Diversity’s Impact on the Global Workforce




Diversity’s Impact on the Global Workforce_photo of person using laptop

It’s being seen more and more every day:  companies growing, not just locally, but globally.  It’s a necessity given today’s growing global community, but it’s not without its hurdles.  There are several challenges organizations have to overcome, including addressing the diversity of that new global workforce being sought.

Globalization Partners’ 2020 Global Employee survey results bring that point into sharp focus.  I had an opportunity to sit down with Chief Operating Officer Debbie Millin and discuss their findings.  Our interview is below.

Debbie Millin

Chief Operating Officer

Globalization Partners

Mason Stevenson

Please provide a 36,000 ft. view of your findings in the 2020 Global Employee Survey.

Debbie Millin

A major theme that arose from this year’s findings was around diversity—both the windfall it produces in terms of important outcomes, but also the challenges it presents for employees themselves. Overall, employees are seeing the benefits of working on international teams, and their optimism for the future is high.

  • Most encouraging findings?

We continue to be impressed by the high levels of optimism and confidence global workers exhibit in their cross-border teams, especially in these un-precedented times. 

  • Most concerning findings?

The disparate experiences employees were having in headquarters versus those in remote offices or at home, and the resulting impact that disconnect is having now more than ever.

Mason Stevenson

Organizations with more diverse cultures and those that embrace multilingualism see better results.  Why?

Debbie Millin

Part of this success is because they incorporate diversity into the daily workings of the business. For example, we found that workers whose companies used more than one language for work were 11-16% more likely to say they feel connected to their organizations. Likewise, those workers were 14-22% more likely to report that their voices matter in their organizations. is interesting to note that there seems to be a sweet spot for companies who employ between 2 and 5 languages for business, and that the multiple language benefit tapers a bit for those using more than 5 languages

Mason Stevenson

78 percent of employees working in a diverse culture trust leadership.  On the flip side, only 45 percent of employees trust their leaders in a culture that’s not considered diverse.  What’s the impact of trust on the company?

Debbie Millin

A lack of trust can result from inherently different expectations. Feeling untrusted has a direct negative correlation on productivity – and therefore it’s critical that your global team is engaged. To do that, you need strong processes and if possible, the assistance of culture experts to optimize the employee experience. You will also need to set them up with compliant, equitable systems, and demonstrate an understanding of local culture.

Mason Stevenson

What challenges are organizations seeing when it comes to aligning with local culture?

Debbie Millin

This year we took a closer look at some of the struggles that come bundled with employing a diverse international team. Feelings of connectedness, belonging, and inclusion can deviate dramatically for global teams versus the organization as a whole. 50% of respondents told us their companies sometimes struggle to align with and be sensitive about local cultures.

Another 33% of respondents said their companies “often” struggle with this.

Mason Stevenson

Do employees report a struggle in working with international colleagues?  If so, why?

Debbie Millin

When we asked global team members about relationships between employees working in the home office and those in international offices, results were mixed. While more than half indicated the relationship was “great” (58%), 37% said it was “just okay”. Another 5% indicated the relationship was outright “terrible.” This is because of the experiences employees might be having in different locations. Global virtual managers don’t get the benefits of managing by walking around that local managers get, so they need to check in frequently and consistently and set frequent goals.

Mason Stevenson

It’s not difficult to assume there are both pros and cons of having a global workforce, what are a couple?  

Debbie Millin

Pros: Global employees bring a valuable new perspective, to headquarters. Not only due to knowledge of different cultures, religions and traditions, but also in terms of how to look at new ways to solve in-house processes.

Cons: When employees are more intensely concentrated outside of the home office—there is the possibility that they begin to detach across the board. The result is lower levels of trust, engagement and optimism—and a more negative view of the relationships between headquarters and satellite offices.

Mason Stevenson

Generally speaking, do global employees feel their concerns are heard? 

Debbie Millin

The results found that 33% of employees do not feel listened to, and 3 in 10 say they don’t feel a sense of inclusion or belonging in their organization. However, we found the more diverse the workplace is the more employees felt their concerns were being head. This is because these organizations tend to embrace multilingualism and as a result, are seeing better team results across the board.

Mason Stevenson

That lack of engagement/sense of belonging can easily transform into the employee’s desire to leave the organization.  How does the organization curve those desires?

Debbie Millin

Inclusion does seem to have a significant part to play in turnover. When we looked at employees’ self-reported levels of inclusion, those who felt disconnected were almost twice as likely (24%) to say they were definitely leaving their companies in 2020. Making sure your global employees feel connected to the whole organization is one of the most important things you can do to ensure success. Companies with global teams need to make it a point to have regular check-ins so employees know how they are doing and where they fall into the overall mission of the organization. It also goes back to establishing communications practices that make them feel valued and heard—across time zones and on par with employees at headquarters.

Mason Stevenson

Communication continues to be an issue with global teams.  What did the data find?

Debbie Millin

We found that 24% are finding it a challenge to find good communications methods, 24% struggle with scheduling/time zones and 21% struggle with language barriers. When we asked global team members to narrow down their most frequently used communications methods, email emerged as the top channel for international teams (46%), however, only 31% cited email as a top effective communication tool.

Mason Stevenson

What types of communication are most effective for global teams?

Debbie Millin

It’s important to make sure the processes and tools you put into place encourage people from all backgrounds to have a voice in the conversation. Given our current situation and the fact that almost everyone is remote, managers and companies need to use the other communication methods even more than usual and have more frequent contact. You need to plan for differences in schedules and augment text-based communication (email, instant message, text) by using online video tools that can enable face-to-face meetings whenever possible. Difficulty with languages or accents? Try more text-based collaboration. There are tools like Slack that gives teams the ability to collaborate on projects and provide a social connection for employees around the world.

Mason Stevenson

The issues we’ve discussed, are they new or do they persist year-to-year?  If so, what are some of the strategies HR teams can implement to help mitigate the problems?

Debbie Millin

One of the clear data trends we see in both the 2019 and 2020 survey data shows that the companies most likely to keep global teams happy are those who make the effort to accommodate diversity, understand local laws and practices, and keep remote workers feeling as connected and included as those at headquarters.  

If companies want to continue to earn their international employees’ enthusiasm, they would be smart to conduct internal research to understand their experience relative to those in the home office, and thereby find more meaningful ways to incorporate their voices and earn their trust.

 

Debbie Millin is Chief Operating Officer for Globalization Partners.

 

Photo courtesy:  Pexels

Co-Contributor


Debbie Millin
Chief Operating Officer
Globalization Partners
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