Nurturing a multicultural workforce is not a job made for machines
The use of automation technology, such as AI and ML is now commonplace in every industry, making processes more agile and efficient. Yet, we have found no effective alternative for human intelligence in nurturing multi-cultural and diverse workplaces.
The multi-cultural milieu of workplaces has widened further in the New Normal, as the pandemic has breached the limitations of location-based recruitment and altered the way we hire talent in general. This evolution is facilitating organizations access to talent pools beyond cities, making way for independent professionals and gig workers to work from anywhere. A rapidly growing diverse workforce connected virtually, who could be working from anywhere on this earth, will require a little more than AI to enable multi-cultural teams to work together in synergy.
So, even though we have conquered technological and language barriers with sophisticated and more ‘human’ collaboration tools, there are several other cultural barriers still to be addressed, especially in the current times. It also makes perfect business sense. Studies have found time and again that multicultural teams are highly beneficial for businesses, providing a melting pot for different perspectives, varied creativity, and collective wisdom.
The invisible wall
Cultural barriers can mean a lot of things to different people. Broadly, when people from different cultures have different cultural beliefs or use different gestures and symbols to communicate, their cultural differences could become barriers at the workplace.
In a business environment, the following are some of the impediments identified due to cultural barriers:
- Different decision-making styles
- Different communications styles
- Different approaches to completing tasks
- Different attitudes toward conflict
- Different attitudes toward disclosure
When dealing with a culturally diverse team, one thing can hold multiple meanings for different employees from different nationalities and cultures. The focus of the managers in such a scenario should be primarily to break down differences, traverse language barriers, and instil respect for one another's cultures.
But that’s easier said than done. Each one of us is influenced by our culture and values somehow or the other in all our decisions. Instilling a sense of acceptance for different points of views, respecting different backgrounds, religious sentiments, and ideas will determine how teams fare in a diverse workplace.
Miles to go
The lack of such an understanding could leave the team members alienated and decisions communicated may not be understood. It is highly advisable to have representation from each country/region and take collective/aligned decisions to nurture a healthy diverse work culture. The use of technology, in this case, may not address the nuanced cultural barriers. In fact, one must beware of any new challenges thrown by the use of nascent tech solutions. Applications, after all, are as culturally sensitive as its programmer. Managing a complex mix of teams would require human understanding and empathy.
The most effective way to achieve it is to encourage open communication. Find avenues for team members to make others aware of their cultural and religious norms. Create opportunities for team members to interact with each other on an informal level. Facilitate an open environment that allows everyone to ask questions and repeatedly clarify their doubts. Educate employees about the existence and power of cultural influences. Once we are aware and ready to accept, we will have the ability to think beyond our barriers and consider from the other’s perspective.But in-team efforts to promote the inclusion of a multi-cultural workforce are alone not enough. The approach must spread organization-wide and reflect in the leadership’s thought process, as well as in and its policies. Create cultural evaluation and signoff process during product, service, solution, or application development – in line with data security and protection protocols, to nurture a global workforce.