Mismanaging cultural diversity in the workplace causes unhealthy tensions and a loss of team productivity. Your company’s is exponentially stronger with you foster an atmosphere of acceptance. While recently reminiscing about my life with a previous employer I am reminded of a time where inside two weeks I had one employee tell another she looked like Aunt Jemima”. Another employee to engage colleagues in a debate that Black people were genetically unable to swim; and yet another employee say to her colleague, a Stanford graduate “by now you’ve been in America long enough to be speaking English without an accent, weird”. We could always blame Mercury being in retrograde, and leave it at that OR these incidents could have been a call to action for some Cultural Sensitivity; or is it Cultural Competency training.
Developing both Cultural Sensitivity and Cultural Competency results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. It helps us work more collaboratively with varying cultural beliefs and values without assigning judgment, good, bad, right, or wrong. To invest in creating a culturally sensitive and culturally competent workplace means making a cultural shift from checking the box to skill-building; and development of these skills are well worth the investment.
The U.S. Bureau of Census projects that by 2050 the US population will reach over 400 million, about 47% larger that in the year 2000 with primary ethnic minority groups specifically, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native Americas will constitute almost 50% of the population in 2050. About 57% of the population under the age of 18 and 34% over he age of 65 will be in the ethnic minority. There are 32 different cultural groups with unique ethnic or national identities, religions, histories just within the group of Asian American and Pacific Islander alone.
We can no longer afford to view cultural diversity among our employees as something made out to be bad political form if discussed beyond a whisper in the copy room. Something to be ignored, I once referred to myself as Black, only to be corrected by a white colleague with “can you use African America, Black is so negative” Did he not consider that not all Black people African-American? Perhaps I am Cuban, Brazilian, Panamanian, or African, and not American at all. Have we progressed to acceptance of one’s differences or have we working overtime to make them invisible?
The more different people’s experiences and backgrounds are, the more diverse their viewpoints and opinions. A culturally diverse brainstorming session can be a prime environment where outside-of-the-box thinking can thrive. Your team will be better equipped to develop fresh ideas that will meet the needs of the diverse marketplace that we work in. You can also broaden your service range as cultural diversity includes inviting a variety of on-the-job skills that drive innovation in your company and reflect the world around you. Creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect creates a firm foundation for building effective teams.
Developing Cultural Competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures, and work with varying cultural beliefs. If your goal is to create an environment where Cultural Competence is welcomed and rewarded, consider starting the process of managing cultural diversity by assessing the Cultural Competency of your employees. Supporting cultural diversity within your workplace means going beyond legal and policy requirements and promoting community and comfort with difference, Cultural sensitivity refers to a consciousness that allows employees to understand and learn about colleagues whose cultural background is not the same as differs from their own be it competency or sensitivity – it’s time to begin treating others as they want to be treated.
Lastly, when you have a culturally diverse workforce, diverse customers in your target market are more likely to trust your brand and feel comfortable doing business with your company. As our economy becomes increasingly global, your workforce will also become increasingly diverse. Your competitiveness and success will depend on your ability to manage the cultural diversity in your workplace.