Utilization

When illustrating how to utilize and strategically work with cultural diversity it is sometimes useful to analyze best practices. IBM has been working with cultural diversity for a number of years and their internal processes provide a beneficial set of principles and tools when promoting cultural diversity. 

In order for a company to utilize cultural diversity a top management commitment is needed. If the desire to change organizational structures is not perceived to be genuine; then new diversity promoting initiatives will never be fully realized. In IBM management clearly realized the need to change organizational structures in order to realize the potential of the employee diversity. For instance the company implemented top down practices that dealt with formalized training and floating cultural holidays in order to be flexible in relation to employee needs. Even though IBM implemented quite a few top down initiatives it was the individuals that felt passionate about the utilization of diversity that according to management truly made the changes happen. 

IBM had a very systematic approach towards utilization. For instance the company implemented a diversity council which job was to visibly encourage and value the contributions and differences of employees from various cultural backgrounds. Another area that the council was heavily engaged in was the development of attraction and recruiting strategies along with retention and awareness strategies which also included education of managers and employees. 

Feedback from employees was also an important aspect of the implementation strategy at IBM. Employees were asked to provide insight on how the company was doing in its work with diversity and new ideas were also appreciated. 

Generating internal diversity awareness also seems to be a very important process when utilizing employee differences. IBM made use of internal diversity awards that were given to individuals whose actions encapsulated the diversity principles of the company. Intense communication of such success stories inside and outside the company helps the diversity principles come to life.

Finally one of the initiatives that made a major difference within IBM was the consistent and continuous education of individuals as well as teams. Providing organizational members with an understanding of how cultural biases impact perceptions and decision making was a key to utilizing diversity. Some of the educational programs addressed issues like; why certain behaviors and communication styles fail in some cultures, how to approach cultural gaps that could potentially lead to misunderstandings and how to resolve issues about decision making and conflict resolution. All of which seem important when managing in-group diversity on a daily basis. 

All of the above mentioned principles and examples illustrate some of the ways to utilize cultural diversity, but one important aspect is missing – evaluation. In order for companies to justify their diversity promoting efforts evaluation metrics are essential. However there are many aspects of business operations that may be influenced by cultural diversity. Some of the variables that may be interesting to look at are: 

  • Retention rates
  • Staff satisfaction
  • Customer feedback
  • New contracts
  • Product development
  • Problem solving