We are surrounded by cultural diversity in our daily lives, from global product trends and cuisines to our populations. Even our workplaces are culturally diverse. In fact, cultural diversity in the workplace drives innovation, creative thinking, and offers new perspectives to challenges.
Not only does workplace diversity offer great benefits for innovation and our taste palettes, it is also an important social issue. Employees, customers and partners hold businesses accountable to play their part in overcoming these issues. A company must prioritise a culture of inclusivity and diversity or risk their reputation.
Let's explore some of the unique benefits and challenges for cultural diversity in the workplace.
What is Cultural Diversity in the Workplace?
Our culture shapes our beliefs, behaviours and identity. Culture is typically described as a shared language between people. It includes values, religions, norms, ideas and objects that pass from one generation to another.
When we refer to cultural diversity in the workplace, we are talking about the range of people from different backgrounds and generations and different ethnicities and genders. Cultural diversity encourages an inclusive environment with people from various backgrounds that work together and improve team productivity and cohesion.
Why is Cultural Diversity Important in the Workplace?
Cultural diversity is important in the workplace for a variety of reasons. Firstly, a culturally diverse workplace enables employees to learn new talents and expertise from others. The range of skills, capabilities and ideas offered by workplace diversity also boosts creativity and innovation and provides fresh perspectives to problem-solving.
Furthermore, employers that prioritise diversity and inclusion (D&I) outperform their competition by respecting the needs and perspectives of their unique team members. Doing this also earns the respect and trust of their employees, contributing to high levels of commitment and happiness.
Ultimately, businesses benefit from the different perspectives that workplace diversity and inclusion offer, which increases team productivity, employee happiness and innovation and boosts the bottom line.
3 Benefits of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace
Workplace diversity offers many immediate and tangible benefits to businesses and their employees. Research demonstrates that cultural diversity significantly impacts the bottom line as it contributes to several high-level goals such as increased innovation and productivity.
The top three benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace include:
- Drive innovation and creative thinking
- Builds a great reputation
- Boots the bottom line
Drive innovation and creative thinking
Cultural diversity in the workplace breeds creative thinking and innovation. Multiple perspectives, experiences and personalities lend themselves to out-of-the-box thinking and offering new solutions to old problems.
Builds a great reputation
Another benefit of cultural diversity in the workplace is the creation of a positive reputation. A diverse team of people from different backgrounds and cultures helps organisations better serve and assist their equally as diverse customer base. Creating a reputation of inclusion also lends itself to attracting top talent and retaining staff. Potential employees search for companies that accept and tolerate all backgrounds and cultures who treat their employees fairly and equally.
Boosts the bottom line
Studies show that workplace cultural diversity positively impacts the bottom line. For example, McKinsey found that companies with the most ethnically and culturally diverse boards are 43% more likely to experience higher profits. Multiple factors may contribute to greater profits, such as more productivity, increased innovation, company reputation and staff retention. Building an inclusive company culture could significantly boost the bottom line.
3 Challenges of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace
Bringing a diverse group of people together can lead to some challenges. Let’s explore the challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace. The top three challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace include:
- Communication issues
- Overload of opinions
- Cultural misunderstandings
Communication between team members can become challenging in a culturally diverse team. There may be many team members who do not use English as their first language. Your team encounter language barriers, such as different communication styles or preferences. These language barriers can prevent individuals from effectively communicating, leading to difficulty understanding one another and miscommunication. If your organisation fails to address and overcome these communication issues, it could lead to conflict and decreased productivity and synergy.
Overload of opinions
Cultural diversity in the workplace offers many differing opinions, driving innovation and creation. Diverse employees from different backgrounds and experiences have unique approaches to scenarios. While this is great for innovative ideas, an overload of views can also slow down decision making and progress. Ultimately too many opinions can lead to failure to reach a consensus. Appointing a final decision maker who can consider all ideas and move forward will ensure all employees feel valued and that the team progresses.
Although workplace diversity fosters a sense of belonging, it can also increase the chance of cultural misunderstandings. For example, giving the thumbs up, pointing with your index finger or patting someone on the back are offensive in other countries. Exhibiting gestures or saying something offensive in another culture can quickly lead to conflict and tension. These misunderstandings may stall innovation and hinder progress.