Diversity Does Makes Us Smarter, But Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy

In our ever more globalised world of business, the necessity of diverse teams will soon become synonymous with the modern workplace.

Diversity Does Makes Us Smarter, But Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy

In our ever more globalised world of business, the necessity of diverse teams will soon become synonymous with the modern workplace.

A common argument for the effectiveness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace often points to the fact that diverse groups often outperform homogenous groups.

Changes happen both cognitively and socially to people in diverse environments where the assumption is, ‘because we are different, we will need to work harder to come to a consensus.’

When members of a group notice that they are different from one another, expectations change. They anticipate differences of opinion and perspective. In our world of cross-border communications, we deal with these ‘differences’ all the time. And it allows us to think deeper about the unique information and experiences brought from others into the equation.


 

We know that the concept of ‘diversity’ in itself can be beneficial to an organisation. However if we were to fully understand exactly how to capture these ‘benefits’, there wouldn’t even need to be a discourse surrounding DE&I initiatives.

DE&I in APAC

For companies based in the APAC region, despite the growing awareness of a formalized corporate approach to DE&I, implementing initiatives in such a multi-cultural region poses a more complicated dynamic of unique challenges.

Recent data from PwC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarking Survey from 2022 found that organizations in APAC, despite a growing interest in diversity initiatives, are still struggling to help translate DE&I strategy into action.

While DE&I is a stated value or priority area for 88% of the organizations surveyed, 41% of respondents still feel diversity is a barrier to employee progression at their organization. Furthermore, while nearly half of surveyed APAC organizations offer some training on embracing difference (49%) and overcoming unconscious bias (46%), fewer offer training on managing diverse groups and applying inclusive behaviors in leadership.


 

Referencing a 2019 Asia Pacific diversity and inclusion survey from Heidrick & Struggles, only 43% of respondents were ‘satisfied’ with the ‘ownership’ their company had over implemented D&I initiatives, highlighting an evolving expectation for DE&I initiatives to be employer-sponsored and collectively owned.

“As businesses across the Asia Pacific pursue lofty DE&I agendas, harnessing the power of diverse thought led by inclusive leadership presents an untapped opportunity to drive innovation and competitiveness.”

A key takeaway from this survey in particular, is that now, it’s become no longer affordable in APAC to overlook untapped leadership talent, even if this means overcoming long-established cultural norms, particularly for gender inclusion.

As businesses across the Asia Pacific pursue lofty DE&I agendas, harnessing the power of diverse thought led by inclusive leadership presents an untapped opportunity to drive innovation and competitiveness.

Thoughts from a cross-border agency

Any time you introduce DE&I initiatives to your organization, as a byproduct, you’re also surfacing status differences that may reinforce negative power dynamics. While it isn’t our place to speak so generally about the nuances of workplace discrimination and prejudices for such a wide swath of cultures, we recognize that these barriers exist and still need to be recognized and minimized.

At Eleven International, our team’s inherent differences make our process of consultation and consensus building a blueprint for how we deal outwardly with clients embracing a similar approach.

At Eleven we use every opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and perspectives, either in online socials or through personalized Q&As used for marketing. Central to this progress is our flat organizational structure.

As a fully remote team, building out a diverse team profile might be easier than for other companies restricted to specific regions. Nevertheless, we’d like to share a few internal tactics we’ve developed to help unleash the power of diverse group thinking and facilitate the sharing of unique information.

1) Establishing Equality of Air Time – We specifically design our team meetings in a way that everyone has the same amount of time to consult the team, ask questions, and share ideas.

2) The No Interruption Rule – On zoom we don’t necessarily have the luxury of raising our hands to speak or generally riff off each other, so we tend to wait our turn and try our best to listen with intent until our turn to speak. This signals respect for what is being said and helps us practice proactive listening.

3) Alternatives to Corporate Jargon – In our many internal group chats, we use positive and encouraging language (emojis included) that takes away from the rigidness of more traditional modes of corporate speak. It’s definitely still polite, but we all express ourselves differently and sometimes in different languages. With the ultimate goal of getting the work done, we focus on communicating clearly and openly to foster mutual understanding.

4) Prioritizing Individual Agency – People have distinct roles in the company, but are encouraged to develop skills to expand capacities beyond their designated roles. The ability to bring newly learnt skills to the table is crucial to maintaining one’s sense of agency at work.

An inevitability in the future workplace

In our ever more globalised world of business, the necessity of diverse teams will soon become synonymous with the modern workplace. We all still have a lot to learn from one another about effectively capturing the benefits of DE&I across the board.

Still, it’s more apparent than ever that we’re at our best when we allow ourselves the space to consider differing perspectives and work towards minimizing negative power dynamics.

 

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