Working with people just like you is so comfortable that less gets done.
May 26, 2019 4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A multicultural workplace offers a wealth of opportunities, as well as plenty of traps for cultural misunderstandings. Diverse workplaces generate 19 percent more revenue than less diverse work environments. In addition to generating more revenue, multicultural teams are capable of outperforming competitors that lack in diversity by a whopping 35 percent.
Your company is able to attract a more multicultural workforce, too, since 67 percent of job seekers feel diversity is important in the workplace. Follow these tips to create a cohesive and productive multicultural environment at your place of business.
Know your audience.
Andrea La Mendola, chief of global operations at Hyperloop Transportation, advises starting with the specific group of employees you are working now. La Mendola noted that “The ability to read the room in a business setting is crucial. I had to get straight to business in some situations — when certain engineers were primarily business driven.”
Other tactics that La Mendola took to task for organizing multicultural teams included pinpointing personalities. By identifying the types of personalities on a team, from Type A taskmasters to creative working out-of-the-box types, you’ll begin to understand how to best approach the team as a whole.
For a more laid back crowd, La Mendola recommends establishing a laissez-faire work environment–humor helps, too. In a multicultural environment that is more serious and straightforward, keep the crew on task for the best results. This is how La Mendola is able to manage a team of engineers from around the world and is also key to dealing with a multigenerational employee group.
Look beyond language differences.
While language is usually the first difference that comes to mind when we think about cultural differences, there are many other non-verbal cues such as clothing style. In the US it is common to see employees wear sandals and tank tops to office environments, which is clearly not acceptable in many more conservative countries and cultures. Other examples of non-verbal cues to consider include:
All cultures vary in these areas. For example, in Latin American cultures shaking hands and kissing on the cheek is a common greeting even in business environments. However, in China non-verbal cues often conflict with US customs. In China, for instance, the use of the forefinger in front of the mouth and the sound “Shhh” is offensive. Also, Chinese customs avoid touching and close contact in public ,whereas Latino customs allow people to be far more affectionate even in the workplace environment.
Understand more about the non-verbal cues of the cultures that are represented in your office or workspace. This can greatly minimize the risk of making employees feel uncomfortable or offended.
Understanding time orientation.
Time is another major consideration in multicultural workplaces. We are referring to more than just the language in which we describe the time on the clock. Some cultures, including the US and Japan, are considered future-oriented, meaning that these cultures focus on getting as much accomplished as possible in the least amount of time. Time orientation in India is past-oriented. Here there is no rush and tasks can take plenty of time without reprimand. This can make for quite the dramatic flourish when trying to organize a diverse team of employees from India, Japan and other countries that have conflicting time orientations.
Time in cultures can also be described as monochronic, polychronic and variable monochronic. This refers to doing tasks according to clocks and calendars in a monochronic manner, or according to community life as in a polychronic structure. All of this time, you may have been concerned with dealing with jet lag or time zone shifts for new employees on a diverse team. Yet the real concern should be with understanding the differences in time orientation for their cultural background.
Once you have a handle on your employee group and the way that everyone structures their workday, you are on the path toward success with a productive, diverse workplace.