We’ve talked before about the benefits of diversity in the workforce. But simply having diversity isn’t enough.
Different cultures have unique views on workplace issues such as communication styles, time management, individual responsibility and teamwork. And when those views clash, conflict arises.
So for an organization to run smoothly, leadership and especially HR professionals, need to address these issues—which is easier said than done.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of tips for managing a culturally diverse workforce.
Managing cultural diversity in your workplace isn’t a walk in the park, but the results are worth it. There will be challenges along the way, but you have to make a commitment to creating and fostering a diverse culture.
One way to ensure your organization is committed is to get buy-in from top-level executives and managers. They have a great deal of influence when communicating the company values to existing employees, perspective employees and business partners.
Whether they are aware of them or not, everyone has some kind of bias. Diversity training gets people to recognize these biases and helps them create strategies for avoiding them.
Also, many people might not realize that the language they use can be disrespectful to certain cultures. Diversity training helps employees value and prioritize respectful language.
Do you know how diverse your company is? It’s not enough to assume, gather the data. Companies like Twitter are publishing ethnic and gender data for everyone to see. It helps keep them accountable, while also showing the progress they’ve made.
Now, you don’t have to show the world, but periodically sharing the data with everyone in your organization helps them see where you are now—and how far you’ve come.
Collecting data isn’t enough. You need to have a plan of action. Come up with a plan that expresses where you are now, where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Then, and perhaps most importantly, write it down.
Writing it down will help you stay on track. It will also give you something to refer to when you have questions. Finally, sharing the plan helps get everyone involved.
According to the American Management Association, cross-cultural mentors “help senior leadership relate to and understand people of other cultures as well as provide them with an experienced guide. Simply assigning a mentor is not enough; the mentoring relationship must be active.”
Sometimes in group situations, one or two people take over and do all the talking. But you can’t let that happen. You need to encourage everyone to contribute to conversations.
For example, send an email asking for the team’s opinions on how to solve a problem. Pick a time to meet and inform them that everyone has to come up with one idea. Then, in the meeting go around and give each person the opportunity to present their ideas. You can even set a timer so that each person gets the same amount of time.
To understand employee work styles and preferences, the Houston Chronicle suggests conducting an employee survey. They recommend ask questions such as “do you favor face-to-face meetings or would you prefer web-based meetings to enable flexibility?” and “what is your idea of an ideal work schedule?”
This survey should help you understand what motivates employees. And you can use the results to help guide management styles.
A frequent movie trope involves two people hating each other, but after being forced to work together, they become best friends. It happens so often in movies because it’s a great reflection of real life. When people have to accomplish a task, they find ways to work together—and they usually learn something about each other in the process.
Diversity is more than a numbers game. It’s a way to show that your company values different perspectives and understands the modern workplace. And even though it’s not always easy, you can use the tips to better manage cultural diversity in your workplace.
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