A diverse workplace offers a multitude of benefits to the business. However, effective diversity management is a challenge that one needs to prepare for in advance.
Understanding of common issues that occur in multicultural environments is essential to prevent them from escalating and for maximising employee productivity.
Effective diversity management in a multicultural workplace requires the establishment of specialised policies, trainings, and communication routes. You need to both understand and respect cross-cultural differences of your employees in order to create an environment comfortable for each of them.
Be prepared to do a lot of research in order to understand the norms your team members take for granted. They might not be able to articulate some of those or consider them an issue by the virtue of growing up in an environment where such things were staples of behaviour.
These challenges, however, shouldn’t stop you from building a multicultural team. There are many benefits to cultural diversity in the workplace, including but not limited to improved productivity and creativity. In fact, companies that capitalise on diversity make about 35% more profit than the market median also helps prove that this environment is good for business.
Effective diversity management strategies for a multicultural workplace
The majority of strategies for dealing with cultural differences focus on educating your workforce about those differences and ethics. For this environment to function successfully, the leader has to be understanding and respectful of cross-cultural differences.
You should address any signs of bigotry or other issues as early as possible to prevent them from escalating to workplace aggression.
Develop your company policy with respect to cultural diversity
The company policy is the most important factor in preventing diversity issues in the workplace. It has to define the limitations of behaviours, which are acceptable within the environment. It also has to establish the framework of action an employee needs to take in case they encounter any issue.
Every one of your employees needs to study this policy so they know what their rights and duties are. You should make this introduction a part of the onboarding process. Establish some way to verify that the employees are not only aware of the policy’s existence but also understand it in full.
Educate your employees about different cultures and ethics
Lyndon B. Johnson once said that books and ideas are the most effective weapons in a fight against ignorance and intolerance. These words highlight the vital role of education in preventing cross-cultural issues in any environment.
These problems often originate from the lack of understanding of cultures and their rules. Therefore, effective diversity management should start with eliminating this ignorance.
To do this you should prepare specialised information packets to provide your employees. These materials should be concise and easy to understand. Use different methods to visualize your data, because graphs and pictures are easier for the mind to process and memorise. The packets should include basic information not only on traditions of different cultures.
You also need to explain how cross-cultural differences affect a person’s behaviours, motivations, and sensitivities in the workplace. This is the information you need to use when compiling the rules of conduct, which also need to be included in the info packets.
However, providing educational materials is not enough to build a happy multicultural workplace. You also should organise specialised training and seminars. During these, you need to educate your employees not only about cultures but also workplace ethics. This way, you will ensure that every employee is aware of how they should conduct themselves during interactions with their colleagues.
Promote good communication
One of the most important things you need to do for effective diversity management is to encourage open communication in the workplace. This does not only help with the resolution and prevention of cross-cultural issues. Effective communication reduces the rate of workplace failure overall, thus making it vital for business survival.
Bear in mind that you need to consider cultural differences in communication as well. Include guidelines on proper interaction into the company policies. The HR department should have access to some conversation logs, which can be used as evidence in case some problems escalate.
You will need to establish efficient routes for both work-related and personal communications. Encourage team bonding through group chats and online discussion boards.
If multicultural diversity issues in your workplace include linguistic problems, which means not everyone is fluent in the default language of the company, you should use specialised solutions or employ interpreters to help the communication. Consider adding language classes to the education strategy you develop for effective diversity management.
Help your employees develop strong personal bonds
Team building exercises and various bonding activities help people learn about each other and understand their cultural differences better. These activities also help your employees see that they can enjoy working and spending time with each other in spite of those differences.
Aim to build strong bonds among your team to both enhance their loyalty and allow for more effective diversity management. Establishing monthly events that encourage interaction, like a game night, will be a good strategy to use in this case.
Do not forget that one-on-one interactions with the leader are also important for managing diversity in the workplace. You should set up regular meetings with employees, during which you provide them with feedback and discuss any issues they might have.
Another good idea is to set up regular culture-themed dinners. During these, every employee can share their cultural traditions with colleagues in the relaxed atmosphere, which is hard to achieve during a seminar.
Develop employee schedules with considerations for cross-cultural differences
Many leaders make the mistake of focusing only on traditions that affect interpersonal behaviour. However, you shouldn’t forget that culture also affects one’s perception of time.
Factors you need to consider include:
- Cultural and religious events and holidays;
- Social behaviours (for example, the necessity to prioritise some social events);
- Perception of overtime work;
- Perception of deadlines, and;
- Balance between work and personal life.
Discuss these issues when introducing a new employee to your company. If necessary, you can develop personalised schedules for different employees to make sure they are able to observe their traditions. Otherwise, establish a uniform schedule for the company, which accounts for as many factors as possible to increase personal comfort of all employees.
Common cross-cultural problems that can hinder effective diversity management
Every workplace is a unique mix of unique individuals, which makes it harder to predict issues that might occur. However, these are the most common problems you should watch out for:
- Issues with respect and acceptance of others’ traditions;
- Lack of respect for the others’ beliefs;
- Perception of gender roles, age gaps, and disabilities;
- Personal conflicts and aggression, and;
The best way to resolve these or any other cultural workplace issues is to listen to both parties with respect for their personal traditions. Communication is often the best solution, but you also need to ensure that everyone understands the exact cause of the issue and will be able to prevent the repeat of the incident.
This will be a good time to schedule a company-wide seminar on the subject. However, you should consider the discretion of your employees as well. This is another cultural factor that you need to take into account when developing the policy to manage a diverse workplace.
Note that the most important thing you need to achieve when managing a multicultural team is the destruction of any and all prejudices.
The most effective diversity management strategies aim to prevent multicultural workplace issues through the promotion of awareness and ethics. Any leader who has to navigate cross-cultural differences needs to understand what those differences are and how to interact with every employee without offending them.
Educating the employees and promoting open communication among them are essential for quick and effective resolution of any issues. These are what you should focus on when building a company culture that embraces diversity.
About the Author
Kate is an HR manager with over 15 years of experience in building and corralling remote teams. She knows how hard it can be to ensure effective cooperation in the face of cultural differences and wants to share her expertise to help others avoid such problems.