Research Centre on
Intercultural Management, Diversity and Inclusion
In the 1980s, the American economist and Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt popularized the term ‘globalization’ by writing about emerging global markets and the advantages of standardized consumer products. More than thirty years later, this very phenomenon – globalization – has had profound effects on business operations across the globe, and the cross-border activities of companies have made the concept of culture, especially national culture, highly relevant to organizations and managers alike.
However, national culture, although important, represents only one of the various dimensions across which individuals and employees differ. Today, other diversity dimensions, such as gender, LGBTQ+, age or personality are also extensively discussed, especially with respect to their impact on teams, organizations, and leadership requirements. Diversity in its various forms can improve team creativity and innovation, benefiting companies substantially by increasing their performance.
However, this diversity comes at a price and can also complicate collaborative processes. Conflicts may increase while trust and cohesion among team members decrease. In this case, this limits employees’ opportunity to contribute their various perspectives allowing organizations to realize the potential that is inherent in diversity. The question is then, how organizations can successfully manage an increasingly diverse workforce to leverage this potential. Inclusion represents a very promising approach to do so.
Instead of counting heads, which is often the focus of diversity management, inclusion focuses on making heads count. By ensuring that employees develop a sense of belonging within the organization while also being encouraged to bring their unique selves to work, an inclusive work environment helps all employees regardless of their backgrounds and characteristics to contribute their diverse perspectives and ideas.
In our research, we highlight the importance of employees’ intercultural and inclusion competences, their development, and their impact on creating such an inclusive work environment.
Professor of Human Resource Management and Intercultural Leadership
The goal of the Excellence Centre for Intercultural Management, Diversity and Inclusion is to deepen the understanding of intercultural management, diversity, and inclusion-related issues in organizations and to translate the latest scientific insights into practice.
Specifically, our Excellence Centre focuses on three research questions:
- First, how can we define and conceptualize individual competences that support and foster an inclusive work environment?
- Second, what trajectories exist or can be envisioned that help employees and leaders to develop these competences?
- And finally, what tangible effects can we observe in an organizational environment that focuses on inclusion?
Academic research on these questions can only be a first step; we further aim to translate the resulting insights from our research into practice. Therefore, we regularly engage with companies across the world in order to collect more data, discuss our findings and support them in further developing their inclusion agenda. This entails keynote presentations, webinars as well as training and consulting measures.
Main Research Themes
Individual contributions to inclusion in organizations: Developing inclusion competence
Creating an inclusive work environment not only requires organizational structures and processes to be supportive, but also joint efforts from different actors in an organization.
Top management, leaders and team members alike can contribute to an inclusive climate and employees’ feelings of belonging and being valued for their uniqueness. While most research in the field has focused on individual perceptions of being included, little attention has been paid to the individual employee as a driver of inclusion in organization.
With our research, we aim to fill this gap introducing inclusion competence as a key employee competence if organizations want to harness the potential of a diverse workforce. Further, to help organizations assess and monitor their employees’ level of inclusion competence and to identify potential training and development needs, we are developing a measure that captures the concept on different levels (e.g., cognitive, affective, and behavioral).
New ways of developing intercultural and inclusion competences
Given the current discussions (e.g., How can innovative educational approaches improve the learning transfer?) and the increasing digitalization of education, we are exploring new ways of teaching and learning.
At ESCP Business School we developed Moving Tomorrow, a serious video game series. It aims to develop intercultural competences focusing on but not limited to national cultural differences in users. On the contrary, various diversity dimensions have been deliberately integrated.
The Moving Tomorrow series is a game-based learning application, where players immerse in a video game-like environment and get to learn about different insights from cross-cultural psychology and intercultural management and diversity research from a theoretical and practical point of view. As the current understanding of learning with these so-called serious games is still rather limited, we wish to explore not only the effectiveness of using applications like Moving Tomorrow to develop intercultural and inclusion competences, but to also carve out the unique characteristics of the underlying learning process when players play the game.
Diversity, inclusion, and innovation – making heads count
Research has demonstrated more than once that there is a business case for diversity: Organizations that do not embrace diversity enough risk losses, or at least reduced profits.
Increased creativity and innovation are discussed as major advantages related to a diverse workforce. However, diversity can also be a hindrance to trust and cohesion in teams, making conflicts more probable and sharing perspectives less likely. Therefore, the relationship between diversity and innovation is not as straightforward as it may seem; it depends on a variety of other factors.
With our research, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of the success factors that enable organizations to benefit from the innovative potential of a diverse workforce with a specific focus on the role of an inclusive work environment. Building on our findings, we derive implications to inform different actors in organizations which include, but are not limited to, top management, team leaders, and Human Resource Management in general.