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Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

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Talent Management

Over the last several decades, the society we live in has become more culturally diverse than ever, and the rate at which business continues to be conducted on a global scale through technology and innovation means we are on pace to become even more diverse in the future.

If diversity in society is the reality, it goes without saying that reality should be reflected in the workforce as well. This phenomenon can be seen in employment equity efforts spearheaded by government and corporate leaders, but more can be done. Organizations that fail to adapt to these changes in the intercultural and economic environments will struggle to prosper. Hence, it is paramount to implement a conscious strategy to prepare for a workforce made up of the most diverse generation in history.

With more and more millennials joining the workforce and gaining a foothold in their respective careers, companies will be obliged to acknowledge how their business efforts will be impacted by the cultural diversity inherent to this generation, as well as the different perspectives they bring to the issue of diversity in general. A 2014 report from Scientific American cites decades worth of studies concluding that teams of racial and cultural multiplicity will share more and better information with each other than homogenous teams. Done right, a company can stimulate critical thinking for even more innovative solutions that will be needed in a more complex society.

Often, simply adding diversity to a work group is enough to influence its members that there are differences worth discussing. This trait is especially common amongst millennial workers, who are accustomed to a social culture where very few presuppositions are made about their colleagues and it is the norm, not the exception, to pull inspiration from a wide variety of experiences. Encouraging this kind of culture in your own organization will prevent some of the pitfalls of conformity that can lead to stale ideas and needlessly limit the potential clientele that your business is accessible to. You never know the underlying connections that people bring to your business by joining your team.

It can be challenging to diversify your business culturally because it is easy to feel comfortable in an environment where there are no dissenting opinions, but the benefits of branching out are too substantial to disregard. A dissenting opinion coming from someone different than ourselves triggers a cognitive reaction that provokes more thought than it would if it came from someone who is similar. Barriers between cultures continue to be broken down as globalization imposes itself upon the economy, and being able to incorporate inclusive hiring practices that go beyond hiring for the established work culture is critical to making the most of the different ways of thinking that new cultures can bring.

To facilitate a successful transition towards a new diversity initiative in your workplace, it is important to account for how it will affect your current business practices and to recognize the specific changes that need to be made to accommodate it. Your employees may not even be aware of the implicit cultural biases that affect their behaviour and while that transition can be uncomfortable at first, exposing them in a calculated and inclusive way can emphasize how that discomfort leads to improved performance and innovation for the organization and individuals alike.

As you work towards building a diverse culture do take the time to prepare your team. A good way to start is by setting ground rules. The most common starting point is to clearly communicate your values in this area. You may choose to follow it with official company policies and training around respectful behaviours to help employees navigate a more diverse work group. Other ideas to explore may include team building activities and social events that encourage people to understand each other better.

Here to Help

Would you like more information on building a culturally diverse workplace or do you have other employee management questions? We can be reached for a free confidential consultation at +1-403-470-5350 or [email protected].

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Further Reading

Other articles you may be interested in:

Maintaining Multi-Generational Harmony in the Workplace

Embracing the Differences: Diversity in Experience

How Do You Know When You’re Ready For HR?

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