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The AR Group

How Can Your Business Thrive in this Multicultural Era?

Joshua Herold-Olson

Immigration reform has been a hot-button for some time and the partisan vitriol?has somewhat obscured an important trend: an increase in multicultural work environments.

The past few decades have brought many fundamental changes to the workplace. Arguably, one of the most drastic changes comes from the increasing overlap of world markets and the resulting globalization of the marketplace. While globalization may create as many issues as it does benefits, it seems evident that it is here to stay. Like many laws enacted to regulate the workplace, employers are encouraged to adapt to the changes brought by an increasingly globalized customer base and market opportunity, but also to find ways to increase their diversity profile.

Professionals in the modern workplace must interact with different races, genders, religions, and increasingly different cultures. Global competition is not solely for large multinationals any more as small and medium sized companies vie for position in pursuit of larger, different, or new markets. In fact, the numbers are telling — In 1990 there were approximately 6,000 multinational corporations in the world, now there are more than 60,000. This kind of dramatic growth has lead to more reliance on multicultural teams and people who can effectively manage them. So, what can you do to help your business thrive in an increasingly multicultural marketplace?

 

Enhance Cultural Awareness

Cultural awareness involves the ability to step back in an effort to become more aware of our cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions. To accomplish this, we often need to ask ourselves questions like, ?How do I see the world?? and ?Why do I react in a certain way to perceived issues?? Through meaningful reflection on our perception of others in the world and our relationship to them, we enhance our ability to understand that there are other ways?not necessarily better and not necessarily worse, but different from our own?for assessing problems and opportunities. Increased awareness enables us to consider different approaches that might be beneficial both for problem solving in general but also in terms of relating better to our employees. The key for employers is to develop and implement work environments that build a common culture or ethos without undermining the differing perspectives of individual team members. Valuing diversity and individual perspectives can and should be part of the company culture. This will help create a more open, inclusive, and culturally diverse work environment that fosters innovation, creative solutions, and better teamwork.

Expand Cultural Knowledge

A monocultural workforce offers experiences that can be relatively easy to relate to and manage. To the extent that our customers, clients, vendors, and employees become less alike, employers are wise to take time to learn more about the nature of the cultures they are likely to encounter in an increasingly diverse environment. Information is everywhere so find out what makes your employees tick and try to understand why.

Defeat Stereotypes

All too often, we allow cultural stereotypes to define a group of people, even before those groups have a chance to define themselves. To avoid assumptions, employers should treat each employee as an individual and allow their work ethic, ability, and personality to define them.

Encourage Involvement

Today?s multicultural workforce is highly skilled and deeply motivated, which is a large part of why employers actively compete for the best and brightest from around the world. The unique perspectives brought by an increasingly dynamic workforce are fueling global competition and innovation. Employers should create a work environment that encourages these employees to comfortably express their opinions, and, utilizing their newfound cultural knowledge, tailor methods that best suit each individual employee.

Management Training

Perhaps the most effective way to thrive with a multicultural workforce is to properly train employees on ways to manage and work with those from different cultural backgrounds. Employers should develop a training plan and implement it on a company-wide basis, whether the company consists of six or 60 people.

Adapt

For many industries, a multicultural workforce and cross-cultural interaction is inevitable given the state of global competition. Whether by seeking top talent or expanding into new markets, companies that adapt will thrive while those that don?t will be left behind. At first glance the process of adapting to a multicultural workforce may seem intimidating and difficult to plan for, but simple steps like those highlighted here can help transform the experience from a barrier to an opportunity.

 

Smart Tip:

If a new employee comes from a different culture or your local team has expanded into a global team, the easiest way to learn about cultural nuances is simply to ask. Many people enjoy sharing their cultural background with those that are interested. In learning about others we often learn more about ourselves than we intended or thought possible.