Multiculturalism in the workplace brings with it a wealth of benefits. Different cultures bring different perspectives which increase your chances of spotting potential business opportunities and risks. A multicultural workforce can open up overseas markets by using real cultural knowledge to adapt your products and services to meet demand. It can also encourage the whole of your team to think outside of the box and question their received wisdom.
However, hiring and managing a multicultural team doesn’t come without its challenges. Here are some tips on hiring and managing multicultural talent:
Don’t Assume Norms are Known
We’re fairly familiar with the hiring process in the country we’ve been born and raised in. However, for an international applicant used to a different system, the process can be unfamiliar and confusing. Try to make each step of the application and interview process clear in advance. Forms of identification and documentation differ from country to country so be specific about what an applicant needs to bring with them to interview. Also, avoid using acronyms or exclusive language that a non-native applicant may not be familiar with.
Adapt your Materials for a Multicultural Audience
So you’ve recognised the potential in hiring multicultural talent. But when you advertise a job online you only get applications from local job hunters. It could be that your website or job advertisement only appeals to one sector of the market. Assess your website and promotional materials for their multicultural appeal and then adapt them to receive applications from a wider pool of people and cultures.
Promote Diversity and Cultural Understanding in the Workplace
In order to create a company culture that multicultural talent wants to be a part of, you need to promote diversity in the workplace. This means training staff to work with people different from themselves. This could also mean allowing your team members time working at your international office overseas.
Try to Understand and Overcome Differing Communication Styles
Each culture has its own communication style. This is never truer than in the workplace. Some cultures avoid confrontation at all costs, others are openly ambitious and competitive, some see small talk as an essential precursor to business discussion and yet others are used to a non-hierarchical company structure. To effectively manage a multicultural team you need to understand these cultural differences. You’ll also need to adapt to the communication styles of your multicultural talent and allow them time to adapt to yours. Promoting a similar approach throughout the whole of your team is essential.
Give Prep Time
If members of your team don’t speak English as a first language, they may need a little time to process more complicated text or speech. In interviews or in meetings, try not to put people on the spot with requests for information or new ideas. Give your staff members some warning and time for preparation before eliciting information. This will help them to clarify their thoughts in English and share them more effectively, meaning you’ll be getting the most out of your team.
Sometimes an existing team can be resistant to diversification of the workplace. Others can be accepting but come across difficulties due to cultural and language differences. For this reason, and to promote motivation across all old and new staff, team building exercises can be really useful in promoting company cohesion. Time spent away from work in a new environment where staff can learn more about each other can help them to build better working relationships back in the office.
Hiring and managing multicultural employees may require a slightly different approach to what you’re used to. However, with a little sensitivity to potential cultural difference and language difficulties, you’re much more likely to secure the top talent and cultural perspective you need for your company.
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