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  • February 7, 2012

2012 is the Year of New Thinking

by Andrés T. Tapia —  

diversitywords

With more than a month into the New Year, now is a good time to check how we’re doing with our 2012 resolutions. Earlier, Diversity Best Practices offered some practical suggestions of things you could do to increase your impact this year.

This is also  a good moment to re-examine common topics, challenges, and opportunities in a fresh way. At Diversity Best Practices, we’re committed to disseminating details about best practices, but we also strive to be at the forefront of new thinking.

What’s the new thinking in 2012 that has implications for diversity? Three things come to mind.

It’s a Multidimensional World

In today’s global, multiracial, multigenerational workforce some of the classic ways of thinking about diversity feel too limiting. With affinity groups, mentoring programs, and career fairs organized in unidimensional ways (women or Latino or Black or Asian or Gay) how do we effectively address the growing reality that people can be all of the above?

We need to challenge ourselves to think about diversity in multidimensional ways. If you missed last year’s insight paper published on this very topic make sure to check it out. The take aways included that in the past decade the number of multiracial people in United States has tripled and the Millennial generation has grown up in an era of greater tolerance, which means there is going to be an acceleration of multicultural relationships. What’s more, globalization is bringing together people from different cultures and nations, which is leading to new types of bonds that transcend traditional diversity dimensions.

The conversations around race, for example, sound and feel very different among white Baby Boomers (who tend to have grown up in more homogeneous environments and didn’t encounter diversity until they went to college) than among Millennial whites (who grew up in multicultural communities and in a growing number of cases were in the minority).

It’s imperative we have a better handle on the implications of the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability to just mention a few. Is there a place for the gay African American or the Latino with a disability or the Asian who is a military veteran? This creates seemingly vexing new challenges in the workplace, particularly for employee resource groups. How do you accommodate this growing multidimensional reality? Many ERGs are not equipped to address this. Now is a great time to look at your team and discuss strategies.

Global is the New Local

We also need to shift how we think about global work. Instead of viewing it as an expansion of one’s domestic efforts, today’s global business culture necessitates that companies start globally to be successful. How do you do this? Instead of treating your global work as an add on, a global mindset needs to be in place when you develop your initial strategy. In effect, your entire approach becomes global, with your U.S. headquarters becoming one of your many global regions. 

This has implications for developing strategy, action plans, staffing, stakeholder analysis, and communications strategy. Even for those who are only U.S.-based, globalization is already affecting your support functions, competitive landscape, and future expansion plans. This is about the place where you stand, your punto de partida, your starting point. How much are you thinking of global as your punto de partida?

It’s Not Just About People

More and more Fortune 1000 companies are seeing that diversity is not just a talent issue. It’s actually a huge marketplace issue. The multicultural population represents a $3 trillion market. And it’s a market that is growing, as these populations enter the job market, go to school, have their first home, insurance policies, self-paid vacations. These groups will be driving consumption. In my work as president of Diversity Best Practices and in consulting, the opportunity here is bastante grande, very big. This is where executives get highly engaged when we can help them see the direct line of sight from diversity to revenue and growth.

One example of a company capitalizing on this trend: At a Walgreens in Highland Park—a Chicago community comprised of Jewish, Anglo, and Latino residents—the ice cream freezer is not stocked with Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, or Breyers, but rather La Michoacana, a Mexican ice cream provider. The brand is not well known in the United States at all, but it’s definitely recognizable to those who grew up in Mexico. The decision to feature that brand of ice cream at the impulse buying check out area is a money-making nod to the fast-growing Latino demographic in the neighborhood.

When you see something like that it means things are starting to go mainstream. How much is your diversity strategy riding that wave? How much are you lending your voice and perspective to harness the power of diversity to really win in the marketplace?

The War Is On

The talent war is going to heat up. Be on the look out. It cooled down during the recession, but the diversity of that highly desirable talent hasn’t decreased. With the economy gradually improving, competition for that diverse talent is increasing. Great talent will be available because people are ready to look for new opportunities. Just recently I was talking with the CDO at one of our financial member companies and he commented about all the great talent he has come across recently and, in contrast to last year, this wasn’t very good talent who happened to have been laid off, but very good talent currently employed at very good companies looking to make a move to enhance their careers.

To be at the forefront of doing vital work, keeping and reviewing these new ways of thinking as beacons of thinking will be essential for a successful, prosperous, and breakthrough year.

 

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