As the world becomes increasingly global in its outlook and as the marketplace becomes more international in nature, multiculturalism in the workplace is growing. Today, it is commonplace for professionals to regularly move from country to country, not letting location stand in the way of their dream career.
Although managing a multicultural workplace may seem like a daunting prospect to many managers and directors, it need not be. Bringing different cultures, multiple language capabilities and international experience creates a good environment for business success. I’d like to share my top five tips for successfully managing a diverse team:
1. Respect Each Other’s Culture
Be mindful of everyone’s backgrounds and traditions and encourage employees to share details of their religion, home life and country of origin. That way, people get to ask questions about different ways of life and backgrounds and are more tolerant and accepting of alternative beliefs as a result. Through this process my company found out that a few of its employees are Muslim and pray daily, so we set up a prayer area to enable them to do this during their working day.
2. Home From Home
Try to help employees settle into their new life in the UK, not just in the office but outside work too. One of our employees wanted to bring her dogs from South Africa as she knew she would feel more at home if her canine friends were in the same country as her. We found out about the process for importing her dogs and supported her to do this. We also encourage new employees to bring their partners and children with them; that way they are less likely to feel homesick and will settle into UK living more easily. And of course, giving employees the ability to work from home or do compressed hours when family is visiting is another way of helping them settle into their adopted country.
3. Share Best Practice
Different countries have different ways of doing business. Take time to explain business etiquette in this country to international employees, and look at adopting business etiquette from other countries. And it’s not just in business where things differ. Simple things such as renting a house, opening a bank account or applying for visas differ from country to country so help employees understand the process here in the UK.
4. Vive La Difference
Celebrate the differences. One simple way of doing this is to give an extra bank holiday to international employees, for example, giving an Italian team member the day off on Italy’s National Day. Setting up a bake-off, where each employee makes food from his or her country of origin, is also a great way of encouraging team bonding.
5. Lead By Example
Managers and directors have a vital part to play in enabling a vibrant team spirit. Small things like bringing back a range of goodies from holidays including some Kosher sweets for your Jewish colleagues, for example, will go a long way to encouraging the rest of the team to be mindful of their international team members.