Global Diversity

Today many US-based corporations know about the benefits of diversity and already have corporate responsibility programs in place. Human resources leaders include diversity training on employee on-boarding checklists along with sexual harassment and ethics policies training and these considerations are primarily focused on internal company operations. When it comes to external communications targeting new clients and employees, there are often references in tiny font at the bottom of the page that highlight equal opportunity compliance. We can continue these positive efforts today but when it comes to international business, we need to expand our vision and understanding beyond our own business practices and employees. When we use Google Maps or Bing Maps online to find directions, most of us have probably zoomed in with a bird's eye view to look at our own homes and backyards. Then we zoom out and expand the views to see the city, the local region, and finally a satellite view of the earth. We should take this same approach when thinking about other people and cultures as well. It is important to recognize our own household views while embracing a global perspective when promoting ethics, inclusion and diversity. Growing up in Chicago with mixed race parents, I have never seen a mixed race pride parade on State Street, but I have learned to appreciate diverse and unique perspectives from multiple cultures. Both my upbringing and my 16 years in IT consulting and outsourcing have cultivated this appreciation. For the last 10 years, I have helped executives solve technology problems in their US offices and across global locations in India, China, Mexico, Russia, and the Philippines. Inclusion, ethics, and diversity best practices in the US have the support and oversight of our society and legal system. This premise can be very different, however, from that of other cultures and countries we may engage with in global business. Using IT outsourcing with global locations offers new opportunities to solve many problems. However, we need to be cognizant of different global views in areas of culture, customs, holidays, religions, politics, dietary restrictions, sexual discrimination, language, etc. Challenges of global diversity I interviewed an executive for a large Chicago bank that contracted offshore resources from multiple vendors based in India. She shared some challenges they've had with integrating new offshore contractors into their US-managed project teams. I also shared with her some of my experiences with global outsourcing. Here are our collective observations about the challenges sometimes experienced: - Ethnocentrism can be an unforeseen issue until it becomes apparent in your global project team; for example, your Indian vendor would only hire Indian contractors for a US-based site - Sandals and traditional sleeveless women's clothing are not in compliance with the bank's policy - Some cultures have different definitions of personal space and talking too close and touching hands & shoulders is not proper in the US - The level of age and sex discrimination is different than in the US - Communication styles and language accents were challenging for some US clients - Multiple Indian holidays required scheduling backup resources - The high turnover rate of consultants made the process of diversity and ethics screening constant. Be Proactive Embracing the lessons learned about global diversity from others with experience building successful offshore projects is critical to a successful global strategy. Here are a few recommendations based on those lessons: - Set policy and specific rules of engagement early on to build in your diversity best practices with offshore contractors - Write contracts only with US-based companies or with the US headquarters for global companies to make potential legal challenges much easier - Have contingency plans in place to cover the unexpected conflicts that may arise between the US team and the offshore team - Design the leadership of the project to be based in the US where diversity and ethics issues can be addressed faster - Have "fun" team-building events that encourage cross-cultural learning and communications - Have executives sponsor internal cultural awareness programs and events that highlight different countries of the project team. Example: Host a lunch event that features cultural art, music and food. - Choose vendors that are more likely to welcome and match the same beliefs of your diversity, inclusion and ethics policy. The Way Ahead When engaging in business across the globe, our typical views and definitions of a diverse workplace need to be reevaluated alongside the international teams with which we do business. By keeping a few of these suggestions in mind, we can experience the positive impacts of diversity, including building successful businesses around the world. Rus Daru represents Innovative Systems Group, a minority owned (MBE) business that practices global diversity and inclusion. With offices in Glen Ellyn, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh and the Philippines, ISG is successfully engaged in over 2,000 projects and has life-long partnerships with top financial, healthcare, energy and manufacturing companies.

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