The Tough Job of "Walking the Talk"​ on Diversity When Going Global

By Anna Koj

When associations decide to expand their focus from national or regional to global, they have a long list of strategic decisions to make and organizational restructuring to carry out. When they think of recruitment, they usually focus on the logistics rather than the impact on the organizational culture.

Diversity is a buzz word and most association leaders will tell you they already cherish diversity in their teams. Only some, however, really walk the talk. Mainly because it is more difficult than it sounds. It becomes even harder, but also more important, when embarking on a change path towards a truly global organization. 


It is hard because contrary to the old saying that “opposite attracts”, we tend to surround ourselves with people that are similar to us, often falling prey to unconscious bias. We all have biases, and they are not easy to counter but working on your self-awareness is a good place to start.

It is hard because when coming from a European melting pot for example, such as Brussels, we tend to believe to be very inclusive and international, already. Europe is indeed very diverse, but the world is even more so. When considering going global, try launching projects with sister associations from other parts of the world to challenge your assumptions and broaden your horizons.

Finally, review your in-house recruitment process or engage with external advisers to make sure you identify what “diversity” means for your organization. Then, build your job descriptions accordingly to attract diverse talent; and set your assessment criteria to avoid bias when choosing the successful candidates.

It is important because when your organization is global, your audience is, too. And as a responsible organization leader you want to ensure that your team and your work represent your stakeholders as broadly as possible. It will not only increase the team’s creativity, it will help you properly understand the needs and the pain points of your clients, and craft adequate solutions. Ultimately, it may just be the key to your global success.


The article was originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and can be found online, along with the full December 2018 edition of the magazine, here.