Meeting in a Box: Global Diversity

Global Diversity
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This Meeting in a Box tool is designed for distribution to D&I staff, global HR, talent-acquisition and communications staff, employee-resource-group leaders and diversity-council members. You may use portions of it or all of it. Each section is available as a separate PDF; you can forward the entire document or link to it on DiversityInc Best Practices; or you can print it out for employees who do not have Internet access.

This month, we are giving you the latest trends, how-to’s and best practices on global diversity. We’ll show you the three main areas that are of concern to global companies: local cultural competence, developing female talent and global employee resource groups. For more on global diversity, please see the executive summary of our global research at

The greatest concern most companies have about global diversity is the lack of common standards and metrics to assess success. U.S.-based metrics often don’t translate well globally because far fewer demographics and best practices are measured. (In some countries it is illegal to ask about demographics such as age or race/ethnicity.) And getting local buy-in to the business value of diversity and inclusion can be challenging if these initiatives are seen as U.S. mandates.

[CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full Meeting in a Box, our diversity-management professional development and educational tool available only to Benchmarking customers and DiversityInc Best Practices subscribers.]

I. Local Cultural Competence

The issue that most concerns companies starting or trying to increase their global-diversity initiatives is how to bring concepts of inclusion and best practices that may have originated in the United States to local markets while respecting local values and traditions.

The expression “Meet them where they are” is often used when referencing efforts on global diversity. However, multinationals, especially those headquartered in the United States, grapple with the best ways to do that while advancing inclusion in the workplace.

These concerns surface most often, but not exclusively, around gender and sexual orientation. Some companies choose to create “safe spaces” within their facilities in countries where gender equality or LGBT rights don’t exist. Others take a more active role in trying to change public policy but also try to “sell” local employees on the business benefits of inclusion.

A global diversity council can set policies that help advance inclusion, but local buy-in, especially from local leadership, is essential. Many large multinationals have had executive diversity councils, but the truly international focus of these groups has developed more significantly in recent years. Companies like Dell and EY have their CEOs chairing these councils, to emphasize the importance to the entire organization.

Our research, which this year included D&I initiatives in 24 countries in seven regions, shows that most of these councils meet in person at least once a year but have as many as four meetings a year virtually. They often have regional diversity councils, headed by the local leaders, reporting in to them. That includes the U.S. diversity councils.

Increasingly, their role is to uphold corporate values of inclusion and set a priority strategy for the year implemented by the local/regional councils.

Guided Questions for Staff

How are your global efforts monitored? What role do D&I staff play?
Global diversity is gaining in funding and in full-time staff in individual regions/countries as more multinational corporations recognize the need for global cultural competence on a local level to adhere to corporate values and goals. Our research shows most multinational companies have two D&I people in European and Asian countries, while the DiversityInc Top 50 average for the United States is 14.

Do you have a global diversity council? If so, is it chaired by your CEO?
A global D&I council will be less metrics-focused and more strategic than a U.S. D&I council, our research shows. Most of these councils will set an overarching goal, such as increasing women in management or a greater emphasis on mentoring, and rely on local leaders and councils to implement. They often require quarterly or semi-annual reports on progress.

What are the greatest challenges you face in implementing D&I globally?
Talk frankly with your staff about the global challenges and the differences between countries and cultures. Examine what other companies are doing in similar situations and what lessons you can learn.

Local Cultural Competence

II. Developing Female Talent

Gender inequity remains the greatest concern in all of the countries we examined. The greatest barrier to women’s advancement continues to be family demands.

Best practices include:

Mandatory diverse slates. One company in the United Kingdom insists that all executive short lists have 30 percent women candidates. Another company in the United Kingdom insists that its headhunters must include at least one credible female on the short list for all major selections.

Finding women in tech industries and non-traditional roles. Increasingly, every company views itself as a technology company, and more are working with girls in schools to raise awareness in interest in STEM careers.

Looking at talent-development initiatives carefully. A company in the United Kingdom says its high-potential development programs must be 50 percent female. These programs include two-day meetings focused on driving innovation, with the high-potentials developing new products, custom relationships, and improving diversity and employee engagement.

Emphasis on workplace flexibility. Also in the United Kingdom, one company has recruiters partner with hiring managers to determine whether a new role is conducive to a flexible schedule.

Understanding need for role models. Multinationals help lead and support country efforts to mandate more female representation on boards of directors.

Guided Questions for Staff

How cognizant are you of the cultural differences in your different regions—and countries—for women?
Some best practices involve sensitivity to local cultural values, such as the needs of mothers-in-law in India and women appearing in public or in mixed gender groups in Saudi Arabia.

Do your local HR people have specific efforts in place to recruit women? Our research shows less than 20 percent of multinationals have actual recruitment plans in place in most countries, especially in Asia. Those plans would include dedicated recruiters working with women’s organizations and schools, and specific training programs for girls and women.

Do you have a women’s employee resource group in most countries?
Our research also indicates more than 90 percent of global employee resource groups are still based on gender yet most U.S.-based companies have not started global resource groups yet. If you aren’t ready to start them in a country, try a region or a grouping of companies. Use virtual tools to get them going and ensure they communicate with each other about best practices as well as with your D&I staff.

Developing Female Talent

III. Global Employee Resource Groups

Have Employee Resource Groups chart

The number of global employee resource groups is growing. While most are groups for women, our latest round of global-diversity research showed 15 percent of multinationals now had some LGBT resource groups globally versus 5 percent a year ago. And 18 percent had groups for younger workers in countries outside of the U.S. versus 12 percent a year ago.

Best practices for these groups include:

• Coordination from D&I staff at headquarters with sensitivity to local cultural nuances.

• Ability for groups to talk to each other virtually in a coordinated way (portal, regular virtual meetings) to share best practices and challenges.

• Support from local leadership is essential if the groups are to be recognized as valuable to business goals and create momentum in membership.

Guided Questions for Staff

Which of your employee resource groups would work on a global basis?
Consider LGBT groups, groups for people with disabilities, generational groups and veterans groups. For the most part, groups based on race/ethnicity don’t translate well globally.

Are you creating a framework for the groups to form charters, have goals and gain members?
Use your D&I staff to give people the tools to succeed with local ERGs. Adjust goals to local needs and abilities. For example, a metric to increase recruitment by a specific percentage might be too difficult for a group starting out in certain countries. A better goal would be to help put in place a means to increase recruitment.

How well are your communication networks set up?
It’s critical that global groups talk to each other, as well as to local leadership and to your D&I staff locally and globally. They can share best practices and be monitored to ensure they are focused on business-related goals.

Global Employee Resource Groups

[CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full Meeting in a Box, our diversity-management professional development and educational tool available only to Benchmarking customers and DiversityInc Best Practices subscribers.]

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