In today’s economy traditional barriers to trade are diminishing and for many companies international trade is essential to their growth and success.
Rapid developments in technology have made new markets accessible; however, consumers continue to prefer to deal with a workforce representative with which they can identify and many organisations just do not understand the huge benefits that a culturally diverse workforce can offer.
The problem is that many managers are culturally deprived; their education, training and upbringing simply did not prepare them to manage the situations they face in today’s multicultural environment, and many organisations do little to provide them with the resources that can assist in developing their knowledge and understanding of cultural preferences.
We all tend to like people who are like us, similarity is comfortable, however, we clearly need to recognise and cater for the differences amongst individual employees – and that requires an understanding of their cultural norms and the operating implications of those behaviours.
Management training should go far beyond trotting out an equal opportunities or nationalization policy, and provide an opportunity to consider the appropriateness of their actions when working with individual;s and groups from different cultures and value the benefits that the differences bring.
So what do managers actually need to learn? Here are a few ideas:
Non verbal awareness– the more we understand how subtly we communicate, the better we understand others non verbal communications.
Body language, gestures touch, and personal space. A pat on the back may be appropriate for some employees, while others will feel uncomfortable and violated by this gesture.
Managing stereotypes and assumptions. Stereotypes prevent us from thinking differently about individuals and groups and lead us into forming untested and invalid conclusions about those groups. Even when an individual seems to fit a stereotype then it’s still important to check the assumptions that are being applied, managing a diverse workforce requires managers to learn new ways to recognise contributions and this means putting aside some assumptions and looking beyond style and preferences to actual results and outputs.
Cultural differences and the balance of power. In many cultures power is centred at the top of the organisation and the span of control is tight. Therefore, employees expect to be told what to do and are not encouraged to take responsibility. For those people taking initiative represents risk. Managers do need to understand the values that people bring to the workplace, and agree with individuals how they can make a contribution and how that contribution should be recognised.
To make diversity work, difficult decisions must be made lip service, official statements and policies will not change behaviour! Success can only be measured through fundamental changes to an organisation’s culture traditional attitudes.
Prepare your managers to interact with the work force on their next assignment. Our training and coaching services will provide that insight and understanding to enable them to engage successfully: