In recent past, Brexit, reluctance of EU nations to accept refugees, protectionism rhetoric in USA (Trump factor) and anti-migrant’s outlook in developed nations have reached a crescendo. These factors are opposite, and at total variance to outlook of the Post World War II era; a period of change, open-doors, increased migration and evolution of truly multi-national business entities.
No one disputes that globalisation has been good for business. Till the going was good, globally diverse business model was heralded as a success story.
Large multinational companies, operating across continents, employing diverse workforce became harbingers of ‘Diversity Leads to Success Theory.’
However, the Global Financial Crisis brought a change in outlook.
Questions and conflicting opinions are now emerging on the ‘Need of Diversity for Nations and Businesses.’
Before analysing the utility and effectiveness of diversity in the context of nation and business, there is a need to raise a few questions:
What is diversity? Is it only social, economic, political, gender, racial, religious? Or Does it have more to do with psychological biases, historical perspectives and mindset?
Who is raising this question and Why? Is the initiator operating from a position of strength? If yes, then it can be for mere discussion, a matter of convenience, business practicality or just being politically correct. Is the initiator at the receiving end? If yes, it may be due to need for equality, professional enhancement, sense of entitlement or pure victimisation.
The answers to above questions are rather complex, but raise a pertinent aspect about current diversity debate i.e. it has become contextual, implying, diversity, which was good earlier, may not be so now or in the future.
This seems to be in sync with the political outlook; ‘In politics, there are no permanent friends or foes, but only permanent interests.’
But does this outlook apply to a nation state too?
Raising core values
Successful and prosperous nation states have emerged due to unwavering long-term adherence to core values and not short-term political jingoism.
Nations adopting closed door policies, building walls (real, business or knowledge based) and lacking diversity have faced increased isolation, lost their place of prominence and even failed as nation states.
On the other hand, open, adaptable, diverse and progressive nations have benefited from economic progress.
Diversity is the core value for a progressive nation and its incorporation in business is a natural consequence.
Therefore, diversity leads to business and economic progress, which are positive outcomes of a stable nation, and not the other way around.
Accordingly, business should remain subservient to a nation’s core value system, and not become a dominating factor based on short-term political considerations.
The long tunnel
The world is passing through a phase of socio-economic turmoil, leading to enhanced movement of people; building walls and creating barriers is no solution, rather there is a need to enhance diversity and change mindsets.
Immigrants must appreciate that they are moving to new environment for socio-economic benefits. Therefore, greater onus of change and imbibing prevalent culture rests with them, not crossing the language and cultural barrier only lead to mistrust, isolation and conflict.
In turn, host countries need to be accommodative to new immigrants, only then integration will happen in true sense; a basic ingredient for a culturally diverse society.
Lesson from history will be pertinent; Since time immemorial, almost every host country (made up of yesterday’s immigrants) has opposed influx of new immigrants (tomorrow’s citizens). But, historically amalgamation of people from culturally diverse background have been basis of evolution of stable and prosperous nations. Immigration not only is inevitable, but also is good for nations and businesses.
Therefore, the best option is, ‘‘Immigrants need to adapt and host country should adopt.’
Devendra Yadav has had leadership roles in multinational companies and mega projects and has served with the military in the United Nations, Asia, Europe and Africa. He lives in Auckland. Additional reading: ‘NZAMI opposes Essential Skills Visa Changes’ in this Section.