Do Employees Really Embrace Cultural Diversity at Work?

November 03rd, 2015

Hi All,

According to PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC’s) 18th Annual Global CEO Survey (in 2015): 85% of CEOs who have a diversity & inclusiveness strategy say it’s enhanced performance.

That’s great, but MORE companies need to jump on this bandwagon. Here’s a little story to illustrate the importance of fostering diversity education in a company’s culture…from my personal experience of speaking recently at the 2015 Annual Diversity Day event for a global Fortune 500 technology company.

I was the Keynote Speaker. Their CEO did a “Welcome” and then came me. Keep reading…

My client built the entire theme of their company-wide event around my Personal Branding book, so my speech title was, “The Dynamics of Diversity: How to Create a Personal Brand at Work in a Diverse, Global Environment”.

Yes, I discussed the importance of creating and managing your Personal Brand for leadership and career success and how to do it within a global company. However, I also focused on the importance of embracing diversity at work because your Cultural Competency (or lack thereof) is something that impacts your Personal Brand, positively or negatively.

There were 300+ people in the audience and when I shared this quote, the entire room applauded and nodded in agreement: “Meet people; not stereotypes”.

That passionate audience response was fabulous, however the truth is that many people like to “think” they think like that…yet many don’t.

Now keep in mind the room was filled with people from all generations, races, backgrounds, lifestyles, and a fairly equal mix of gender.

To make a key point with them, I shared the true story of a female executive from another global company who had contacted me just a few days prior for a private Leadership Coaching session. She saw me speak at a different event and determined she could use my help.

She’s Chinese (born in the U.S.), early-40’s, married, Mom of two kids, and a lawyer in her company’s Legal Department. Her professional and education background are stellar.

During our session, she told me that she was having a hard time relating to other people within the company (locally and abroad), outside of her direct peers, and it was impacting her Personal Brand and leadership ability.

When I bluntly asked the nationalities of whom she had lunch, Happy Hours, BBQ’s on weekends, social gatherings, and other social activities with, she thought for a moment and then answered, “They’re pretty much all Chinese”.

When I inquired about any Professional Networking Associations she was a member of outside of work, she timidly replied, “An Asian Women in Business Group.”

As I shared this story with the audience in front of me, people throughout the room were nodding. Why? Because they could totally relate and it struck a nerve within them.

Why? A lot people, even in big, global companies, who are highly educated and surrounded by a diverse workforce daily, tend to “herd” with their people socially, inside and outside of work (aside from business meetings, Team Building events, and working daily with co-workers they’re required to).

I encouraged the audience to get out of their comfort zones and start reaching out to co-workers and people throughout the company who were “different” from themselves. And to start learning about other cultures and lifestyles by asking questions of people IN THEM.

Don’t know someone from the LGBT community? Meet someone. Don’t have any African American friends? Get some. Don’t have any friends who are Indian, Caucasian, Asian, Latino, Jewish, or from any other “diversity category” you can think of? Make it happen.

I don’t care if it’s gender, generational, lifestyle, religious, or ethnic diversity, the only person who can expand your horizons is YOU.

Do you know how POWERFUL that is for your Personal Brand and personal growth? Do you know how important this is for being an effective leader and Manager? People will appreciate your interest and will respect that you EVEN care!

As I often say in my speeches, “This may sound like common sense but it’s not common practice…big difference”.

Luckily, the Millennials (aka: Gen Y) are starting to turn this around. They are the first generation in the history of our country and world who, in a somewhat “mass mindset”, tend to be more tolerant and all-inclusive. That’s one of the reasons I love them and I really enjoy working with them in the workshops I conduct specifically for their generation.

In closing, when I concluded my keynote and left the stage at the Annual Diversity Day event, tons of people came up to me to share their appreciation for my message. One African American woman said she was guilty of not expanding her peer group, as did an Indian man, a white Boomer man, and a Latina woman. And that’s just a FEW of the people who confided in me that day.

Cultural Competency is very different from Cultural Awareness. So do yourself, your career, your company, and your colleagues a favor, and focus on becoming Culturally Competent. It’ll do wonders for your Personal Brand at work.

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