Building Global Diversity Awareness in Your Organization

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There are many diversity-focused weeks and months throughout the year – many focusing on the uniqueness of a specific group or characteristic, or a different source of diversity.  In October, we celebrate Global Diversity Awareness Month.

 

What is Global Diversity Awareness Month?

Global Diversity Awareness Month – celebrated in October – emerged after World War II to unite and celebrate the diversity of the global community we call Earth. Today, the goal of the celebration is to take the time to look broadly and holistically at sources of diversity across ethnicities, cultures, languages, practices and traditions. Whereas many celebratory weeks and months focus on the nuances of a specific source of diversity, it is during this month that we stand back and look at the big picture of our global community.

 

Why Celebrate Global Diversity?

The worldwide emphasis of global diversity awareness can feel a little daunting! While many organizations are truly multi-national with international employees and offices, customers or suppliers, there are also many domestically-focused organizations who may not regularly consider themselves in a global context.

 

Whatever the size and scope of your organization, the broad nature of Global Diversity Awareness Month is a suitable time to check in on existing Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, or to jumpstart a strategy if you do not yet have one. Step back and take the opportunity to reflect. Here are some examples:

  • If you do not already have a formal organization-wide Diversity and Inclusion program, use the month to consider how you might create one. This could start with a learning process, to assess the organization’s current understanding of diversity and inclusion, and to identify teams in the organization that may already have practices in place. It could also involve identifying how the organization might initiate a year-long awareness program.
  • If you have a Diversity and Inclusion program, use the month to assess how it is going. Where is your focus and where can you expand? Is it on hiring a more diverse team? Fostering a greater awareness of Diversity and Inclusion in the teams you have?
  • Whether or not you have a Diversity and Inclusion program, consider how you can establish or advance your use of already-defined awareness weeks and months. These pre-defined and well-known windows of time provide a framework for organizations to plan a thoughtful and ongoing approach to highlighting diversity that spans the full year.

Why do this at all? It is believed that diverse teams make better decisions, because they are more likely to bring in multiple perspectives – and therefore, better represent customers and clients. More diverse teams help you identify and fill blind spots – if you have both systematic and informal ways to invite those perspectives in.

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For organizations with an international reach, periodically take a global perspective to build your organizational culture – balancing the unique shared culture of your organization with the local nuances of specific countries or cultures. Taking this broad view helps you systematically assess who is currently underserved in your organization, and then develop an action plan for addressing those gaps.

 

In addition, when organizations – even domestically-focused ones – work to improve diversity, it leads to broader applicant pools for open job announcements. This increases the possibility that you will find the right person for the right job at the right time. In today’s tight labor market, maximizing your reach to both new candidates and customers just makes sense.

Assessing Global Diversity Awareness Using a SWOT Analysis

It is also possible and beneficial to integrate global diversity awareness into an organization’s strategic planning process, or organizational training program. Start with a SWOT analysis – SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This approach can be used by a leadership team to start a strategic planning effort, or as part of a data gathering and learning initiative across the organization.

First, decide on your focus. Follows are examples of how to frame the topic or problem to be explored.

As an organization, we want to assess our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with respect to:

  • Our current Diversity and Inclusion programs
  • Our integration of offices and/or teams into one organizational culture – either across the country or around the world
  • Our policies and procedures for increasing diversity and inclusion in hiring and retention practices
  • Our goals for expanding into new market areas with new customs or cultural dynamics that we are not familiar with
  • Our organization’s practices for assessing diversity blind spots – how are we doing in identifying underserved populations or discrimination within our organization?

For the area you choose, ask:

  • What are our strengths and weaknesses with respect to this topic?
  • What opportunities can be maximized?
  • What threatens our success with this topic or problem?

Once you have brainstormed using the SWOT questions, identify concrete action plans. Consider how these actions support your broader business strategy or goals as well, to integrate them into areas that are already in focus.

Want a jumpstart on this approach? Pryor offers an online video called Reading the Field: Conducting a SWOT Analysis, which explains this strategic planning approach.

Linking Global Diversity Awareness to Organizational Mission

Once you conduct a SWOT, or independently of that if you have already done some upfront strategic planning work, consider specific projects that help advance your goals. Here are examples:

  • An organization that sources material from multiple countries plans a training event that focuses on the global supply chain that contributes to the company’s success. For example, this kind of event can focus on how specific inputs or component materials (such as ingredients of parts) make their way from raw elements to finished products. For each step of the supply chain, select a team or individual to talk about where that input or component comes from, how it is generated or produced and something unique about the local culture.
  • Domestic organizations can look at global diversity from a market perspective. Does the organization have any international customers? If so, where are they and how is it going – is it a growing strategic market, or a coincidental one? If global growth is a goal, what changes need made in the positioning or composition of a product or service to make it more attractive to people of different cultures or in different countries? This can be a very business-focused conversation that draws in content related to the diversity of cultures and countries that the organization currently or wishes to serve.
  • Consider how a community development or outreach strategy can build your organization’s global diversity awareness. You need not go to another country to find cultural diversity – just look around your own community and learn about how local community service organizations and non-profits reach out to different ethnic or cultural groups. We aren’t just talking about organizing a take-out event from the local Chinatown hot spot (though, that can be fun too!) – this is about really thinking about how you can design or bring in educational sessions or events that connect your organization to local sources of diversity. Consider a job fair or educational seminar in a community you have never reached out to before – or invite a local group to come in for a real conversation about ways to foster cultural awareness.
  • Consider an approach for benchmarking against another local company that offers a more global reach from you, or that is known to have an effective Diversity and Inclusion program. They may have standing practices that your organization can learn from. Hint: It easiest to do this with a company in a related field that is not a competitor.
  • October is also a month where organizations start planning for end-of-year – both with respect to organizational goals – and holiday parties! Consider setting “surge goals” with respect to diversity awareness before the year’s end to begin or refresh the organization’s commitment to the topic. Also think seriously about how to respect diverse cultural practices around the end of the year – and consider ways to celebrate in different ways that won’t leave others behind.

Pryor’s seminars on Strategic Thinking and Planning and Strategic Goal-Setting can jumpstart your skills in organizations planning – leading to strategic insights and practical results.  Integrating Diversity and Inclusion within a broader context of strategic planning can be a powerful way to introduce high-impact change in your organization.

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