Survey finds success factors for cross-cultural Diversity Management targeting Third Country Nationals

A large-scale survey in some 100 companies and other organisations from 10 EU Member States investigated, among other fields, the variety of Diversity Management practices of immigrant inclusion and their direct and indirect effects. The focus was on migrants from so-called Third Countries. The research also looked at constraints and criticalities as well as mechanisms and conditions that emerge as facilitating factors so that the programmes and processes lead to the desired outcomes. The focus of the report on migrants from Third Country Nations couldn’t be more relevant today, as the EU is coping with an expected 1.5 million refugees.

Based on interview results with several people in some 100 companies (and other employers) in 10 countries, the researcher identified four broad areas of cross-cultural D&I management practices that appeared to be of key relevance related to the integration of Third Country Nationals (TCNs):

-        The creation of conditions enabling migrant workers to manage basic work and life issues.

-        Specific solutions and adaptations in the area of HRM.

-        The socio-cultural development of inclusion-oriented work environments.

-        The implementation of formal programs and roles dedicated to managing diversity.

In every participating organization, 2-5 semi-structured interviews were conducted with the help of a checklist that included organisation demography, perceptions about socio-cultural diversity at work, diversity management activities and initiatives as well as their outcomes or impact and several other topics. The field research involved interviewees from different ethnic background, hierarchical levels and functions, where possible. Additional information of the organisation such as their websites and internal material was also analysed.

The research project also looked at constraints in the implementation of cross-cultural management as well as the (perceived) benefits for the respective organisation, for TCNs and for the social context. As in previous surveys of this kind, interviewees mentioned overall performance advantages for their organisation as a high level benefit. On a more detailed level, innovation and creative solutions, new marketing opportunities and commitment, identification and retention of employees were mentioned as positive (perceived) effects of cross-cultural management.

As often, benefits don’t come by themselves. Migrant workers from Third Countries rely on supportive human resources mechanisms. For HR was originally designed to accommodate local national employees mainly or only. Once the system integrates migrant worker, they gain opportunities for personal development and finally can feel a sense of identity and social belonging. In addition, benefits for the organisational staff as a whole are observed due to diversity management that aims at leveraging the potential of staff from various cultural backgrounds.

On a larger scale, also neighbourhoods of organisations that implement cross-cultural management practices can benefit. Related activities contribute to processes of social integration in the surrounding areas. This also fosters the development of human capital of the region. Furthermore, external stakeholders will gain more awareness for issues of diversity and inclusion, and the society as a whole can gain social benefits.

In terms of recommendations for future research, policies and interventions the report mentions a need for further cultural dissemination of attention to diversity within organisations. At the same time, awareness of the ambivalence inherent in diversity management efforts should exist. The results of the project also indicate the crucial role of organisational citizenship in the practice of cross-cultural diversity management.

From January 2014 to May 2015 the international project “DIVERSE – Diversity Improvement as a Viable Enrichment Resource for Society and Economy” was implemented. It was supported by the European Commission through the European Integration Fund and was coordinated by the research centre WWELL – Work, Welfare, Enterprise, Lifelong Learning – of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan. In total, the project was carried out in 10 organisations (profit, non-profit and public) in 10 EU countries.

The full report of the project DIVRSE can be downloaded here.