Embracing cultural differences in the workplace

A closer look at cultural diversity in the workplace.

People waving flags from different nations.

Diversity is an essential component of any successful business. Not only is the domestic workforce becoming increasingly diverse, but many companies have expanded their hiring practices to shift towards a globalized workforce with a broad range of skills, talents, and backgrounds. 

The benefits of having a diverse workforce are compelling, but to realize them fully, organizations must actively embrace cultural differences in the workplace. Here’s a closer look at what that entails. 

What is cultural diversity?

In the business world, cultural diversity includes people from different ages and generations, ethnic groups, races, and gender identities. Moreover, it may include people with differing viewpoints, educational backgrounds, and previous professional experience. A diverse workforce also includes individuals with disabilities.

Having a diverse workforce with a broad range of perspectives invites opportunities for greater creativity and innovative thinking. When different cultures are empowered and celebrated in the workplace, it can also build trust among coworkers and in the organization itself, as well as respect and collaboration. 

These benefits can pave the way for further advantages, including increased retention, better employee engagement, and stronger overall company performance. To achieve these benefits, however, employers and staff alike must put in the work to cultivate an inclusive environment in which people from different cultures can thrive.

Embracing cultural differences at work

While the methods for fostering cultural diversity may look a little different from one organization to the next, most companies can utilize the following practices to build a diverse, welcoming environment. 

Consider different communication styles 

People from varying cultures, generations, racial backgrounds, or gender identities may express themselves in different ways. Communication can become even more complex within a distributed workforce. To help employees feel comfortable during your communications, be open to each employee’s preferred method, such as email, video chats, phone calls, or instant messaging. Reaching out on a comfortable platform can help foster a healthy line of communication between you and your team. 

Provide training

Diversity and implicit bias training can help individuals understand how their unconscious biases could impact the workplace, along with what they could do to address them. If you don’t have a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) expert within your human resources team, consider consulting with one when structuring training.

Make sure every employee—including managers, supervisors, and other key members of the organization—has access to the training materials to ensure that all participants receive the same information across the board. 

Assess brand language 

If your employee handbook, brand guidelines, interview questions, and other key company materials have never been updated, it’s likely time to take another look at them. In many cases, terms that were once widely used might now be considered insensitive. Be sure to look for any ableist, sexist, ageist, or otherwise problematic language and revise them immediately. 

Be mindful of time differences and holidays 

If you have a remote team, it’s critical to respect time differences to ensure work time doesn’t start to overlap with personal time. Additionally, be mindful of how each culture could view time differently. Some cultures are more casual about time, while others are very punctual, especially in professional settings. These differences can influence meeting start times or task deadlines. For this reason, it’s critical to be mindful of overtime laws from a compliance standpoint and to provide clear, concise directions when outlining expectations for projects. 

Finally, be aware of any holidays that your staff members might observe or celebrate, both domestically and internationally. Establish clear working hours or hours of observation during such holidays, and consider having employees share calendars so managers and colleagues can anticipate periods of unavailability.

Listen and adapt 

It’s essential that your employees feel valued, comfortable, and included. Company leaders should make it clear that anyone can come to them with issues and questions. Invite employees to talk to their managers about any diversity-related concerns.

Of course, inclusivity doesn’t stop at simply listening to your employees. If it becomes clear that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, demonstrate your commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive workplace by acting on it. Embracing cultural differences in the workplace is not a one-and-done activity, but a process that requires ongoing efforts. For example, policies may need to be updated routinely, and senior management should remain actively engaged in the process.

Building a diverse team can be a complex endeavor, especially when you consider compliance, payroll, and benefits. Turn to Oyster to eliminate the complexity of end-to-end employee management in more than 180 countries. Find out more about how we can help grow and manage your global workforce

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, engage, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables engagement anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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