learning best practices goes both
ways and any leading role the United
States plays should not be interpreted
as a “here we are to show you how
it’s done” attitude, Anand says.
“In Scandinavian countries, as
far as gender was concerned, there
were some big surprises around policies for me,” she says.
“Women get 12 months
of maternity leave and
men have to use one
month of that leave.”
Failure of fathers to use
that one month results in
forfeiture of the entire 12-
months’ leave, Anand
says. In Norway, a law
requires that at least one woman sit
on corporate boards, she says.
“Many countries are much better
than the United States in terms of
work/life balance issues, and that
has been a big learning [experience]
for me,” Anand says.
Companies in countries that fail
to address shortcomings in best practices could hurt their operations as
they increasingly find themselves
competing for talent globally. As its
global task force continues to
exchange diversity practices, Sodexho
hopes to draw talent worldwide.
“It’s going to be another differentiator for us,” Anand says. “It will
position us to manage our work
force better and position us to take
advantage of emerging markets.”
American Express utilizes a training module for managers, Valuing
Diversity and Practicing Inclusion,
to maintain a consistency with its
world operations. But inherent in
that consistency is the understanding that adjustments
may be made to adapt to local cultures. The company
piloted the training module in Latin America in 2004.
“We actually identify facilitators who are sensitive to
and knowledgeable about those particular markets,”
Hernandez says. “We always allow them a period of
time to be able to adapt, modify and customize some
materials so that it resonates well with employees.”
While many of the managers worldwide speak
English, the company also finds that managers from
outside the United States are more engaged during the
training when it is done in their native languages. One
training example, titled Alejandro’s Dilemma, educates
managers about missed opportunities during a virtual
telephone conference call. An employee may come
from a culture where it is impolite to interrupt and be
reluctant to offer ideas during the conference call.
“Be sensitive to the fact that we may have
to differentiate between what might be able to
be done or approached from a U.S. perspective
versus international. Henry He”rnandez, American Express
“You have to be cognizant of the fact that someone
who is at a meeting might be sitting quietly and has an
incredible amount to contribute but isn’t given the
opportunity, or when the call is over, might not know
the way to express themselves,” Hernandez says.
The company has diversity goals linked to compensation for vice presidents and higher.
The objective is “to equip our leaders with being
able to address cultural differences and being able to
manage across borders,” Hernandez says. Another program, Cultures at Work, combines classroom learning
and an online tool, “cultural navigator,” for managers.
Through its Group Diversity Management
Committee, HSBC shares best-practice approaches
from different regions by using an employee-diversity
intranet system. The company also offers in-depth cultural training that includes intensive language training
for employees sent to other countries
and 400 permanently expatriated, globally mobile
“We can see two benefits to cross-cultural competence,” Shearer says. “It helps us understand the diversity—and needs—of customer markets … [and] it
helps employees to think differently and openly, to see
beyond established parameters.” DI