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Thinking Outloud

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Why Organizations Should Aspire for Diversity

Why Organizations Should Aspire for Diversity

The globalization of business is increasing cultural interactions, diverse employment opportunities and social interdependence, making multicultural efforts critical in the eradication of ethnocentrism and in the establishment of an inclusive organization. Attracting a diverse workforce and creating an environment of equal status is a difficult task for any company to tackle, and can become very complex when the diversity is not managed effectively. Ninety percent of leading executives from 68 countries identified cross-cultural leadership as the top management challenge for the next century (Livermore 2015).

Diversity tends to positively affect organizational outcomes, employee engagement, workgroup dynamics; an increased level of adaptability and innovation from wide range of contributing talents, an increased range of customer segment service, and a more positive inclusive environment for the employees. However, without structured support, it can have a negative impact such as interpersonal conflict, turnover, low performance and psychological distress.

A lack of cultural competence emphasizes the necessity of strengthening and increasing leadership's cultural intelligence (CQ), as this is something that is required to implement an effective affirmative action program. Understanding the differences and similarities within Cultural Competence and CQ is important when dealing with the complexity of a diverse workforce. Cultural Competence refers to one's ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. Cultural Intelligence takes the awareness a step further, as the capability to function and communicate effectively across national, ethnic and organizational cultures (Livermore, 2015). CQ is not a fixed trait, which means it can grow and develop over time, teaching individuals how to incorporate both individual and cultural factors of how we relate and work across cultures (Livermore, 2011).

Creating organizational values based on inclusivity of culture and differences generates commitment beyond oneself, sense of community and connectedness which can make the differences more manageable and valuable. The practical implication of understanding the characteristics of a multicultural workforce is an ability for an organization to meet the needs of different employees, clarify their work values and expectations with staff (Cennamo & Gardner, 2008), actively engage members of the workforce and reduce workgroup conflict. The challenges faced in managing multicultural teams effectively are recognizing potential underlying cultural causes of conflict (Brett et al. 2006), and selecting strategies that do not cater to a single-culture-based approach in multicultural situations but instead realign and empower its members to collaboratively deal with future challenges themselves.

A true culture of inclusivity maintains an ongoing coordination and monitoring of their diversity, the levels of cultural competency, cultural intelligence and the areas for improvement through consistent training. Proper management of a diverse workforce starts with leadership proactively supporting diversity initiatives and participating in the development of a training curriculum to address the core skills relevant to the organization's environment. While developing a diversity and equity program is shown to positively affect diversity levels within the workforce, the most powerful impact is leadership and senior management driving the progress and inspiring motivation to achieve cultural intelligence while leveraging the unique differences of each member of the organization.

Natalie Victorio, Certified PDP Professional & Trainer |Victorio Consulting Director of Operations | Organizational Development Practitioner | Succession & Leadership Coach | Relevant EQ & CQ Workshops

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