Magazine article Talent Development

Rethinking Diversity

Magazine article Talent Development

Rethinking Diversity

Article excerpt

The worldwide phenomenon of economic globalization not only has provided different logistics and consumption habits, but also has generated a new workplace environment much more diverse than ever.

The explosion of technology tools, the offer of virtual environments, and a new media portfolio were important factors that characterized the shift to the 21st century. The sense of connecting with whomever, wherever, and whenever dramatically has changed our idea of a "global world"--and, of course, it has made global thinking a fundamental requirement for future leaders.

With the use of new technology it is feasible to expand the concept of exporting offices and work around the world. These organizational structures are counting on new models of reporting, management, and teamwork.

Many leaders are supervising employees in different geographic locations who they rarely meet in person. Computer programmers, for example, work on complex systems in India while communicating and interacting daily with designers in France or Korea to help develop products that are manufactured in Vietnam and sold in Brazil. This is totally new challenge for leaders.

This scenario has created a new demand for what we used to call "multiculturalism." Diversity and multiculturalism include many more characteristics than only race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and disability. Today, diversity and multiculturalism should be redefined to also include less conventional traits such as cultural background, sexual orientation, class, marital status, and generation.

We are facing an important debate on the importance of diversity in the workplace. This theme must begin with the very definition of diversity.

In the past, I've defined diversity as "all characteristics and experiences that describe each of us as individuals." If we use that definition, the modern concept of diversity also will include the diverse elements and behaviors generated by all people in an organization. That includes communication style, work style, organizational role or level, economic status, and geographic origin (all of which are affected by globalization, technology, and different generations in the workplace).

Business impact of diversity

Based on the research of numerous global organizations (including ASTD; MOT, a consulting company based in Europe and Latin America; ABTD, the Brazilian Training and Development Association; and Cegos, the major European training and development consultancy), it can be said that a company that embraces and values diversity as an integral part of its goals can have a positive impact on individual productivity, organizational effectiveness, and sustained competitiveness.

All this research concludes that those organizations that invest a high amount of resources in leadership development programs with a worldwide perspective and that value and recognize the significance of diversity, tend to have better business results. In addition, the more that an organization recognizes that the workplace environment has dramatically changed, is more diverse, and is affected by social media factors, age, and different social issues and preferences, the more that organization will achieve results on a global scale.

In the future, it will be imperative to go beyond creating a more diverse workplace based simply on numerical representations of certain groups. To maximize the usage of their human capital, companies not only will have to understand that diversity is an essential ingredient to a successful operation, but also must adopt a systematic approach to apply diversity concepts--such as valuing differences between employees (taking into consideration new styles of behavior and social preferences)--to core business practices that value multiculturalism.

Two factors that are seen as making global thinking a key variable for the future are the dramatic projected increases in global trade and integrated global technology. …

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