excerpted by permission of Society For Human Resource Management.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. Reaching Our Potential with Transformational Diversity,
Chapter 2. The Essence of Transformational Diversity,
Chapter 3. The Why of Transformational Diversity,
Chapter 4. The What of Transformational Diversity,
Chapter 5. The How of Transformational Diversity,
Chapter 6. Thinking and Acting Anew — Now!,
Appendix A: Milton Bennett's Development Model for Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS),
Appendix B: The ACROSS© Cultural Business Model,
About the Authors,
Additional SHRM-Published Books,