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12/22/2019 Inclusive Leadership Leads to Competitive Advantage | Mercer

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By Malini Janakiraman

Diversity exists in just about every part of the world and industry sector. As the world
becomes “flat” and organizations continue to globalize, a diverse workforce is
commonplace.

M O B I L I TY G U I D E S
Global organizations understand that a diverse workforce can be the primary source of
competitive advantage. But simply having a diverse organization is not enough. Successful
organizations share a common characteristic: They know how to leverage diversity to create Mercer has assembled a
a unified and inclusive global culture. The process includes developing a deeper collection of guides and
understanding of culture and cultural di erences as it applies to individuals, teams, whitepapers to help you
functions, and organizations. understand key aspects of
managing an international
Practicing diversity and inclusion on a global scale allows for more e ective talent assignment program
management (attraction and retention), alignment, and team performance, as well as e ectively, including guides
improved e iciency. These factors all contribute to building a high-performance to starting a program,
organization. expatriate compensation,
policy development,
AN OVERVIEW OF GLOBAL TRENDS technology, and more.

Several key global trends that a ect any workforce further underscore the importance of
diversity and inclusiveness:
Explore Guides
• The workforce is advanced; industrialized economies are maturing. 
(Https://Mobilityexchange.Mercer.Com/Mobility-
• The percentage of immigrants and minorities in the workforce and customer base in Guides)
industrialized countries will increase. 

• The proportion of women in the workforce and decision-making positions will rise. 

• There is more recognition and acceptance of LGBT employees. 

• People with disabilities are increasingly represented in the workforce.  M O B I L I TY E V E N TS


AND TRAINING
• There are increasing cross-border/cross-boundary influences and dependencies
(mergers and acquisitions, suppliers, joint ventures, stock- and stakeholders).  Mercer o ers a variety of
mobility events throughout
• Several generations with di erent needs and learning styles exist in the workforce. the year, around the world.
From free webcasts to
These trends are especially important for multinationals where di erences across countries training seminars for
add to the benefits and challenges of diversity.
professionals at all stages of
their careers, to conferences
UNDERSTANDING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION featuring the foremost
experts in mobility, Mercer
Today, diversity has a much broader meaning than traditional definitions that focus on has an event for you.
gender and ethnicity. In the global context, one can define diversity as visible and invisible
di erences, thinking and leadership styles, religious background, sexual orientation, age,
experience, and culture. Inclusiveness is the quality of the organizational environment that
maximizes and leverages diverse talents, backgrounds, and perspectives of all employees. In
e ect, diversity is the mix; inclusiveness is the lever. Browse Events
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Many employers focus on attracting a diverse group of employees, but then struggle with Trainings)
retaining the right talent. Organizations with a highly diverse workforce that do not pay
attention to an inclusive environment are likely to be more dysfunctional than those without
a diverse sta . Research suggests that one can find the answer not so much in policies and
procedures as in the mindset of leaders in creating an inclusive culture.

In the following chart, “Relationship Between Diversity and Inclusion,” the upper-le
NEED HELP?
Quadrant A shows high diversity but low inclusion. The lower-le Quadrant B represents low
diversity and low inclusion. The bottom-right Quadrant C indicates high inclusion but low
Whether your organization is
diversity, and Quadrant D represents high inclusion and high diversity. Organizations that
practice inclusion and diversity can experience high levels of collaboration, engagement, looking to create a global
and retention – thereby providing a competitive advantage. mobility program, enhance
the one you currently have,
R E L AT I O N S H I P B E T W E E N D I V E RS I TY A N D I N C LU S I O N

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or concern you're facing, we
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The leader’s role is crucial in driving performance in a globally diverse and inclusive
environment. Traditional teams created with no particular emphasis on diversity typically
perform at average levels. Global and culturally diverse teams experience heightened risks
and opportunities, but high team performance occurs if the leader drives performance
through inclusiveness.

THE JOURNEY TO CULTURAL AGILITY


Focusing on inclusion starts with developing cultural agility: the ability to e ectively
navigate, communicate, interrelate, and function well in diverse cultural settings (see Chart,
“Journey to Cultural Agility”). Culturally agile leaders are adaptable and flexible – necessary
skills in reducing risk and maximizing opportunities to achieve performance and results.

Developing cultural agility starts with an open attitude, which leads to self-awareness, other-
awareness, knowledge, and skills to apply this knowledge. Leaders agile enough to diagnose
team dynamics exhibit change-agent behavior. Leaders unable or unwilling to use this
change-agent behavior can negatively impact the organization through unconscious biases
in grooming individuals, unequal and inequitable standards, lag in using diversity and
inclusiveness to further client relations and grow accounts, and inability to retain talent.

Also important on the journey is a focus on micro-behaviors: small, subtle, o en unspoken


and unconscious behaviors that communicate dispositions, attitudes, biases, and
sentiments. Body language, voice tone, and facial expressions can impact positively or
negatively, putting some team members at a disadvantage and others at an advantage. Four
key skills are fundamental to attaining cultural agility:

• Cultural due diligence: adequately assessing the possible e ects of culture in


relationships. 

• Style-switching: ability to use a broad, flexible behavioral repertoire to accomplish


goals. 

• Cultural dialogue: ability to illuminate cultural underpinnings of behavior and


performance, close cultural gaps, and create cultural synergy through conversation. 

• Cultural mentoring: ability to advise, teach, and coach individuals in one’s sphere of
influence to (a) recognize cultural underpinnings and consequences of behavior, (b)
understand cultural and behavioral requirements for true inclusion, and (c) support
change through inclusive behaviors, practices, and approaches (including policies
and systems).

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS TO START THE JOURNEY


To become an inclusive leader and train others, one should consider the following steps:

• Check assumptions and biases, cultivate a non-judgmental attitude towards


di erences, and ask: Are my assumptions based on fact? 

• Assume positive intent. Participate in meetings and discussions with a positive, win-
win attitude to build an inclusive environment. Engage in constructive
conversations to prevent, reveal, and transform exclusionary patterns and
behaviors. 

• Slow your responses: Think and listen before talking and develop listening skills to
help build inclusive behavior. 

• Scan social dynamics and interaction patterns for exclusion behaviors. Are some
team members more dominant, and others more passive and quiet? Work to engage
passive participants. Treat everyone as Number 1 and give everyone a voice. 

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• Deepen self- and other-awareness. Recognize one’s own behavior and how it
impacts team behavior. 

• Engage and motivate others in learning about di erences and experiences non-
judgmentally. Speak with peers and direct reports about the importance of cultural
agility. 

• Provide individual feedback and coaching to transform exclusion behaviors. Be


forthcoming and let people know when their non-verbal or verbal behaviors are
exclusionary. Model inclusive behaviors in one’s sphere of influence.

To be successful, organizations and corporate leaders must embrace the di erences people
represent and demonstrate they are inclusive as well as diverse. Leaders lead by example.

Malini Janakiraman is a global executive with 25 years of business experience in Learning


and Organizational Development. She consults on diversity & inclusion, culture, and
leadership development. Malini has an International MBA from Thunderbird University.

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