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What Does Engagement Mean Globally?

Barbara Frankel, DiversityIncEmployees who feel they can “bring their whole selves to work” and are spending their days in inclusive environments are more engaged and, therefore, more innovative and productive. The question for multinational corporations increasingly is: How can we make that happen in all our global locations?

It’s not an easy question, as the third year of our intense Global Diversity Research reveals. We surveyed more than 200 corporate officers in 46 countries in eight regions. We found wide discrepancies in attitudes toward inclusion of women; ethnic, racial and religious minorities; people with disabilities; and people from lower-income or -class groups. The greatest differences are in inclusion of LGBT people, which varies from U.S. and European corporate cultures where LGBT resource groups are increasingly common to Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries where being out means being ostracized, imprisoned or even killed.

Our in-depth interviews with more than 20 corporations on their best practices revealed that a few multinationals, all of which have led the way in diversity and inclusion in the United States, have jumped out front in their efforts to create inclusive cultures. IBM is at the forefront of working to change attitudes and laws in countries that discriminate against LGBT people. Other companies, such as Ernst & Young, Sodexo and Deloitte, are determined to create safe spaces within their corporate walls in all locations.

The universal denominator in assessing global-diversity efforts is obviously gender, and the inclusionary efforts are as disparate as the forms of government in each country. We found that in many European countries and in Australia, the issues surround the proverbial “glass ceiling” and efforts to train women (and men) in culturally competent leadership styles. In Asian countries, the biggest concern is in helping women and their families balance traditional domestic responsibilities with the need to work and succeed outside of the home.

Our research increasingly shows that certain D&I initiatives—global and local diversity councils, resource groups, flexible workplaces and talent-development plans aimed at women and underrepresented groups—are having a demonstrable impact on the percentages of women in the workforce, management and senior management. This occurs in every region and in almost every country we studied.

We’re about to embark on our next round of global research in which we’ll expand the database and go even deeper to learn what’s having an impact and what next steps are needed. And our consultants are working with corporations to successfully implement their global-diversity initiatives. For more information, go to “Global Diversity Research Executive Summary: 203 Data Submissions in 46 Countries.”

Engaging workers globally is a distinct challenge, with issues that have similarities to the U.S. but also vary widely on a local basis. What’s universal is that solid best practices yield inclusive cultures—and more involved and effective employees.

–Barbara Frankel, Executive Editor and Senior Vice President, DiversityInc

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