VP of Editorial Services Damian Johnson spoke with author and diversity consultant Melissa Lamson, CEO and President of Lamson Consulting, discusses global diversity and business growth in the first of an ongoing series.
Why should companies globalize their approach to diversity?
A: Diversity is all about the people in an organization. The people that we work with today, whether it’s a local or international project, are from all different kinds of backgrounds. Our workforce is global whether we are working internationally or not. So we need to understand that we are going to have diverse approaches, methods of decision-making, presentations, implementation of solutions, and management of projects. We need to become savvier at adapting our styles to other cultures.
What is the top qualification leaders should be looking for in hiring new talent today?
A: There have been new studies lately that have shown that leaders of large, multinational companies are looking for people with a global mindset. They are looking for ways to assess and determine whether people can work effectively across cultures and in global contexts. This is a pretty new way of looking at best practices in business. Recruiters used to ask questions like, “Did this person come out of the best business school? Do they have good work experience?” Of course they are still asking that, but they’re focusing more on the behavioral aspects of agility and empathy. Recruiters today ask questions like, “Can this person be flexible? Can this person show empathy towards a person with a multicultural background?”
How can an employee develop their global mindset?
A: If a company has a budget to do more in terms of employee exchange, even letting someone live in another country for three to six months, is an excellent option. It’s not necessarily something that a lot of companies feel like they can do, or employees may not necessarily want to leave home, but there are alternatives. We can get this information digitally. I encourage people to seek out alternative business news channels. Through the internet or on TV, make the effort to look at International CNN or BBC, or seek out one of the newspapers in the countries you are interested in. Wall Street Journal Asia is fascinating because it has a totally different perspective from the U.S. version of the paper. I recommend, if you are traveling on business internationally, get out of the hotel. It might take a little extra motivation, but I recommend it. Go to a local restaurant and start a conversation with people there. It will be one of the most enlightening parts of your trip.
As a person in charge of diversity within an organization, what are the steps they should take to globalize a company’s approach to diversity?
A: The most important thing they can do is to do a pulse check on what is happening now globally with the company. I highly recommend traveling to as many locations as you can, asking questions, and listening. How are people communicating with each other? What improvements do they recommend? Then from that data, develop some kind of educational program on teamwork or cultural sensitivity. If these are done well, they will be highly impactful and help individuals cooperate better with each other. Thirdly, look at procedures and systems and see where there could be potential bias. Ask where are we doing things from a purely U.S. perspective that may not work the same way in another country, and how can we make sure that those procedures or processes are truly global?