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Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits and Challenges

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Benefits of diverse company cultureChallenges of creating a diverse cultureHow to promote a diverse culture in the workplace

Guide Overview

What is a diverse company culture?

A diverse company culture is a work environment that is made up of team members from different cultures. Culture refers to the values that shape how a person thinks and behaves. Whether differences are based on culture, traditions, values, education, sexual orientation, workers with disabilities, religions, beliefs, age, race, religion, gender, or any other distinguishing factor, a workplace that not only accepts these differences but also encourages them, tends to attract better employees.

A diverse company culture:

  • Recognizes the importance of multiple cultures to a team.
  • Understand each team member's differences in terms of work styles.
  • Encourages viewpoints or ideas from employees with different backgrounds.
  • Accepts the cultural differences of coworkers and finds ways to implement them into the growth of the company.
  • Puts policies in place to encourage new hires from all different cultures.
  • Does not tolerate discrimination or microaggressions in the workplace.

Creating a workplace of diversity requires ongoing efforts. It requires routine evaluation of the current work environment, comparing it to the goals of a diverse workplace.

Benefits of diverse company culture

When you combine team members from different cultures, not only do you promote self-awareness, but you also can benefit from the different viewpoints, ideas, and problem-solving techniques of each person. Because cultural backgrounds significantly shape who we are, and how we approach tasks, bringing different cultures together in the workplace can have many benefits. A few benefits include:

Inspire creativity in the workplace

Creativity encourages team members to identify unique solutions to existing problems. Team members can come up with, and use, unique problem-solving methods, while also learning from their team members. It directly affects the innovation of a brand. When diverse cultures in the workplace are accepted and encouraged, it gives employees the confidence they need to be more creative.

Additionally, bringing together people from all over the world with different viewpoints and ideas can lead to the development of new ideas or products, making the brand more competitive.

Attract more qualified staff

Accepting a culture of diversity gives you the opportunity to recruit more talented staff, regardless of their culture. Studies show that today’s candidates are prioritizing diversity when choosing a workplace. Additionally, when you attract productive team members and leaders, they begin to shape the company culture for the better, further encouraging more open-minded, inclusive applicants to apply.

Increased revenue

Promoting a culture that is diverse from the inside helps you build a wider, more diverse, customer base. Developing a multicultural environment will resonate with many customers as people have come to recognize the need for more diversity, also increasing the overall reputation of the brand.

A diverse company culture can also affect revenue when it comes to operations and training. Companies that have policies in place to protect employees from different cultures and who take steps to encourage differences, tend to have higher retention rates. This means lower costs in hiring and training.

Increased company morale and productivity

Studies show that employees who are encouraged to celebrate what makes them different have better morale. They are less likely to call off or seek alternative employment. Increased company morale can also directly affect the productivity of teams. Many companies measure the success of their diversity programs based on productivity levels.

Greater compliance

Discrimination and harassment are illegal in the workplace. Promoting diversity can help with compliance, ensuring that employees are aware of the specific behaviors that could be considered discriminatory.

Ongoing development of team members

Cultural diversity is an ongoing task. When you encourage team members to work with teams and employees who differ from them, they are encouraged to continue developing and growing. They are met with challenges that can help them develop important skills like communication and problem-solving. Diversity in the workplace can also help leaders and managers develop the skills they need to choose better employees while creating a multicultural and diverse staff.

Learn more: What Is the Communication Process?

With the United States made up of different cultures and races from all over the world, promoting a diverse workplace makes sense. By hiring a diverse staff and marketing products to a wider group of people, you are syncing your business plans with the progression of the country.

Challenges of creating a diverse culture

Identifying the benefits of a diverse culture in the workplace is just one step. It is also important to be aware of the challenges while evaluating ways to overcome them:

Some cultures may inhibit desirable work

An open work environment that encourages the ideas and thoughts of everyone is important to productivity. However, some cultures, especially ones in which independence and listening skills are promoted, may not feel comfortable doing this. Cultures of deference may find it difficult to work actively in teams and may not be comfortable speaking out in teams. Additionally, cultures that promote a flat hierarchy may find it easier to speak up.

Learning to recognize these differences is the first step in overcoming this challenge. Then, team leaders can pinpoint specific methods that may help promote a more inclusive approach. For example, those familiar with a culture of deference may be more comfortable in smaller teams.

Learn more: Developing Your Leadership Goals

Cultural stereotypes may still exist

Even when actively promoting a diverse culture, implicit stereotypes can still exist. These are thoughts or actions that we take, sometimes not even realizing why were are doing them. This could include an employee from Western culture attributing a quieter employee to be less productive.

To overcome these implicit stereotypes, it is important to consider our thoughts. When making assumptions about someone, consider what information you used to come to that thought. Getting into the habit of this way of thinking can help overcome these stereotypes.

Different styles of managing conflict

When you bring together people from all different viewpoints, conflict is always a possibility. Additionally, different cultures may have different tactics for solving these conflicts.

Learning to accept these differences and find ways to efficiently work together is a desirable skill, which can be used in developing team members and gauging their ability to adapt. A culturally sensitive human resource team can also be helpful in managing conflict among different team members.

Organizational challenges can make it difficult to hire diverse teams

Designing a diverse team may require dealing with work visas and understanding the employment laws of other countries. You will also have to factor in taxes in different locations. This may require the services of an accounting firm, or that you outsource these tasks to ensure that you are following all laws.

Overcoming these challenges starts at the top of a company by ensuring the right regulations and policies are in place. Team leaders can also affect the diversity of the company by enforcing these important policies.

Learn more: Best Companies for Diversity Inclusion

How to promote a diverse culture in the workplace

Promoting multiculturalism in the workplace is different than talking about it. It requires the completion of certain steps that shape the culture and environment of the company. You can promote a diverse culture in the workplace with these steps:

  1. First, consider what a diverse culture means to you: Culture is a broad term that can have different meanings to different people. It is important to first consider what a diverse workplace means to you.
  2. Second, assess how diverse the current environment is: It can be helpful to consider where your workplace is in terms of cultural diversity. It may be necessary to evaluate any outward or inner bias of current team members or management.
  3. Then, evaluate any work procedures or processes that may prohibit development: This might include a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. It is important to not only create diverse policies but to also identify steps that team members can take to implement them. This may also include evaluating current procedures and policies to ensure that they also promote diversity. For example, workers with disabilities must be accommodated by their workplace. While most employers will follow these requirements to avoid legal troubles, they may not consider additional steps that could make the employee more comfortable.
  4. Finally, create new protocols that prioritize diversity: It may also be necessary to update hiring practices and protocols. How do you find qualified candidates? How can you expand your search to reach more diverse candidates? Cultural sensitivity and training can also be helpful.

Creating a culture of diversity in the workplace requires the commitment of everyone, including team members and managers. It requires that employees learn to ask when they are unsure, and then listen to better understand their differences. It can also be helpful to evaluate a business before applying to find out what others have to say about their cultural diversity.

Learn more: General employer reviews

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