Considering Cultural and Interpersonal Differences
Managers capable of contemplating the varying cultural, gender, or ethnic backgrounds of their workforce can optimize collaboration.
Employ cross-cultural competence to ensure interactions between diverse individuals create optimal results
- Intercultural competence is an individual’s ability to communicate with, and adapt to, the cultural norms and expectations of each employee or customer. Competence is understanding the differences between people of different backgrounds and cultures.
- Cross-cultural competence, language proficiency, and regional expertise are three critical building blocks to attaining a high level of intercultural competence.
- Cross-cultural competence is a set of cognitive, behavioral, and motivational components that enable individuals to adapt to intercultural environments.
- Manager who are able to recognize the differences among their employees must be aware of their own cultural identity and employ empathy when dealing with differences.
- Those who achieve a high level of intercultural competency while possessing a strong understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, and cultural identity will more effectively immerse themselves into the cultures of co-workers.
- predisposition: An intrinsic personal characteristic or susceptibility.
- Immersion: Being completely surrounded by another culture (including language, geography, customs, etc.).
- Intercultural Competence: The ability to communicate effectively with people of other cultures.
With an understanding of the high value of diversity, managers must next contemplate what differentiates employees. Managers who are capable of understanding the varying cultural, gender, or ethnic backgrounds of their workforce can optimize collaboration and minimize any friction that may arise as a result of these differences.
Intercultural competence is an individual’s ability to communicate with, and adapt to, the cultural norms and expectations of each employee or customer. This cultural competence is imperative for managers to succeed in a globalized world.
A Model of Intercultural Approach
Perspectives vary as to what constitutes intercultural understanding. The following figure highlights the three building blocks of one intercultural approach: cross-cultural competence, language proficiency, and regional expertise. This model suggests that the development of each building block allows for the largest potential crossover between the sections, and that employing them in concert provides the largest potential level of competence for an intercultural manager.
The blue and yellow circles in the diagram highlight the importance of understanding the local language and visiting regions to achieve immersion in a particular cultural mentality.
Still, cross-cultural competence is a relatively vague concept. The wide spectrum of academic studies that have addressed it have only served to complicate ideas about what constitutes a well-rounded cultural perspective. The U.S. Army Research Institute may have come closest to summarizing what it means to be cross-culturally competent: “A set of cognitive, behavioral, and affective/motivational components that enable individuals to effectively adapt in intercultural environments.”
Development of Intercultural Competence
Managers who are interested in developing the capacity to think about and isolate differences between people must be open to immersing themselves into as many cultures as possible.
Immersion is best achieved through interacting and communicating with people from other cultures often enough to face and overcome the intrinsic obstacles that may present themselves. These experiences serve as motivators for each individual involved. Intercultural exchange drives both manager and employee to think further about what predispositions each holds and how best to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.
Individual Strengths in Accepting Differences
On a more individualistic note, the exercise of a few key introspective skills may also serve to lessen friction:
- Knowledge – Acquiring a thorough understanding of history, cultural norms, basic language, and religion is valuable.
- Empathy – Trying to understand the views and feelings of others from their perspective is important in all forms of management, but particularly relevant when differences in cultures are present.
- Self-confidence – Understanding personal weaknesses and difficulties in adapting to situations is important in controlling reactions.
- Cultural identity – Coming to terms with another culture requires cultural self-awareness, which creates a critical benchmark. Objectivity in this respect is highly valuable.
To attain a high level of cultural awareness, along with intercultural communication skills, requires thinking about and understanding different people and their respective cultures. Managers who pursue intercultural competency while possessing a strong understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, and cultural identity will more effectively immerse themselves into the cultures of co-workers.
Building a Diverse Workforce
A diverse workforce is achieved by identifying, attracting, training, and retaining individuals through effective management.
Diagram a step by step process enabling companies to effectively integrate diversity into their organizations to align with globalization and identify the processes and procedures used to on-board culturally diverse employees
- The importance of developing strong intercultural competence is a top priority for multinational corporations.
- Attracting a diverse workforce requires a corporate structure supportive of varying backgrounds, including the availability of employees who can effectively identify with a variety of cultures.
- Diversity training allows for understanding of an individual’s cultural norms and values, a capability that must be applied in constructing effective teams with adaptable mentalities.
- In a complex global workplace, capitalizing on training investment takes the form of employee retention and effective incentive programs to maintain employee satisfaction.
- Companies that attain and retain a diverse workforce stand to capture substantial value.
- Employees with intercultural intelligence will be better prepared to establish working relationships and business partnerships globally
- corporate scouting: Seeking new talent for a business; isolating new employee potential.
- retention: The act of maintaining an employee (or customer) through effectively filling that individual’s needs.
As the global economy continues to evolve, the challenge of developing an efficient and synergistic cross-cultural workforce is of growing importance. Diversity in the workplace is optimally achieved through effectively identifying and attracting diverse talent, training that talent to maximize its contributions to the business, and retaining that workforce through effective management and compensation. Therefore, it is a top priority for multinational corporations to develop a strong intercultural competence in their management and apply this competence to the human resource framework.
Attracting a Diverse Workforce
Attracting a diverse workforce requires a corporate structure supportive of varying backgrounds and predispositions, as well as the internal resources and knowledge necessary to effectively identify with a variety of cultures. When defining the roles and responsibilities of a given position in the company, a human resources department must actively consider what they mean for the individual filling that position. Understanding what motivates and attracts a diverse workforce in this regard is critical in order to entice the appropriate talent pool.
