Gender and Cultural Diversity – how can you build an effective workforce?
Do you know of a company which claims to be culturally diverse through hiring multiple nationalities? Have you come across an organisation that embraces gender equality by citing single Board representatives? Consider the companies you work with or know of – just for 5 minutes?
Many of these firms will have a token female on the board, or a number of supervisors and general workers who fulfil the diversity criteria. If you took a diagonal slice of the company there would be significantly limited distribution. I would suggest that many companies mean well yet operate at a level of “tokenism”. This is a complacency which can lead to non-engagement, needless misunderstandings and unexpected disassociation, especially of newly recruited or younger team members.
Embracing diversity in the workplace requires effort to ensure consistency, focus and big picture thinking. It is not what you think and do but how you think, behave AND DO THINGS. Pragmatically, we all know that gender, race and cultural diversity create more effective organisations.This is truer for a workforce in global not local markets.
However, creating a truly cultural and gender diverse workforce will not work if you stick to the same old beliefs, behaviours and assessment processes. It will not work if you have limited understanding of gender issues or the cultures of nationalities you are seeking to employ/work in or with.
Every single employee brings different backgrounds as well as personalities. Add a different nationality or gender to the mix and you will be trying to weave quite a complex tapestry. Every single person will be shaping how they think and behave at work and at play. Multicultural teams, in my experience, can work well together initially and then become more dysfunctional as the novelty wears off. Add to this your organisational culture and you may discover some early stage issues which may perpetuate and increase!
Ensure you mix up gender and nationalities throughout the workplace. With a good cross-section of people you will instigate insightful thinking, generate environments that foster creativity and significantly increase efficiencies.
Understand how emotionally intuitive your managers are. Vary your people, especially at decision making level. Be conscious that “group think” can lead to negative behaviours and practises. Encourage these managers to celebrate differences. If you embed the differences not just the similarities, you will create a workplace that is energetic and going places.There are a number of techniques and neuro- linguistic technologies that are growing in popularity. I would suggest you explore some of them.
Review your interview and procurement techniques. Consider your current processes and practises in the light of gender and culturally diverse thinking. Understand what your decision making criteria are. Do they underpin “sameness”? Are people or contractors selected on the basis of “right” answers to questions or different approaches?
Know the DNA ofyour team and what works to to embed them. Assess differences not just similarities. What way are some nationalities wired? Who in your team is more analytical? Is there a big picture thinker who talks with enthusiasm? Are they someone who is culturally direct or who has the gift of conversation? Maybe they are people who can ask clear, specific questions and understand their impact?
Actively set-up a reverse mentoring scheme Place the junior people in your organisation alongside the most senior people. They will have things to learn mutually and the benefit will be huge. In one organisation I advised, we developed a scheme whereby the (usually younger), more IT literate people were placed for a period alongside (usually older) more business savvy people.The scheme was a resounding success.
Consider what a homogenous culture really would look like. Diversity is a reflection of who people are and in some measure, governs how they think and behave.
Is your company operating a policy which is truly diverse? If your employees are uncomfortable being themselves at work, their strengths will subsumed by their desire to be “the same”. If you are supporting a level of tokenism you may very well have inadvertently stifled the very talent and diversity you were seeking to develop!!
Employers are now advised to take the necessary steps to contact any employee who is on long term sick leave to establish their current state of health and the likelihood of their return to work. If necessary the employee should be reviewed by a company doctor. At each stage in the process the employee should be involved the decision making process to ensure that a claim for unfair dismissal or equality does not arise.