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Multicultural Diversity & Awareness
Advantages of Workplace Diversity
Most companies in America recognize that there are significant advantages to integrating workers from culturally diverse backgrounds into their workforce. However, many firms don’t understand the full importance of doing this. Diversity needs to be seen as the business plan, essential to successful products and increased sales. This is especially true in today’s global marketplace, as companies interact with different cultures and clients.
Among the advantages of a well-integrated company are: increased creativity, increased productivity, new attitudes, new language skills, global understanding, new processes, and new solutions to difficult problems.
1. Creativity increases when people with different ways of solving difficult problems work together towards a common solution. There is no one best answer to any question--the more ideas you can obtain from different people, the more likely you are to develop a workable answer. Other cultures can offer insightful alternatives Americans might not have considered.
2. Productivity increases exponentially when peopleof all cultures pull together towards a single inspiring goal. Foreign executives are extremely successful in the American corporate world because of globalization and internationalization. People from China and India benefit U.S. firms with their stellar quantitative skills. And European citizens--Swiss, Germans, British, and French--do well here in high-level jobs.
3. New attitudes are brought to the business table by people from diverse cultures. For instance, Americans may want to consider adopting the perspective other cultures have about time. Our culture believes that “time is money” and “getting to the bottom line” is paramount in business. However, in most other countries around the world “time is for building relationships” and an integral part of getting to know the other party you are considering doing business with before starting a transaction. How much smoother would business deals go in this country if we followed this practice more closely?
4. Language skills are obviously needed in today’s increasingly global economy--and diverse workers often have this proficiency. If a company needs specific knowledge or language skills, it may hire foreign nationals for help. In some markets, international job seekers have the advantage. For example, companies breaking into European, Asian or Latin American markets will need foreign expertise. High-tech firms in particular are expanding into countries abroad. In the United States, we like to believe that English is “the language of the world.” While that may be true for business, our native tongue ranks second in the world behind Chinese and just slightly ahead of Hindustani. To truly build relationships with the other people of the world, we must speak their language. Other cultures can help us understand not just their words, but also the meaning behind what they are saying.
5. Understanding how the United States fits into the world picture is crucial. By relating to people of all backgrounds, Americans will gain a greater perspective on how different cultures operate and experience greater success in global business as a result.The average American believes that this country’s residents account for about 25 percent of the world’s population. People from outside our borders are not surprised to learn that the figure is actually less than five percent.
6. New processes can result when people with different ideas come together and collaborate. In today’s fast-moving world, there is no longer room for thinking, “We have always done things this way and cannot change.” American workers must bring multiple skills to the environment, think cross culturally, and adapt quickly to new situations. Those who meet these criteria are likely to do well, regardless of culture--even in tough economic times.
People from diverse cultures can make American companies more productive and profitable. They also bring differences that we must understand and embrace for those benefits to be realized.
About the Author
Michael Soon Lee, DBA, CSP
Michael Soon Lee, DBA, is a cultural expert and author of eight books about overcoming cultural conflict including, “Cross-Cultural Selling for Dummies” and “Black Belt Negotiating”. Dr. Lee has spoken to over 1,000 organizations around the world such as Coca-Cola, Chevron, Boeing, State Farm Insurance, and Charles Schwab.