Cove Project Management

Diversity Vs. “Local” Experience

Diversity Vs. “Local” Experience

I will choose diversity over “local” experience for every project I work on!

I have had the fortunate opportunity to spend almost 15 years working internationally. Four and a half years were working fly-in fly-out from my home-town Adelaide, then ten years living overseas with my family. I have worked with teammates from over at least 30 different nationalities. My last team of 20 people had 10 different nationalities.

The diversity of culture, communication, points of view and approaches to problem solving was a huge strength in every project team. For example if you want “out of the box thinking” build a diverse team, it will be built in. Having a team that all have the same background and think in similar ways will not be as effective.

I moved back home in 2016 and I have found that having “local” experience is an important criteria in the job search in Adelaide. It is not seen in job adds, the impression is from personal experience and many discussions with colleagues.

Through the Adelaide chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI) I have met and continue to meet many international project managers. Many have have moved to Adelaide to start new careers and lives. The common issue to gaining work I hear from the large majority is that they do not have “local” experience. Similarly, through my lecturing at universities I have heard the same experience and issue form many of the international students.

Why do employers want project managers to have “local” experience?

Any new project manager is going to have to learn and integrate into the organisational culture and manage relevant compliance issues. That is part of the job and skill of a professional PM. But will it be quicker if they have local experience? Possibly, it does that compare with the value of a diverse team and the different ways of doing things can add? From my experience, I know it does not.

Ultimately I view the “local” experience hang-up is an excuse not to open up and take a risk on diversity.

In the case of many of my international colleagues in Adelaide I believe it is a form of racism. Stating “local” experience as a factor to an immigrant is the same as saying “you are not suitable for the job because you are not from here”.

Having had a truly immersed experience in diverse teams I understand the value. Therefore I will choose diversity over “local” experience for every project I work on!

By Lachlan Mollison – Leader and champion of diverse teams

Contact us to discuss your diversity approach.