3. Strategies for approaching cultural differences
The diverse workforce has become a reality today. The impact of cultural diversity varies with the type of environment and firm’s overall strategy. As a greater number of firms move from domestic, multidomestic, multinational strategies to operating as a truly global firm, the significance and impact of cultural diversity increase markedly. Diverse workforce refers to the co-existence of people from various socio-cultural backgrounds within the company. Diversity includes cultural factors such as race, gender, age, colour, physical ability, ethnicity, etc.
Diversity includes all groups of people at all levels in the company. Diversity requires a type of organizational culture in which each employee can pursue his or her career aspirations without being inhibited by gender, race, nationality, religion, or other factors that are irrelevant to performance. Managing diversity means enabling diverse workforce to perform its full potential in an equitable work environment where no one group has an advantage or disadvantage.
Dynamic companies look for people who are culturally different or have different professional training because the diverse workforce may bring different talents, interests, and viewpoints. The organizations which fail to embrace diversity effectively and do not take a holistic approach to eliminate discrimination and injustice will adversely affect both employees and customers.
Organizations must concentrate on holistic strategies that address broader human resource issues, and value diverse employees. Once you can recognize cultural differences, you can take steps to be proactive about managing their impact. To create a culturally affirming workplace where people of different backgrounds can work together successfully:
Learn about your employees
While maintaining respectful boundaries, learn about the unique experiences that each of your employees brings to the workplace. Understanding the background of everyone on your team allows you to research their cultural norms and prepare to accommodate them.
Host diversity training
Requiring employees to attend diversity training can create a more understanding environment and equip employees with the strategies they need to work with people who have different cultural norms.
Acknowledge holidays and celebrations
Avoid assuming that all employees celebrate the same religious and national holidays. Celebrate cultural holidays equitably to make sure your team knows that you respect their beliefs equally.
A smile and handshake are not necessarily an agreement, “yes” can mean “no”, unsmiling may not mean unfriendly, and silence may not mean disagreement. Ask questions and be ready to be flexible. It is much easier to change your own behaviours than influence someone else’s.
Develop your empathy skills
Show people you are making every effort to see and feel things as they do. Think of yourself as a “translator” of your own culture and protocols. Making a small change such as greeting people in their own language or showing knowledge of their culture and its customs will be seen positively.
Provide continuous feedback
Employees should be trained about how to give and receive feedback continuously on clearly identified undesirable behaviours the company want to change and desirable behaviours the company want to encourage. Identification of desirable and undesirable behaviours must be based upon performance feedback discussions involving diverse workforce.