Encouraging greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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Written by Armin Hopp on 19 October 2016

Organisations that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers. That's according to a Bersin by Deloitte two-year research study ‘2015 High-Impact Talent Management’. It found that only 10 per cent of companies had a talent strategy that took full account of inclusion and diversity.

Companies that scored highly on their approach to inclusion and diversity showed measurably better performance on indicators ranging from higher cash flow per employee to being innovators in the market.

Organisations of all sizes have a legal duty to make their workplaces a fair environment and comply with equality legislation, which extends to characteristics such as age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; gender and sexual orientation.

The law relating to inclusion and equality in these areas is clear and most HR departments are well aware of their responsibilities.

Vive la difference

As organisations increasingly operate in international and multicultural environments, it is desirable to take the organisation's approach to inclusion and diversity up a level. The benefits of true inclusion come through embracing the differences between people by making them visible and drawing on the benefits of international diversity.

For example, Southern European cultures excel at teamwork, which is something Northern Europeans can learn from. Americans excel at entrepreneurship and individual performance – something Europeans can learn from.

Cultural clashes are inevitable when managing employees in multiple countries. The key to managing cross-cultural teams lies in communication. Building the communication skills of your staff can help grow your business too.

Multilingual sales staff are able to secure new international business opportunities by speaking the language – and understanding the culture – of potential customers in new geographies. While multilingual marketing staff ensure that communications to prospective users and clients reach beyond local geographical areas. Multilingual support staff can build stronger relationships with existing clients and help develop existing products and services by making them available in more languages.

Here are three top tips to drive greater diversity and inclusion to support international working:

Embed diversity and inclusion considerations into corporate culture. This is much more than simply a HR checklist – it involves creating an expectation of the need for constant learning and development in soft communication skills as well as multilingualism.

While acknowledging that people define themselves in terms of age, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, political background, it is important that your employees not only recognise this but that they also recognise that these are not the only things that impact effective communications. For example, in some cultures direct eye contact or plain speaking is seen as honest and desirable, whereas other cultures do not operate in this way.

  • Make diversity and inclusion into language and communications training. Biases such as unconscious bias, similarity bias and structural bias more often than not reveal themselves in the way people communicate with each other or the language and vocabulary they use.
  • Close the social distance to foster successful international working, maximising the diversity of your workforce. Very often employees around the world will have, on paper, the language and communication skills they need to communicate with each other. Yet communications break down. The key to fostering diversity in and inclusion in international teams is to find a way to break down social distance – In other words to help employees get to know each other so that they work together better. One way to do this may be to drive the use of more real-time and verbal communication as there is a tendency to rely on written delayed communications, whereby misunderstandings creep in. Team leaders have a part to play in reminding everyone that they have a common goal and a responsibility to communicate with sensitivity to different cultures and their collocutor’s language fluency.
  • The globalised economy brings a number of challenges when it comes to maintaining a cohesive workforce. Supporting organisational diversity and inclusion with language and communication development can help to drive productivity and staff mobility, increasing employee satisfaction with their day-to-day working life and opening up career opportunities on the international stage that will engage and motivate workers.

About Author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx.