What makes people feel included in organizations? Feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully, are valued and belong? Many things of course, including an organization’s mission, policies, and practices, as well as co-worker behaviors.

By 2025, the world’s middle-class population is expected to reach 3.2 billion, up from 1.8 billion in 2009, with the majority of this growth coming from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As income levels rise, so does consumer demand. This growing population now represents the single biggest growth opportunity in the portfolio of many companies around the world.

Reaching these consumers profitably, however, is anything but straightforward. Markets are characterized by significant cultural, political, and economic differences. Tension exists between local adaptation and international scale. Home-grown players can provide stiff competition and strong local talent is scarce. Indeed, in a 2015 survey of 362 executives, just 10 percent believed that they have the full suite of capabilities needed to win off shore.

So what does this mean for those with global ambitions? While there is no single formula for success, research shows that having people with a more global mindset and capability is critical. John Lewis, Jr., global chief diversity officer of The Coca-Cola Company, agrees: “Right now, our fastest-growing markets around the world are sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China. How we win in these markets is as much a matter of how we embed ourselves in these cultures [as any other factor]. The question I put to our business leaders is: Even if we get all the tactics and logistics right, can we win if we don’t get the people part right?

The survey found that, educated workers. By 2030, China will have more graduates than the entire US workforce, and India produced four times as many graduates as the United States in 2020. The Millennials, too, are coming of age. This generationl comprise 50 percent of the global workforce in 2020. With high expectations and different attitudes toward work, they will be integral in shaping organizational cultures into the future.

To date, however, data suggest that many companies have struggled to include diverse employees. For example, while their number in the workforce is increasing, women hold just 12 percent of corporate board seats world wide. In the future, demographic shifts will put greater pressure on leaders to be inclusive of diversity. According to one leader interviewed, “Fundamentally, inclusion is a principle that anybody who is good enough to be employed within the team is capable of becoming a leader and developing to the best of their potential. And that is anybody.”

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