The Key to Diversity & Inclusion is Across The Hallway

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Inspired by an article published last Sunday in The Guardian it dawned on me that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) could be barking up the wrong tree and Global Mobility may be missing a trick. Together they could go a long way to delivering on your company’s D&I agenda. For global mobility, it’s an opportunity to take a seat at the top table and more importantly, take a new direction providing purpose and social impact way beyond your professional remit.

The gist of the article, backed by sound research, confirms the belief that teaching our employees about diversity, biases and discrimination is often ineffective, particularly when delivered as a standalone ‘classroom’ training. These courses are not bad, they may raise awareness of our own biases, but they do not deliver long-lasting behavioural change that is necessary for societal progress or to impact your corporate D&I goals.

So how does global mobility feature in this conundrum? Living and working in foreign cultures can and often does cause a permanent rewiring of our brains – that is we develop new thinking patterns, new problem-solving skills. When faced with working in multicultural teams and having to deliver results, it soon becomes clear that we need to find common ground, we must listen to understand rather than judge, we must look out for non-verbal cues – it requires us to decode a set of unwritten rules that have evolved over millennia. At the top end of the spectrum we not only respect these differences, we positively celebrate them. This is the very essence of inclusivity. This is why foreign assignments are an important and effective tool for D&I; these experiences help us develop cultural intelligence which over time permeates all our relationships and to view the world with a more inclusive and curious lens. Of course, each individual is different and there must be willingness but as a general rule the more exposure, the earlier in life the better. It’s an option available to the wider workforce since multicultural teamwork does not require us to physically move. It is also an excellent opportunity to promote virtual assignments.

At a time when we are challenged by right-wing nationalism, by a pandemic that is making our worlds smaller, when global mobility is facing an existential crisis, it’s worth a chat with your colleagues across the (virtual) hallway. Together you really could go a long way to build a culture of inclusion, tolerance and understanding.

References: What unconscious bias training gets wrong… and how to fix it by David Robson. Published in the Observer, April 25 2021

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