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The Importance of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

Cultural Diversity Today

In as much as it can create a great competitive advantage, cultural diversity has been one of

the major challenges facing many big companies. A 2017 survey by Data Face shows that

about 50% of the 100 fortune 500 companies involved in the study have a workforce with

over 38.7% ethnic minorities drawn from different countries worldwide.

Dealing with employees and customers from different races, ethnicities, sexual

orientations, gender, nationalities could be a hot-button affair for a company that hasn’t

given diversity management the attention it deserves. Every culture has unique ways of

dealing with different matters such as teamwork, decision making, leadership and risk

management. If a company’s leadership doesn’t come up with ways to accommodate

diverse views from its diverse stakeholders, then issues like conflict and inefficiencies are likely to occur. Therefore, cultural diversity management is an important matter that

requires a well-informed approach and much commitment.

Steps To Take

Understanding Cultural Diversity in the workplace

By default, people think that if they apply the golden rule of “doing unto others as you’d

expect others to do unto you”, they’ll certainly make others happy and avoid conflicts.

However, “good” and “bad” is relative, depending on your personality and cultural

background. For instance, pork is a delicacy for many people, but someone who is Muslim

will not eat it. As such, the assumption that the golden rule would bring harmony and

prevent conflict at workplace doesn’t hold water.

People who lead big companies are usually very busy and it’s highly likely for them to be so

preoccupied with meeting targets and self-development that they are left with no time to

devise proper approaches for handling cultural diversity within their jurisdiction.

Being Culturally Sensitive

To work effectively with their subordinates and amongst themselves, company leaders

ought to embrace intercultural sensitivity in their work. Intercultural sensitivity involves

having a deep understanding and accepting other people’s cultures and how one’s own

perceptions can affect other people.

Through diversity education, leaders are able to recognize different prejudices and

stereotypes that can influence the learning, working and personal development of every

person they interact with within their job scopes.

Cultural sensitivity is not only important for leaders but also for all employees to enable

smooth and highly productive teamwork and minimize employee-customer conflicts.

Being Culturally Competent

Cultural competence is a measure of the ability of a person, to function effectively across

different cultures as well as think and act aptly, communicate effectively, and work

smoothly with people from different cultural backgrounds. Many recruiting panels

overlook this important aspect while hiring employees, when being culturally competent

has very significant influence on the productivity of an individual/team and the success of

an organization at large.

Developing Cultural Competence

Here are some tips that leadership can adopt to develop cultural competence:

  • Active listening

  • Introduction of employee cross-cultural team building

  • Involving a cultural diversity expert in recruitment/hiring process

  • Encouraging employees to report cases of cultural insensitivity cases in their

  • workplaces

  • Facilitating regular training and workshops to create cultural awareness for

  • particular potential differences.

  • Regular evaluation of existing cultural inclusion strategies and making necessary

  • adjustments

Intercultural skills are a great resource for any company with global teams. However,

without cultural sensitivity and a culturally competent workforce, dealing with cultural

diversity will be a daunting experience for company leaders. A cultural expert comes in

handy for effective cultural diversity management.

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