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The potential and risks of multicultural teams

Conflicting working styles across teams 1. Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation Our culture influences the way in which we see the world.

A variety of viewpoints along with the wide-ranging personal and professional experience of an international team can offer new perspectives that inspire colleagues to see the workplace—and the world—differently. Diversity of thought has been shown to breed creativity and drive innovation, helping to solve problems and meet customer needs in new and exciting ways.

Multiple voices, perspectives, and personalities bouncing off one another can give rise to out-of-the-box thinking. By offering a platform for the open exchange of ideas, businesses can reap the biggest benefits of diversity in the workplace. Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable A multicultural workforce can give an organization an important edge when expanding into new markets.

Often, a product or service needs to be adapted to succeed overseas.

  1. Case study Study the typical cases in which cross-culture diversity brings benefits or disadvantages to the teams. Whereas others, such as Germany and America, put emphasis on the independence of the individual.
  2. By offering a platform for the open exchange of ideas, businesses can reap the biggest benefits of diversity in the workplace.
  3. A diverse set of colleagues can be professionally enriching too—exposing you to new skills and approaches to work, and developing an international network that can take your career in exciting new directions or abroad. Understanding local laws, regulations, and customs, as well as the competitive landscape, can help a business to thrive.
  4. Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge means higher quality, targeted marketing Cross-cultural understanding, along with local market knowledge, lends itself the production of more effective marketing strategy and materials.
  5. Understanding the drivers of multicultural team effectiveness, especially the indirect drivers, may encourage organisations to embrace this opportunity. Meanwhile, give managers some practical suggestions about how to well-manage the cross-cultural diversity in teams.

Understanding local laws, regulations, and customs, as well as the competitive landscape, can help a business to thrive. Moreover, local connections, native language skills, and cultural understanding can boost international business development exponentially. And being more competitive ultimately means being more profitable. DiversityInc annually recognizes the top 50 most diverse companies and measures their success against the broader market.

2. Benefit: Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable

Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge means higher quality, targeted marketing Cross-cultural understanding, along with local market knowledge, lends itself the production of more effective marketing strategy and materials.

For example, high quality and culturally sensitive translations of websites, brochures, and other assets are essential. But these can be overlooked without the input of a native speaker. Even brand taglines can get badly lost in translation. What might work well on a billboard for a British company could fail or offend elsewhere. A memorable McDonalds print ad in Finland may have been considered clever locally, but it was seen as confusing and even grotesque by foreign audiences.

The danger of making a serious marketing blunder, which can cause irreparable damage to a brand or business abroad, can be mitigated by employing a diverse workforce with local marketing savvy. Drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool allows an organization to attract and retain the best talent According to a Glassdoor surveytwo thirds of job hunters indicated that diversity was important to them when evaluating companies and job offers. In a competitive global job market, demonstrating that your business is invested in fostering a multicultural and inclusive environment can make you stand out to the right candidates.

Making diversity an important part of the recruiting process will broaden your talent pool of prospective employees. Not only does hiring from a more diverse talent pool makes your business attractive to ambitious, globally minded candidates, it also helps you to keep them on board.

Diversity, including diversity of gender, religion, and ethnicity, has the potential and risks of multicultural teams shown to improve retention and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover. In a diverse workplace, employees are more likely remain loyal when they feel respected and valued for their unique contribution.

This, in turn, fosters mutual respect among colleagues who also value the diverse culture, perspectives, and experiences of their team members.

An inclusive atmosphere of cross-cultural cooperation is an excellent way to bond colleagues and teams across the business. Studying and sharing a campus with students from different nationalities has been an awe-inspiring experience.

Diversity and international exposure have always been important to the decisions I have made in my career. A diverse skills base allows an organization to offer a broader and more adaptable range of products and services By drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool, companies benefit from hiring professionals with a broad range of skills that are often not accessible when hiring locally. Globally oriented companies can add to their service range by leveraging the skills and experience their international employees bring to the table.

A broader skills base and a more potentially diverse offering of products and services can help your business to have the competitive advantage of adaptability.

Working in multicultural teams: A case study

Adaptability means faster and more effective planning, development, and execution. A company with cultural and cognitive diversity can be quicker to spot a gap in the market. It will also have the global or market-specific insight and experience to help a new or adapted product to meet changing consumer behavior—and succeed. Diverse teams the potential and risks of multicultural teams more productive and perform better The range of experience, expertise, and working methods that a diverse workplace offers can boost problem-solving capacity and lead to greater productivity.

In fact, studies have shown organizations with a culture of diversity and inclusion are both happier and more productive. Where working in homogeneous teams can seem easier, it can cause a business to settle for the status quo. Diversity, on the other hand, can breed healthy competition, stretching a team in a positive way to achieve their best.

