By Victor C. Mullins
A diversity consultant from Cape Town, South Africa, facilitated a faculty and staff seminar on Sept. 10, 2018, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. The event, led by Melanie Burke, was the first in a series of conversations designed to create a work environment in which all faculty and staff feel welcome and are able to thrive.
Participants in the Cultural Intelligence as Catalyst for Connection and Collegiality session were invited to experience intercultural communication, the attribution of meaning between people from different cultures. The intent was to build a link between the positive experiences of culture and connectedness, and the realization of the potential positive spinoffs for the organization.
Self-reflection and other exercises helped participants move comfortably and consciously between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.
Ultimately the goal of the diversity and inclusion process at Maryland Smith is to facilitate transformative learning, underpinned by perspective transformation. The observations made and the foundations laid in the first session highlight the need for a next-level intercultural competence process to support existing organizational diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Together with the process of perspective transformation — a necessary step in ensuring that diversity becomes a way of being and is used as a competitive advantage — intercultural competence would enable diversity and inclusion to be entrenched within the organizational culture.
Cultural intelligence and workplace diversity is about bringing out the best in all people, engaging their minds as well as their hearts, and directing their combined efforts toward common goals. Successfully managing cultural intelligence and workplace diversity is not a simple instructional or educational process.
Cultural intelligence and workplace diversity management aligns the individual goals of employees with critical business objectives, while creating the motivation and commitment to reach a shared vision.
Victor C. Mullins, PhD, is diversity officer and dean of Undergraduate Programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.