Cultural diversity is an essential component of a thriving and healthy business. It can increase employee engagement, drive profits, enhance creativity and promote the reputation of a company. However, diversity alone is not a panacea for a successful work environment. It needs to be coupled with proactive, positive action to yield results.
You need to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging. This is the “inclusion” part of D & I initiatives. It is key to achieving the positive outcomes outlined above, as well as creating wellbeing in the workplace. As more organisations transition towards a hybrid or fully remote workplace, cross-cultural collaboration and inclusivity are increasingly important. They will help you turn challenges into opportunities.
This month we are going to offer you insights into how views of wellbeing differ around the world. We are also going to give you some tips to help you support the needs, health and wellbeing of your global workforce.
This article will reference a range of research that identifies trends within certain regions or communities. Whilst there is huge value in identifying trends, we must remember that such data does require us to generalise about populations. In real life, everyone is – of course – unique. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mental wellbeing and health, so we must keep that in mind as we put these suggestions into action.
Leadership: diversity, inclusivity & action
Leaders are the “climate engineers” of an organisation. They are the foundation of workplace culture, engagement, resilience and morale. To build a thriving community, it is critical that the CEO and management understand the financial and personal benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace and act in alignment with these values. It is not enough for them to support D & I initiatives – they need to be role models and immerse themselves fully in them.
Meaning, values and workplace satisfaction
How someone evaluates a “life well lived” and what adds “meaning” to their lives varies radically depending on where they are in the world. The factors that individuals perceive as important are known as ‘values’ and they impact on everything they do.
How they think and feel. What motivates them. What they find stressful and how they behave, interact, and even recover from challenges. This has a huge impact on the workplace. Integrating values into work boosts productivity, innovation, collaboration, resilience, job satisfaction and staff loyalty.
Traditionally in the west, the value systems have been built around personal happiness, physical health, achieving goals, financial success, and autonomy. In contrast, in eastern cultures, the focus has been much more towards contentment, spiritual health and community involvement. In practice, the modern workplace is now a melting pot of cultures and this is resulting in a cross-pollination of values.
If the companies of today wish to attract and retain the best talent, maintain performance, stay agile and optimise the benefits of their global community, they need to understand these diverse values. They need to be sympathetic and aware of differences, as this affects how well individuals in the workplace relate to each other.
“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”
-Sundar Pichai – CEO Alphabet
Self-awareness, assumption and communication
Working with global teams, we need to be more aware of our own cultural conventions. If we fail to do so, we often jump to conclusions. This leads to miscommunication, offense and ineffective collaboration.
For example, in the UK we might interpret someone not making eye contact as a sign of boredom or disrespect. This same action, in other communities, could be an indicator of exactly the opposite. If people make assumptions based on their own experiences, they can act in a way that is potentially insensitive. This can lead to an erosion of trust, conflict and low morale. This, in turn, can exacerbate a sense of distance and isolation between teams. This negative ripple can be felt across the entire company, inhibiting performance, wellbeing and leading to unnecessary staff turnover.
Being alert to assumptions and improving communication enables us to overcome potential pitfalls. It is important to adapt to different cultural etiquettes and as a result meet the needs of the individual more effectively. How do you do this? It really is just a case of listening more.
In order to understand values and what motivates our team, we must engage in conversations about what success means to them; what they love most about their job or what helps them learn. When giving someone feedback, we can use the SBI model. When working with wider initiatives, we can set global goals and metrics whilst ensuring that each location has some ownership of how it is executed at a local level.
William Cowper once said, “variety is the spice of life.” This is as true in the workplace as it is anywhere else. Wellbeing, diversity and inclusion are fundamentally interlinked. They are the foundation of organisational success and resilience.
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”