It is undeniable that cultural diversity is here to stay in today’s business world. Business in recent times is more often than not set on some sort of global stage. With the aid of technology, the world is already a global village. Lots of companies are keen on recruiting the best hands for their business needs, regardless of their cultural background.
Cultural difference in the workplace comes to play as a result of the assortment of diversity in employees’ race, language, nationality, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, etc.
Cultural diversity is important in the modern workplace because it promotes the presentation of varied perspectives, and unique viewpoints and drives innovative ideas that are of great benefit to the company. The employees also benefit from the cultural differences, as it enables them to develop a global mindset and a fulfilling career.
Statistics show that diversity is a deciding factor for 67% of potential employees. Also, a Glassdoor’s research on the importance of cultural diversity to job candidates revealed that two-thirds of potential employees consider this metric when evaluating a job offer.
Following the above, a Forbes Article by Rebecca Pan suggested that: “all companies should try to explore and evaluate initiatives and opportunities to create a more diverse and inclusive space and culture. And those opportunities will expand and morph as more communities and enterprises make diversity a focus.”
The above benefits of having a culturally diverse workplace are encouraged and sound great, however, managing the cultural differences associated with such workplace can be challenging. This is because there is always the problem of preconceived thoughts of being marginalized by employees, especially from underrepresented cultures within the organization. The challenges of misunderstandings, misconstruing nuances and misinterpretation of issues also exist.
Managing cultural differences in the workplace will require concerted efforts by an organization to entrench interconnected cohesiveness among the workers. This may require mandating employees from the dominant culture within the workplace to make efforts to be inclusive in a way that does not translate to being unnecessarily patronizing.
It is worth noting that when it comes to managing cultural differences within the workplace, both the organization and its employees have a role to play. The organization can benefit from doing the following:
a.Rewarding inclusive behavior
Companies can give incentives to employees and generally reward behavior change that helps in managing cultural differences in the workplace for a particular time frame. This could be featured as part of the end-of-the-year activities. The key part is to tie inclusive behavior to performance reviews by getting key performance indicators (KPIs) for them, just as it is done for other aspects of the company’s business such as marketing, sales, operations etc.
b.Offering training programs
Diversity training can help employers and employees identify the values that are important in supporting cultural differences. Also, some education initiatives tailored towards the principles and beliefs associated with different cultures and how the same are demonstrated will definitely help employees understand each other’s points of view better.
c.Creating a culture of psychological safety
When an organization ensures that employees feel safe to contribute, speak up, voice their opinions and be authentic through its activities and policies, it creates a culture of psychological safety. This in turn helps in managing cultural differences within the workplace, as it enables every employee to share their peculiar viewpoint while allowing others to learn from its cultural implications.
Other ways through which cultural differences can be managed include promoting a culture of respect in the workplace through inclusive behavior and mindfulness in speech, emphasizing the practice of empathy, promoting mentor/mentee relationships within the workplace, etc.