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Is your company ready for multicultural workforce? Food for thought

In the era of global mobility, “brain circulation”, liquid workforce and virtual teams, intercultural sensitivity alongside its multiple facets (ability, intelligence, communication, etc.) is a must, especially given that the composition of teams and units will change in most companies in the near future. However, intercultural awareness practices are seldom part of today’s companies. This is an unfortunate fact, as missing intercultural understanding oftentimes is the contributor leading to inefficiency and conflicts within the workplace, and unavailing company strategies.

What are the benefits of having a diverse workforce? Under which circumstances can it create benefits and advantages for your company?

The world culture emerged to a buzzword in recent times and its use – and sometimes miss-use - is so elevated that it is hard to pin down what it is we are talking about: Food culture, feedback culture, national culture, culture in terms of art, etcetera. As talking about the concept of culture would exceed the scope at this point, we clarify to touch upon culture in regards to organizational structure, and how inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds can influence performances of enterprises.

Multicultural workforce can enhance competitiveness of companies and their performances at all levels of the organization as it is stated by the World Economic Forum. Naturally, diverse opinions, perspectives and values can contribute to increased conflict; however, if handled competently, that conflict can produce organizational benefits and personal growth. In general, it is proven, for instance by the EU Commission, that multicultural teams work more effectively due to different viewpoints, approaches, mutual respect, enhanced conflict resolution and higher innovation potential among other aspects. It is also known that employees’ morale, individual performance, and productivity are improved due to fair workplace habits implemented by a committed organizational structure that select, develop, and treat people based on merit and fairness. Moreover, 48% of companies have stated that language skills advanced, and 29% gained new perspectives and approaches through hiring multicultural employees as a recent survey from Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce’s COME project has shown. Tolerance and relationship building are side effects that make internationally recruited employees not only co-exist within the company, but also thrive. Personal growth is an important aspect when looking at intercultural encounters in the already existing entity: in a team, as a sales person or a travelling business representative, intercultural encounters will encourage personal reflection and learning representing the stepping-stone to develop intercultural intelligence.

It is this mixture of personal and professional learning, creative problem-solving and enhanced productivity that make multicultural workforce an important addition of richness to businesses and contributes to better organizational performance on a larger scale.

Multiculturalism at work will not happen by employing international staff on its own. When talking about multiculturalism there is one crucial point: Cultural learning will only take place when knowing your own ‘cultural’ patterns. Talking in terms of organizational culture the need for clearly knowing the readiness for integration of international workforce is obvious: In order to change, it is needed to know what needs changing!

Food for thoughts:

  • Do you know what your organizational culture is like?
  • To what extend is your staff ready for multicultural working environments? What does ‘intercultural readiness’ encompass?
  • Are executives, sales and marketing people interculturally intelligent?
  • Are recruiters aware of unconscious bias, have culturally sensitive question asking-skills and know what to focus on during the recruiting process?

Embrace the opportunity along with meeting the changing business requirements and become aware of your organizational structure and readiness to move towards a multicultural workforce.

It is a beautifully challenging advantage for everyone involved!

Successful Multicultural Company Campaign 2017
If you would like to know better what the organizational culture in your company is like and how favorable it is for embracing a diverse workforce, have a look at Successful Multicultural Company Campaign 2017. The aim is also to recognize the benefits of multiculturalism and diverse workforce as well as to receive feedback on your company’s working culture and attitudes towards multiculturalism.

References and Further Readings:

“Diversity within small and medium-sized enterprises”: Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, European Commission, Source: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/diversity_sme2015_en.pdf

“Stimulation Economies through Fostering Talent Mobility”: World Economic Forum. Source: https://www.bcg.com/documents/file41189.pdf

“Survey: Companies’ views on multicultural workforce, target markets and economic trends.” Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, COME. Source: http://come2.fi/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Chamber-survey-1_2017-Companies-views-on-multicultural-workforce-target-markets-and-economic-trends.pdf

“Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach” by James W. Neuliep, 7.Edition. Sage Publications. 2017

About the author

Katharina Külpmann, trainee at COME – Chamber of Multicultural Enterprises, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce. Current Master’s student in Intercultural Encounters, enthusiastic about intercultural matters, integration, mutual benefit-making, co-creation, and sustainable economic and societal development.

The text was first published at: http://come2.fi/news/blogs/  by COME. Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce’s project Chamber of Multicultural Enterprises (COME) aims in enhancing companies’ ability and readiness to recruit international talents, cope with multicultural working environment and improving companies’ capabilities to succeed in international business environment.

Photo of  the cover: Riitta Supperi/Keksi/Team Finland, Suomi Finland image bank by the Finland Promotion Board, Slush 2013