This atmosphere of healthy competition can lead to the optimization of company processes for greater efficiency. As a recent article in the Harvard Business Review argues, the challenges of working in a diverse team are one of the reasons why diverse teams perform better: Greater opportunity for personal and professional growth Fundamentally, an inclusive and culturally diverse business will attract talented, ambitious, and globally minded professionals who will appreciate the opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Working across cultures can be a truly enriching experiencing, allowing others to learn the potential and risks of multicultural teams perspectives and traditions from around the world. Bonding over similarities and differences can help you to become a global citizen, abandoning prejudices or an ethnocentric world view—something that is increasingly valuable.

A diverse set of colleagues can be professionally enriching too—exposing you to new skills and approaches to work, and developing an international network that can take your career in exciting new directions or abroad. Colleagues from some cultures may be less likely to let their voices be heard However, the presence of diverse brain power alone is not enough.

This can be particularly challenging for colleagues from polite or deferential cultures. For instance, professionals from Asian countries such as Vietnam or Japan may feel less comfortable speaking up or sharing ideas, particularly if they are new to the team or in a more junior role. Conversely, assertive colleagues from the U. This can be a challenge to overcome, particularly if there are underlying prejudices between cultures, making them less inclined to work together.

Negative cultural stereotypes can be seriously detrimental to company morale and affect productivity. For instance, the centuries-long antipathy between the British and French, or the Polish and Germans can sometimes creep into the workplace.

Although not all stereotypes are necessarily negative—like the notion that Americans are confident or Asians are intelligent—all are simplifications that can prove limiting or divisive in the workplace.

And while outright prejudice or stereotyping is a serious concern, ingrained and unconscious cultural biases can be a more difficult challenge of workplace diversity to overcome. Sometimes, a little bit of humor is the best way to diffuse negativity.

Here are the top 10 wrong yet persistent cultural stereotypes and the truth behind them: Professional communication can be misinterpreted or difficult to understand across languages and cultures While quality translations are key for effective marketing, there can also be a real risk of communication getting lost in translation among multicultural colleagues.

Language barriers are just one challenge. Moreover, effective cross-cultural communication comes down to much more than just words spoken. Non-verbal communication is a delicate and nuanced part of cultural interaction that can lead to misunderstandings or even offense between team members from different countries. Things like comfortable levels of physical space, making or maintaining eye contact, and gesturing can all be vastly different across cultures.

Even something as simple as a greeting or handshake has cultural implications that should be considered in a work environment. Business Insider put together this useful infographic to highlight the differences in handshakes and professional greetings around the world: Navigating visa requirements, employment laws, and the cost of accommodating workplace requirements can be difficult Despite the clear benefits, hiring talent from overseas can present an HR challenge.

Not least among this is the complicated process of navigating employment laws and visa requirements for international workers. Requirements and regulations are different in each country and between countries, and can change frequently. Beyond visas, further accommodations for a recruiting and retaining a culturally diverse workforce should be taken into account. For instance, providing a quiet space for prayer can make a workplace more welcoming and inclusive for employees with a range of beliefs, as can taking into account different cultural or religious holidays.

Of course, these considerations and accommodations can sometimes be an added business cost as well as a logistical challenge. Different understandings of professional etiquette Colleagues from different cultures can also bring with them different workplace attitudes, values, behaviors, and etiquette.

Diversity and inclusion

While these can be enriching and even beneficial in a diverse professional environment, they can also cause misunderstandings or ill feelings between team members. For instance, the expectation of formality or relative informalityorganizational hierarchy, and even working hours can conflict across cultures. Where a Japanese colleague may not feel it appropriate to leave work before their manager or, indeed, anyone elsea Swedish professional may be used to a 6-hour working day.

Additionally, different approaches to punctuality, confrontationor dealing with conflict can prove an issue. Conflicting working styles across teams However, working styles and attitudes towards work can be very different, reflecting cultural values and compounding differences.

If not recognized and accounted, conflicting approaches to work can put the brakes on productivity. For instance, approaches to teamwork and collaboration can vary notably. Some cultures, including many in Asia and Central America, value collective consensus when working towards a goal.

Managing multicultural teams

Whereas others, such as Germany and America, put emphasis on the independence of the individual. Likewise, emphasis on order, rigor, and organization in the workplace versus flexibility and spontaneity can also reflect underlying cultural values. The Virgin Group is recognized as a leader in promoting workplace diversity and fostering a positive working culture. Hear how Richard Branson makes culture work in a multinational business by being flexible and open to different working styles: In many ways, the Hult classroom mirrors this experience, immersing you in a diverse and collaborative working environment from day one.

By studying around the world and learning with peers and professors from over different countries, you will master the skill of communicating effectively across cultures and embrace the value of diversity in the workplace. Interested in giving your cultural competency and business acumen a boost?