October 19, 2015
Recruiting managers understand the benefits that come with building a diverse company culture. Racial, cultural, age and gender diversity in the workplace have been proven to drive innovation, attract talented team members and even improve overall business performance. However, going from zero to 100 on any initiative can cause friction within an organization, and focusing on workplace diversity as a new hiring priority is no exception.
Instead of making a quick change and hoping it works out, we recommend hiring managers gradually support a more diverse culture to avoid the possible pitfalls that come with making a sudden shift. Work with training departments to anticipate and understand how to work with and leverage cultural differences, then proactively address the following challenges that often come with diverse cultures.
Avoid making offensive assumptions
While hiring managers should be aware of cultural styles (such as those presented in the Lewis Model of Cultural Types), you shouldn’t assume that individuals you hire will exhibit those characteristics. Employees need a chance to demonstrate who they are as individuals without having to carry the burden of assumption.
Address barriers to communication
Understand that when a diverse group of people first come together, different communication styles and expectations can often give the appearance of a clash or make team members slower to speak up. Don’t be discouraged by initial setbacks; instead, train your managers and employees to allow for cultural differences and encourage them to carefully consider how they are communicating. Since communication styles vary within cultures by personality, too, this new challenge will help your team learn to communicate across a wide variety of styles.
Plan for resistance to change
Despite the multicultural world we live in and the data that supports the benefits of diverse workplaces, your company may encounter individual employees who do not embrace the changes within the workplace. It’s your responsibility to provide information and training that educates your employees; it is not your responsibility to tolerate racism or discrimination within your workplace. When you encounter particularly resistant employees, clearly outline your expectations for behavior and communication that align with your workplace policies.
Consider different strategies for managing diverse types of people.
Diversity training will help your employees adjust to working within a more diverse environment, but managers will need support, too. Consider in advance how you will support your management team in communicating, setting expectations and managing a diverse group of people. Managers can get a head start in managing diversity by evaluating their current style and considering how they might adapt to better communicate with a diverse team.
Overall, increasing your company’s diversity is a worthwhile goal because it helps you broaden and represent your customer base and bring different and potentially innovative thoughts into the company. As a result of adopting this updated attitude towards diversity, companies will encourage a more inclusive and open working environment that reduces turnover and increases access to company-wide innovation.