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Diversity in Multinational Corporations: A multi-level study of individual, group and organisational implications

Final Activity Report Summary - DIVINMNC (Diversity in Multinational Corporations: A multi-level study of individual, group and organisational implications)

A main challenge for the management of multinational corporations (MNCs) in Europe is the increasingly diverse workforce. Diversity in European corporations is growing across a number of dimensions as a result of several forces. Firstly, globalisation and regional integration within the European Union has led to an increase in transnational mobility. Secondly, the increasing share of women employed in different spheres of business and society raises issues of gender diversity in the workplace. Thirdly, the aging of the European population brings along new age structures of the workforce with implications for organisational demography and performance. Together with other traditional diversity dimensions, such as educational and functional diversity, these forces put a premium on studies regarding how to effectively manage increasing diversity in European MNCs.

This research project investigated issues pertaining to the effects of increasing diversity for both firms and individuals within firms. Based on a sample of the 2 000 largest MNCs in the world, a subsample of 550 European firms were identified and multiple analyses were carried out at various levels. These analyses focussed on the multidimensionality of diversity and influences at different levels of analysis, such as individual, group, firm, industry and country level. The results pinpointed the significance of identifying and analysing multiple dimensions of diversity in relation to specific organisational and individual objectives and performance. Moreover, the importance of accounting for cross-level influences of individual level characteristics, group level processes and firm, industry and country level factors was illustrated in a number of specific studies which were carried out on subsamples of Swiss, Italian and Norwegian firms.

The research had potential impact on individuals, firms and societies as the diversity of the workforce spanned all levels. For individuals it was important to understand their potential roles within organisations in relation to various dimensions of diversity, be it gender, age, educational or cultural. For firms, the potential value-added or costs of increasing or decreasing the diversity in the workforce had important implications for strategies and performance. Finally, diversity at the social level continued to be an important political issue in most European countries.