Creating competitive advantage through cultural dexterity
Highlights •Cultural dexterity is a business skill that enables effective collaboration and communication among people across multiple dimensions of diversity. •Collaboration within a group of diverse people, who approach problems from different perspectives, improves corporate performance. •The environment a company creates can enable—or impede— the success of its employees. •Leaders are personally accountable for creating a culture in which all employees clearly understand what success is and how to achieve it—and are actively encouraged to participate.
Facing continued economic uncertainty and concerned with the short-term demands of meeting stakeholder expectations, leaders may be tempted to cut budgets and programs designed not just to attract talent but also to create, develop, and maintain the diversity of that talent. But that would be a missed opportunity. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently convened a Diversity Leadership Forum, in which more than 700 business leaders participated in a discussion about strengthening diversity efforts during challenging economic times. What emerged was a consensus that those companies that cultivate cultural dexterity now, as a tool for effectively managing diversity, will be better equipped to weather today’s many challenges and will have a competitive advantage when the economy recovers.
Four practical considerations of cultural dexterity: 1. Complementary skills add value; diverse groups have been shown to outperform those made up exclusively of members who share similar abilities. 2. Innovation is driven by a willingness to consider unique, or previously unconsidered, ways of thinking. 3. Recognizing the value of a wide variety of abilities—and allowing those abilities to flourish—enable a company to draw the most out of its existing workforce. 4. Demographic trends will continue regardless of the economic environment, and companies that develop cultural dexterity today will be more competitive tomorrow.
At a glance
What may have begun as token diversity programs… •Recruiting programs designed to meet legal obligations •An effort to hire and promote minorities
…Are now strategic business imperatives: •Recruitment and retention programs that reflect how demographic trends will impact the labor market in the near future •A culture of inclusion that allows and encourages all employees to contribute in different ways •An understanding that cognitively diverse organizations often outperform those drawing on homogeneous talent bases •The personal responsibility of everyone throughout the organization, not just those with assigned diversity responsibilities
•A commitment to fairness and equality
•The exclusive domain of the human resources department
Why cultural dexterity matters now
Cultural dexterity leads to stronger, more agile organizations. It enables a wide variety of abilities to be recognized and developed, and it broadens the ways potential is identified. Reevaluation of the ways potential is identified may reveal untapped promise that had previously gone underutilized within the organization. As companies look to do more with less, this ability to better leverage the existing workforce becomes critical. Finding tomorrow’s leaders today At the PwC Diversity Leadership Forum, then Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy discussed the importance of early action. Mulcahy recalled how, immediately after becoming CEO—and in the midst of a corporate crisis—she began preparing for succession. She described the process as a long, challenging, sometimes contentious one, but one that ultimately proved invaluable in equipping the company for the challenges ahead. Xerox CEO Ursula Burns is now the first African-American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Mulcahy’s experience serves as a model for any company grooming tomorrow’s leaders. Economic crisis or not, leaders...