The concepts of “multiculturalism” and “diversity” have been popping up more and more and gaining considerably more importance over the past years. Living in the era of globalization and technology has opened doors and opportunities that had never been seen before, which has completely revolutionized the way we work, communicate, and the way we live.
A few clicks of a button later and you have your plane ticket, hotel and transportation booked; and in a matter of hours you can be sitting in London, Paris, Tokyo or New York, having used your laptop and mobile device to put your flight time to good use. Overnight you can pretty much be on the other side of the world.
Real time chat and instant messaging applications make kilometers feel like centimeters, and can be used to be present in meetings taking place overseas, to talk to your spouse and kids, or to catch up with friends around the world. Never before has travel, exploration and cultural knowledge been so within our reach and so easy to grab hold of, and the workplace should be no exception.
Although there are, of course, challenges posed by having a diverse and multicultural team, such as language barriers, different habits and customs, etc. which should be taken into consideration when hiring, the benefits of a multicultural workplace are so much greater.
Whether in the workplace or not, working and living alongside people from other cultures and backgrounds increases our cultural awareness and knowledge, and opens our horizons, stretching them far beyond the borders of our country. Not only does this make people become more open and accepting towards ideas and foreign concepts, but it generally ignites a will to learn and discover more than they already know. When you realize how many different ways of living there are, and how much things can change just from traveling a few kilometers, it often helps you realize how much you do not know, that you didn’t even know you didn’t know. This desire to learn and improve is not restricted to travel or exploration, but begins to spread across all aspects, and helps form people who are eager to learn and continuously improve, whether at work, at home or in their free time.
Cultural awareness is key when looking to expand your company into other markets, also. It is important to recognize that cultural habits and customs affect business and the workplace as well, and it can be very risky for your company to begin operating in other markets without an active notion that things are most likely done in a different manner. When breaking into other markets, it is essential to have people who will be aware of and willing to adapt to the different lifestyle and habits, and most preferably people who are already knowledgeable about it.
Increased creativity and productivity.
When people with different ways of thinking and living join together to brainstorm and solve a problem, magic can happen. The different ways of approaching a difficult situation and going about fixing it, when brought together can give place to extremely creative and unique ideas that could not have been thought of in any other way. Having an open mind, being culturally aware and working with people who think and work differently from you inspire people to think outside the box, and consider options that they previously may have thought unviable. Taking the best of what each person has to offer and putting them together can create a kind of “super solution” that can bring innovative and revolutionary plans, strategies and ideas to your team and company. Studies have shown that racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35%.
Admittedly, language can be one of the great barriers of hiring people from abroad, but it is also one of its greatest strengths. It is important when hiring to assure there is a common language which team members master and can communicate in, there is nothing more difficult than having to work with someone you cannot clearly communicate. Once a common language has been established, however, which is nowadays most commonly English, any knowledge in other languages is a very big plus. Whether it gives team members the chance to learn a first few words in German or Russian to get by while they’re there on holidays, or to brush up on their French which they haven’t used in years, it is an amazing opportunity to add skills to your team as a group, and for each member in individual. When globalizing your company and beginning to operate in other countries, it is also extremely important and useful to have members who are able to speak other languages, making communications smoother and easier.
Employee relations and tolerance.
Working alongside people who are different from you in many ways, as beneficial as it might be, will always present certain challenges. What you will see change, however, the more you work with them, is how you deal with these challenges and situations: your level of tolerance. Tolerance is not about encountering a problem and ignoring or putting up with it and gritting your teeth – it’s about accepting that all people are different and live in different ways, and beyond accepting that, it’s about valuing and cherishing it. Having tolerant team members will not only improve relations amongst each other, but it will also affect the way they interact with everyone around them, be it managers, colleagues from departments, suppliers, clients or customers.
The more people you have on your team and the more diverse and different they are from each other, the more unique and special talents you will find among them. Stereotypes aside, people who have grown up and been educated in different ways and different environments, have the tendency to develop different skill sets, which can be an amazing addition to your team.
The truth is that the age we live in, an age of globalization and where geographical borders hold less and less meaning with each passing day, is an age which craves travel and diversity. According to studies, 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse, and that there are higher turnover rates due to the fact that they are not. If you are looking to make your team more creative, more productive, more knowledgeable and more cultured, hiring for diversity is definitely something you should be taking into account.
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