Leveraging cultural diversity is critical for success, and although people usually think of diversity as ethnicity, race or gender, there are other factors that are also important.
Cultural diversity includes traditions, experiences, what people perceive as normal behaviour, and what they value because these can affect how people behave, think, communicate, coach, train, interact, interpret, judge and trust each other.
I came to Canada from the UK, and although the Canadian and UK cultures are very similar, I was surprised at the differences. The cultures were not the same, and my traditions were also different. I was lucky to have people around me who had a similar experience coming to a new country and were able to guide and support me.
Leveraging Cultural Diversity
To successfully manage diversity and gain its full value in the workplace, consider these five areas:
Good onboarding and coaching means learning occurs easily and integration happens faster and better. Coaching is for everyone on the team because it helps everyone to adjust and to value the skills and abilities of each member.
Ask questions to understand and listen to responses then provide a safe environment for people to share. Provide clear expectations and solid feedback both in celebration of successes and articulating how results could be enhanced.
3. Flexibility in style
Get to know each person, then be willing to flex your style to adapt to the needs of your team.
4. Understand other’s concept of time
Time is one area cultures can have conflicting views because individuals may have distinct beliefs about the balance between family and work, perceptions of overtime, or travelling on short notice. Appreciate what is the normal behaviour for a person and be willing to work with them so that integration is smooth. This may take some adaptations from both sides.
5. Develop a successful working team
Some cultures are used to working in teams while others are more individualistic. What does it mean to be part of a team? How do teams function in your organization? What are the expectations of a team?
Develop roles and responsibilities, communication processes, goals, and methods to handle disagreements.
Encourage the Right Behaviours
An organization that increases cultural diversity builds awareness of current beliefs, which determines attitudes that reflect behaviours. Interacting effectively with individuals from diverse cultures enables an organization to minimize behaviours that impact success in the global economy, and to reap the benefits of a broader set of skills and knowledge.
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