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Culture clash – how to effectively manage diversity in the workplace

Culture clash – how to effectively manage diversity in the workplace

The effects of globalisation aside, the South African workforce has always consisted of a diverse mix of cultures.  Being able to effectively manage diversity within the workplace therefore becomes less of a nice-to-have and more of an absolute necessity if you want to ensure that your business is successful.

First, let’s take a look at what exactly culture means: Culture is defined as the traditions, arts, social institutions, values, norms & attitudes of a particular nation, people, or other social group.  It is important to understand that a person’s culture affects the way they think, the way they behave, the way they make judgements, and even the way they tackle problems.

Is cultural diversity a bad thing in business? Definitely not.  In fact, it’s an exciting opportunity that you should openly be inviting into your business.  Think about a team of 10 people, all with the same backgrounds, skill sets, and attitudes.  Sure, you’ll likely have a more cohesive team that basically thinks and acts as one, but this also means that when faced with a problem, you’ll likely also get very predictable responses.  With a culturally diverse team, you’ll have a group of people who challenge each other’s ideas, thereby making them better, or bring completely new ideas to the table.  This promotes creativity & innovation and allows you as a business to provide a broader range of solutions to your customer’s needs.

So how do you manage diversity?

HR policies & procedures
Recruitment & recognition policies should be inclusive to everyone and based purely on a person’s expertise, experience and performance in line with the needs of the business.  When drafting new policies, you must consider the varying impact it will have on different cultural groups.  If you’re unsure about how your employees feels about your current policies & procedures, ask them for feedback and be willing to make adjustments where needed.

With any group communication it’s important to understand that it’s no longer a matter of one style suits all.  Consider the fact that even though English may be your business language, your employees speak many different languages at home.  Avoid complex memos that may be interpreted incorrectly, and try to reach out to people in a way that they can connect with personally.

Team building
With diverse teams, team building activities become even more important.  It’s a chance for people to connect on a level that goes beyond day to day work interactions, giving them insight into what really makes each person tick.

Creating cultural awareness
Cultural awareness focuses on creating an environment where employees understand and respect cultural differences. For this to work, you need to create opportunities where the different cultures within your organisation can be showcased and celebrated.  This can be done as part of a staff onboarding process, regular staff training, or even a quarterly “culture day”.

Looking to improve the diversity of your team? Get in touch to discuss consulting options to suit your specific needs.

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