Once the role is effectively and accurately defined by the company, there are a large number of resources specifically designed to identify diverse talent. Using technological advances such as search engines, job posting boards, and social networks is an excellent way to find people worth approaching to fill that role. Headhunters and corporate scouting initiatives are also an important attribute of a well-designed diversity-recruitment initiative.
Training a Diverse Workforce
Following the process involved in identifying talent, the managers and human resource representatives are then tasked with training various new hires from a number of different backgrounds and cultural predispositions. Diversity training is heavily dependent on identifying an individual’s cultural norms and values. This understanding must be applied in constructing effective teams and adaptable mentalities that will remain highly compatible with a complex global workplace. Not only should new hires be trained to understand and adapt to diversity, but managers should also be made aware of these cultural trends and be trained to effectively manage them.
Retaining a Diverse Workforce
Finally, retaining diverse employees is critical to the success of an international human resource department. This is particularly relevant to a global workforce, as the costs associated with recruiting and training diverse talent are high. Training new employees is one of the largest sources of selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) costs that businesses encounter. Capitalizing on this investment comes in the form of employee retention and effective incentive programs to maintain employee satisfaction.
From a general standpoint, retaining diverse employees begins with constructing a workplace conducive to variance in ethnic backgrounds and values. A homogeneous workplace environment will only cater to the dominant group, and this type of workplace will likely result in lower retention rates for diverse talent. Incorporating and localizing the workplace to best cater to the needs of minorities is therefore of central importance to managers intent on effectively filling the needs of diverse talent.
Combining these three strategies—attracting diverse talent, training a diverse workforce, and achieving high levels of retention—stands to capture substantial value for multinational organizations. Keeping this human resources framework in mind for constructing a multicultural workplace is a critical element to the success of businesses in a rapidly globalizing market.
Managing Organizational Diversity
Managing diversity and inclusion in organizations is a critical management responsibility in the modern, global workplace.
Outline the way in which the HR framework approaches diversity in the workplace, capturing opportunity and avoiding threats.
- Global business demands management that can work in a diverse environment, minimizing friction while capturing the value of different perspectives and skills.
- First and foremost, diversity must be defined organizationally from the top down and confirmed from the bottom up. This includes the mission and vision statements, the employee handbook, values statements, human resource policies, human resource training, and press releases.
- Following the above expressions of strategy, leaders and managers must integrate diversity in a meaningful way.
- From the diversity-management perspective, a diversity scorecard, which both identifies how diversity interacts with other long-term objectives and how observation/feedback could be implemented to assess it, is of high value to managers looking to improve their diversity management skills.
- The human resources department specifically has a great deal of responsibility in managing the overall diversity of the organization, including hiring, compensation equity, training, policy and legalities, and contracts.
- diverse: Consisting of many different elements; various.
- stereotype: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.
Management may encounter significant challenges in incorporating diverse perspectives in group settings, but managing this diversity in the workplace is essential to success. A team or organization’s diversity can include diversity across religion, sex, age, and race, but can also include diversity across work skills or personality types. All of these differences can affect team interactions and performance. Global business demands management that can work in a diverse environment, minimizing friction while capturing the value of different perspectives and skills.
Diversity-Alignment Management Strategies
Due to the wide variety of benefits inherent in employing a global workforce (new perspectives, innovation, localization, unique skill sets, etc.), managers must carefully attune their management strategies in a way that is inclusive and effective. There are a number of management-strategy models to consider in this pursuit.
First and foremost, diversity must be defined organizationally from the top down and confirmed from the bottom up. This includes, but is not limited to, incorporating diversity initiatives into the mission and vision statements, the employee handbook, values statements, human resource policies, human resource training, and press releases. Having a separate diversity statement (similar to a mission statement) is also a good way to underline how an organization is committed to diversity. Following this process, upper management must also align resource allocation with diversity—committing time, efforts, capital, and staff to promoting it.
Establish Leadership Accountability
Following the above expressions of strategy, leaders and managers must now be held accountable. This means that management will carefully control diversity, minimizing the negative elements (stereotyping, discrimination, inequity, groupthink, etc.) while empowering the positive elements (innovative thinking, health conflict, inclusive culture, etc.). Managers must also actively work to achieve diversity in work groups, arranging assignments strategically to capture the inherent value of diversity. When failures in diversity management occur, managers must be accountable in taking corrective action.
Utilize a Diversity Scorecard
Scorecards are used in various aspects of management strategy, and are particularly useful in working both financial and nonfinancial objectives into specific business processes. From the diversity-management perspective, a diversity scorecard, which identifies both how diversity interacts with other long-term objectives and how observation/feedback could be implemented to assess it, is of high value to managers looking to improve their diversity management skills. It can help to identify the outcomes expected from integrating more diverse skills and perspectives as well as to assess the effectiveness of diversity management.
The Role of Human Resource Management
Upper management and departmental managers are not the only individuals involved in diversity management, however. The human resource department specifically has a great deal of responsibility in managing the overall diversity of the organization. Human resources can consider diversity within the following areas:
- Compensation equality
- Employee policies
- Legal regulations
- Ensuring accessibility of important documents (e.g., translating human resource materials into other languages so all staff can read them)
The role of human resources is to ensure that all employee concerns are being met and that employee problems are solved when they arise. Human resource professionals must also pursue corporate strategy and adhere to legal concerns when hiring, firing, paying, and regulating employees. This requires careful and meticulous understanding of both the legal and organizational contexts as they pertain to diversity management.