It’s one thing to operate in a single country and fully embrace EDI principles. But it’s a whole other ball game to step onto the global playing field and do it well.
Operating globally brings with it a wealth of complexities (and headaches!). Whether they’re from the suburbs of London or the streets of Shanghai, each of your team is a wholly unique individual. They bring to the table their own cultures, perspectives and values. And honouring, respecting and celebrating those differences is going to make for a happy, productive and smooth-running department, where everyone feels included, appreciated and able to express their voice.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) defined
Before we get deeper into the subject, let’s take a look at what EDI actually is.
Equity is about treating all the unique people who make up your team in a fair and impartial way. What does that look like, exactly? It looks like making adjustments for imbalances, so you can better create equal outcomes for your people. They should enjoy equitable access to education, training and pay (amongst other things).
Diversity means your team is made up of a variety of people from different demographic backgrounds and identities. These folks each have unique life circumstances and experiences. Diversity matters because each of your team can bring their own rich perspectives and experiences with them, resulting in innovation, problem-solving and new ways of doing things.
Inclusion is all about making your diverse team feel like they belong in the office. You do this by treating them with respect, valuing them for who they are and making sure they feel able to meaningfully contribute to the team. Inclusion is making sure all voices are heard, regardless.
Why should you care about EDI?
Being a demonstrably inclusive organisation who is committed to equity and diversity makes it clear that you’re strongly driven by your principles, making you attractive to both talent and your customers – who happen to be rather diverse themselves. A diverse workforce makes for an effective team who’s able to communicate and better relate to all types of customers. And when it comes to EDI, you can’t have one without the others. They all work together mutually to benefit your team and your organisation as a whole.
The challenges of global EDI
There are unique pain points when it comes to promoting EDI in your global workforce. Let’s look at a few:
1. Cultural norms and language barriers
Doing business globally means you’re going to encounter myriad languages, diverse cultural differences and differing social norms. Dealing with all this is no mean feat! So take a deep breath. Because these differences will inevitably impact your EDI initiatives, with local teams having wholly different perceptions of EDI. Your HR teams will have the tricky task of navigating cultural nuances and language barriers to make sure they’re communicating the principles of EDI clearly and effectively. So, your people can accept it, understand it and embrace it.
2. Legal and regulatory variations
Of course, every place you operate in will have its own rules and regulations when it comes to diversity, discrimination and employment. You’ll have to make sure you’re compliant with the legalities in every country and jurisdiction, or otherwise you’ll face scary fines and penalties. You absolutely must stay up-to-date with the ever changing legal landscape and adjust your EDI policies to match. Meanwhile, you’ve got a consistent global approach to maintain, too! We didn’t say it was easy…
3. Differing socioeconomic contexts
Due to differing socioeconomic climates, it’s vital to bear in mind that the countries in which you operate won’t necessarily have the resources readily available to make opportunities accessible to your marginalised team members. This’ll have to be carefully considered by your HR team, to make sure that implementing EDI initiatives stays fair and inclusive to everybody, regardless of where they are and what’s available to them.
4. Stereotypes and biases
It’s in our human makeup to hold unconscious biases. Biases and stereotypes are present in cultures and societies the world over. Unfortunately, they can influence decisions when it comes to hiring talent, promoting team members and career advancement. It’s tough to weed it out because it’s hidden by its very nature. It’s your HR’s job to uncover unconscious biases and work out how to deal with them. This is important both within your organisation and in dealing with external partners. How might this look? We’re talking training programs, making sure your global recruitment team is diverse and promoting cultural sensitivity.
5. Winning talent (and keeping them!)
It can be complex to attract and keep hold of a diverse team when there are factors at play such as convoluted immigration policies, visa restrictions and your people’s ability to adapt culturally. It’s therefore key that your HR team develops effective strategies to find and recruit diverse team members, as well as create a workplace environment where there’s a flourishing culture of employee engagement, professional growth and employee retention across your different locations.
6. Communication is key
Communication is crucial for your global EDI policies. Developing strategies that are inclusive and your people are able to relate to is a great starting point. Practical examples of this include translating material into the local language(s), communicating in a culturally appropriate way and encouraging open dialogue. This’ll help your people feel comfortable enough to air their concerns and give you feedback.
7. Monitoring and evaluation
In order to gain meaningful, actionable insights into the progress and efficacy of your EDI efforts globally, your HR department is going to need to establish consistent metrics, tools and evaluation methods that can take into account cultural idiosyncrasies. Measuring the real impact of your EDI initiates can be a tricky business and care needs to be taken into making sure it works.
Overcoming barriers to EDI
1. Cultural and perceptual differences
When it comes to EDI, people from different countries and cultural backgrounds may not even be aware of or understand the concepts. If they do, their perception and acceptance of it may differ. It’s up to your HR team to address this, reducing resistance and misunderstandings. How? By carrying out team training, openly promoting cultural sensitivity and making sure that team members feel able to come forward and speak up about any concerns.
2. Unconscious biases
Hidden biases and not-so-hidden stereotypes add complexity to EDI. Biases may simply be normal to the culture and societal expectations. This sensitive topic needs to be carefully addressed and strategies to mitigate it include making sure your hiring panel is extremely diverse. Structured interview processes can reduce the impact of biases and stereotypes, as well as promoting transparency and accountability in decision-making.
3. Language and communication barriers
Don’t let your EDI get lost in translation. Language barriers can be a huge hurdle in clearly communicating your EDI strategy. Your HR people need to make sure these barriers don’t prevent your team from understanding and achieving EDI goals, as well as policies and training materials. Translating materials, communicating in multiple languages and providing language support can all go a long way to removing this barrier.
4. Legal and regulatory constraints
You’ll inevitably come up against legal and regulatory obstacles relating to employment, diversity and inclusion in your efforts to implement a robust EDI initiative. Your HR department will have to perform a balancing act when it comes to navigating global HR compliance and maintaining a consistent EDI strategy. To overcome this, you should do your best to keep abreast of local legal requirements. Partnering with a local legal expert can help massively in keeping you compliant.
5. Lack of leadership commitment
In order to promote your EDI efforts, your leadership needs to get on board. If your seniors are apathetic about your initiatives and neither prioritise nor champion them, it can be difficult to effect real and lasting change. EDI should trickle from the top down and if your leadership hasn’t bought in, you’re going to have a tough time getting others to. How to get over this? Advocate for the business case of EDI. Show your leaders what’s in it for them and how EDI can improve employee engagement and overall organisational performance.
Make your organisation stronger
Fostering a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion will make your team strong and your organisation stronger. If you want a productive and profitable workplace, as well as a happy, engaged team, it makes excellent business sense to implement and promote a robust EDI strategy.
Want to know what else can strengthen your operations? Having a global HR partner on your side. Cintra Global’s international HR services help you to hire, engage and manage a thriving team. We take care of the multitude of compliance complexities that come with EDI and support you with navigating tricky employment laws. And that’s just the beginning.
We’d love to show you how partnering with us will do your global HR departments the world of good. Get in touch today.