Job Mobility and Cross Cultural Teams

Diversity-Experts, Managers, CEOs and people who are interested in Diversity met each other at the 8th European Work-Life & Diversity Conference in Budapest. The Conference, organised by the Conference Board, was held from 8th to 9th May 2008. It made an issue of “Doing Better Business with a Mobile, Multicultural Workforce. A Focus on Talent in Central and Eastern Europe”.
On the first Day, the participants discussed the trends in migration across Europe and the implications for employers. Jean-Pierre Garson, Head of International Migration Division (OECD), gave impetus to that issue. Andrzej Narkiewicz, Leader of Labour Market Analysis Practice in Eastern Europe, compared education, skill levels and salary levels in different countries. In addition, Mark Bownas, KPMG Partner, Budapest, focused on the personal level. He asked for the issues which employers face in managing talent in the region, and how consumer patterns and employment attitudes to mobility, pay and career development vary between countries. Another session examined the opportunities and challenges of managing different cultures across Central & Eastern Europe. One big challenge are barriers inhibiting Diversity approaches. Finding measures against ignorance and intolerance to overcome barriers is still a demanding challenge. In interactive workshops, the participants struggled on new answers. They focused on Leadership, Gender and Culture integrating new residents and cross-cultural understanding. For example they figured out if it was possible to use the same promotion and development practices across cultures and genders and examined solutions to avoid reputational damage and encourage a migrant-friendly culture (e.g. voluntary code of practice drawn up by business in the community in the UK).
Major employers (Eva Somorjai, Head of HR at Magyar Telekom, Deutsche Telekom; Jane Champ, Vice President Diversity and Inclusion, American Express) discussed their experiences of managing and motivating a mobile workforce in the region, and individual employees from Central Europe and Russia (Zsofia Illes, Chief Negotiator, Gas Supply & Trading, RWE; Katalin Molnar, Planning and Reporting Director for International Region, Diageo; Danny Wauters, Plant Manager of Joint Venture JP Foam Manufacturing, Johnson Controls) explained what attracted them to move country and job – or to stay put. The session was led by Michael Stuber, Researcher, Author & Consultant (European Diversity Research & Consulting). They evaluated the question what individuals need and companies offer and examined the role of mobility and technology in this case.
Another two workshops were concerned with new tools to manage Diversity. One workshop discussed how to apply the findings of the latest Conference Board research on Strategic Workforce Planning, particularly in relation to diversity goals. Workshop Leaders: Toni Riccardi, Senior VP HR & Chief Diversity Officer, The Conference Board; David Learmond, Executive Fellow HR, The Conference Board Europe.
The second workshop was concerned with cross-cultural teams: This session discussed how to manage best diverse, multicultural teams working across Europe. Workshop Leaders: Katrin Evers, Head of Organisational Development Management, RWE Supply and Trading; Michael Stuber, Researcher, Author & Consultant, European Diversity Research & Consulting. Different approaches to cultural diversity at the cognitive level (information), the affective level (self-awareness), and the behavioral level (communication) play a key role, because an understanding of these components decodes many aspects which inhibit open-mindedness (e.g. ethnocentrism and stereotypes). Being aware of one’s own cultural influences and promoting respect for other rules and approaches, reduces insecurities and provides adequate mutual interpretation.
In plenary presentations and round-table discussions, all delegates reinforced the discussions.
Furthermore, the Conference Board gave the Media Award to Bonnie Erbe. She is host of PBS’s news and analysis programme for women. The award is presented to her in recognition of her knowledge of the changing workforce and changing family and her success in moving these issues into public discussion.