Workforce Diversity Management

Multinational corporations, such as IBM, view workforce diversity management as a strategic tool for sustaining and growing the enterprise.

That doesn’t mean it is easy. Google has sought to increase the diversity of its workforce for several years. In May 2014 it publicly recognized its current lack of diversity (30% women, 2% black, and 3% Hispanic), and committed itself to aggressively address this through significant external and internal initiatives geared to attracting more individuals from these groups to technical careers and Google.45 Smaller and medium-size firms (particularly tech start-ups) are increasingly recognizing the importance of this, as they attempt to scale their operations.

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Race, gender, age, and diversity-related challenges multiply once organizations extend their footprints internationally. Differing rules, regulations, cultural norms, and values add to the change leadership challenges that need to be managed, as people learn to work with one another in efficient, effective, and socially appropriate ways. Think of the workforce challenges that a North American, Brazilian, or Indian firm needs to address when establishing its presence in a different part of the world. How will they deal with norms and values in these areas that run contrary to their core values? This is not just an issue for larger organizations. Increasingly, smaller firms find themselves facing international challenges as they seek to grow. These come in many forms—from managing virtual, globally dispersed teams and supply chains, to dealing with the complexities of joint ventures. While the challenges can seem daunting, an increasing number of small and midsize companies are succeeding on the global stage. A study of 75 such firms highlights the strategies and tactics that have produced positive results. Change leadership skills in these firms play a critical role in their survival and success.

The Physical Environment and Social Responsibility Matters Concerns over global warming, the degradation of the environment, sustainability, and social responsibility have escalated societal pressure for change at the intergovernmental, governmental, multinational and national corporate, and community levels. Accountability for what is referred to as the “triple bottom line” is leading firms to issue audited statements that report on economic, social, and ecological performance with the goal of sustainability in mind.47 The 2013 fire and building collapse involving garment suppliers in Bangladesh (1,100 workers killed) and the 2014 spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa intersected with questions about the role of multinational corporations in the health and safety of people in developing countries.

The 2010 pictures of BP’s oil well gushing millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico combined with pictures of oil-coated pelicans, drought, extreme heat, storm-related flooding, and disappearing ice masses reinforce the message that action is urgently needed. While the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was hailed as a breakthrough, the United States decision to withdraw from it has cast into doubt the future of coordinated global abatement efforts. However, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events (e.g., floods, storms, droughts, extreme heat events) and their human impact will cause the pressure for action to intensify in the years ahead. The question is more a matter of how quickly the intensifying pressure for action will reach a tipping point and will that tipping point come in time? The growing number of credible reports expressing serious concerns over the future of seaside metropolises such as Miami due to sea level rises, the increasing frequency of storms, and imminent threats to its water supply will hopefully hasten that tipping point and advance needed changes before it is too late.

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