The Centre for Global Inclusion recently released the 2021 Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB): Standards for Organizations Around the World. The nearly 100-page document features 275 benchmarks across 15 categories and 5 levels. Written by Nene Molefi, Julie O’Mara, and Alan Richter, PhD, the GDEIB is updated annually using a consensus process with 112 Expert Panelists from around the globe (Download the full document here.)

All this is to say that there are best practices in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) that are globally universal. Start with an assessment to inform your DEI business case; develop your DEI vision and strategy and align it to your organizational goals; communicate your DEI goals across the organization; and consider all internal and external stakeholders.

With all this universal alignment in theory, you would think a single solution could apply to a company’s entire workforce. However, when approaching global training for US based companies, it’s in the application of DEI best practices where you need…a little DEI.

Three Reasons Your Global DEI Rollout Needs to be Localized 

⦁ The Historical/Cultural Context is Different from Country to Country

Requests for DEI training have increased tenfold in the US over the past couple of years. Divisive rhetoric leading up to the 2020 election; high profile shootings of people of color by police, racial inequities in healthcare, education, jobs and more were pushed to the forefront during the pandemic, as communities of color were more negatively impacted on all these indicators. This exposure of systemic inequities fueled commitment from top leadership at corporations of all sizes to drive change.
Overseas teams, on the other hand, will often say “we don’t have the same racial issues as in the United States.” In Europe, the growing critical need for DEI initiatives is in response to record migration. Rather than long-rooted history that needs reconciling, Europe has seen a significant rise in refugees seeking asylum. “The sheer force of flow has broken down systems that were in place to integrate immigrants and help them settle,” says George Simons, a longtime leader in cross-cultural communication and global management. Then, “in a country like South Korea, which is mostly a monocultural society, gender will be a bigger focus,” Simons adds.
Trainers in the classroom (virtual or in-person) will want to be sensitive to context. For example, race-theory based training drawn on US systems will not adapt to other countries who do not experience the same history. An approach built on how culture and identity influences values, behaviors and communication styles may have broader application.

⦁ Different Dimensions of Diversity are More Resonant

Review of Gardenswartz and Rowe’s four dimensions of identity is a good conversation starter for DEI workshop participants to explore the layers of diversity that contribute to the workplace. In the US, the challenge is often to help participants look beyond the Internal Dimensions of identity such as race, gender and ethnicity.

In the European context, External Dimensions may be more at the forefront. Geographic location as relates to nationality and possible language barriers, or religion, with the influx of refugees, will influence regional priorities. Solutions need to be localized to respond to the dynamics within each country or office teams in different parts of the world.

⦁ Logistical Details Related to Global Operations Must Still be Addressed

There’s a sense of urgency around DEI movements in the US right now connected to the urgent need for social change. That said, while looking at the broader organizational picture, don’t discount logistical annoyances when working globally.

For example, if the US-based finance department sends an edict at 10 am in San Francisco, that all receipts need to be in by end of the day, or you won’t get reimbursed…colleagues in Paris who are long gone from the office will either miss out or be scrambling to comply. Likewise, is your US based help-desk available at hours and in languages that match your global operations?

Finding Balance

Leaders of global entities are faced with delivering constant and thoughtful experiences to employees across various regions. The challenge is to find the balance between things that are consistent and standardized, while also ensuring that content and approach resonate with people on different continents. A thorough DEI assessment and strategy at the outset will pave the way.

While layering in best practices, an effective approach to DEI will be customized to a company’s specific needs and challenges. And that is true whether a company is based entirely in one country or spread around the globe. Partnering with leaders with culture and country-specific experience can help.

About the Author

Deanna Shoss is the VP of Marketing for Executive Diversity Services and the founder/CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc., which provides digital, intercultural, and real-life marketing strategies and tactics for non-digital natives–aka did not grow up with technology. Shoss hosts the weekly livestream show, Intercultural Spark and is the co-author of Where Two Worlds Meet: A Guide to Connecting with Your Teenage Grandchildren, a new book that applies an intergenerational lens to the grandparent-grandchild connection.

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