Promotion & Awareness of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace
Current trends inherent in globalization have resulted in cultural heterogeneity of the workforce. Today, organizations are functioning in the complex multiethnic and multicultural environment (Stahl & Tung, 2015). Individuals’ cultural specificity predetermines their attitudes to representatives of other cultures, spiritual traditions, decision-making, perception of the self, and ethical, cultural, political, economic, and behavioral patterns (Fitzsimmons, 2014; Guillaume, Dawson, Woods, Sacramento, & West, 2013; Creary, Caza, & Roberts, 2015; Stahl & Tung, 2015).
The Concept of Multiculturalism
The orientation towards the promotion of cultural diversity in organizations is inextricably linked with the concept of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism implies the comprehension, understanding, and appreciation of other cultures and consequent transformations in attitudes to cultural differences specific to other people. The concept of multiculturalism can be defined as an attempt to solve cross-cultural issues. Culture is aimed at identifying one as an individual, and as a part of the society at the same time. In other words, it distinguishes people of one particular nation or social group from those of another and unites people in the modern globalized world. Furthermore, instead of difficulties in management and inconsistencies in activities, today, multicultural teams are associated with positive business outcomes and perceived as valuable assets of organizations (Guillaume et al., 2013; Stahl & Tung, 2015). Therefore, organizations promote cultural diversity due to its contribution to the efficiency of business performance.
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The fact that human relationships and activities in economic, social, political, cultural, technological, and other areas are globally integrated today necessitates the promotion of cultural diversity in organizations. Contemporary business operates far beyond the national boundaries, involving an increasing number of individuals from different cultural contexts in its environment (Fitzsimmons, 2014; Andreassi, Lawter, Brockerhoff, & Rutigliano, 2014; Creary et al., 2015; Stahl & Tung, 2015). Introducing changes in state-business relations, globalization impacts business culture. Nowadays, the processes of obtaining visas and residence permits for foreign companies’ owners are becoming simpler, which makes employers contribute to the great flow of immigrants. Immigration connected with globalization leads to the multinationality and cultural diversity of the workforce. A growing influx of immigrant workers to the industrialized countries has caused a cross-cultural approach to human resources management that promotes respect for ethnicity-based cultural distinctions and creates the medium where every employee feels valued and respected.
The promotion of cultural diversity is of paramount importance for international joint ventures, global alliances, multinational enterprises, and transnational corporations that have to adjust their economic activities, business operations, and marketing practices to different local contexts. These trends are reflected in the adaptation of products and services to foreign markets, culture-based consumer preferences, business interactions, advertising peculiarities, and sales promotion techniques. Globalization is not a unique trend in the development of socioeconomic, political, and cultural areas today; localization is frequently cited against it. In terms of organizational performance, localization or ethnical adaptation is a process of adjusting business operations to specific cultural conditions of a country, region, nation, or particular subject. It involves focal attention to local cultural characteristics and comprehensive study of the target culture in order to properly adapt products and services to local needs.
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Advantages of Multicultural Teams
Cultural characteristics of customers influence the way they perceive information, acquire goods and services, and make decisions. Referring to effective functioning of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Stahl and Tung (2015) state that purposefully developed multicultural teams of employees ensure successful foreign market entry (p. 402). The engagement of professionals from diverging cultural environments provides deeper insights into the specificity of foreign markets, acting as the connecting element between the world markets and the company’s strategic priorities (Fitzsimmons, 2014; Andreassi et al., 2014). According to Guillaume et al. (2013), “variance in group composition can have a direct positive impact on outcomes” (p. 129). Knowledge, skills, and multicultural identity of such team members allow meeting the needs of culturally diverse markets and customers.
Cultural diversity of organizations is the key driver of creativity, innovations and inventions. Involving a wide range of workers in addressing issues of improvements in the efficiency and quality of work, organizations increase their innovative capabilities (Anderson, Potočnik, & Zhou, 2014; Stahl & Tung, 2015). The diversity of members’ backgrounds, ways of thinking, approaches to problem-solving, creativity modes, and endeavors expands innovation horizons (Anderson et al., 2014, p. 1310). Therefore, an amount of innovative ideas implemented is directly proportional to a number of innovators. However, in order to avoid unwanted costs, all employees should elaborate on their proposals and adjust them to determined requirements before the submission.
Innovation management uses a variety of techniques and methods of producing novelties at various stages of the innovation process. Generating ideas in innovation management involves finding ways to solving problems caused by mismatches between existing products or operations and new technological, business, or economic conditions. Anderson et al. (2014) prove that some organizations engage as many employees as possible to generate novel ideas irrespective of their level of expertise. Such an approach allows identifying the best and most flexible route to problem solving, as well as creating a new product conception, whose originality and consumer properties will provide an organization with competitive advantages.
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The consideration of employees’ cultural differences within an organization, attention to team unity, and focus on the diversity of ideas improve the quality of the working environment. Such an atmosphere is able to inspire each employee, enhancing more effective alignment of relationships between coworkers and contributing to an overall increase in organizational efficiency (Fitzsimmons, 2014; Creary et al., 2015). Recognition of workers’ achievements and adequate rewards promote their involvement in the organizational culture. Senior managers and employers should assess culturally diverse individuals in accordance with their actual performance and productivity. New prospective approaches to work with multinational teams should possess a complex character, consider individuals’ peculiar cultural characteristics, consistently apply human resource planning, and utilize individual-oriented managerial methods. These practices are able to reduce turnover rates, increase the productivity, and improve employees’ job satisfaction. Involving culturally diverse employees in the identification of arising problems and consequent decision-making, organizations will become more flexible and responsive.
Organizational culture of diversity promotion is achieved through training, coaching, and education of personnel from diverging cultural environments. The provision of fair and equitable access to ongoing training and competence enhancement is a precondition of effective functioning of culturally diverse organizations. Employees’ development programs can enhance their skills and help them to meet challenges associated with new jobs and responsibilities. Introduction of such programs can be attributed to great social importance of the issue of multiculturalism and differences in methods of achieving objectives between culturally distinct groups. Equality in education entails specific educational and instructive environments in which employees can consider various options and make a choice, taking into account their capabilities and talents; such environments are not based on stereotypes, preconceived expectations, or culture-caused discrimination. In addition, techniques aimed at promoting diversity are highly recommended for all divisions of organizations.
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Possible Problems Multiculturalism May Cause
However, cultural diversity is sometimes associated with tensions, misunderstandings, irritation, and conflicts in organizations (Schneider et al., 2013; Stahl & Tung, 2015, p. 392). In accordance with Hofstede’s concept, such cultural dimensions as individualism and collectivism, power distance, masculinity and femininity, and uncertainty avoidance make multiple impacts on work-associated attitudes (Stahl & Tung, 2015). The cultural dimension of power distance predefines different attitudes to collaboration, subordination, control, and supervision in organizations (Stahl &Tung, 2015). For instance, the distinctions can be revealed in the comparison of Chinese and American organizations. While American companies are characterized by low power distance models, Chinese ones are known for their extremely hierarchical regimes that have an impact on activities and attitudes to others. Exaggerated subordination can lead to a decrease in innovative procedures and initiatives of personnel. Nevertheless, contemporary business context requires professionals who are able to adapt to constantly changing conditions. Therefore, relevant managerial strategies should minimize the occurrence of conflicts caused by cultural diversity.
In summary, contrary to forecasts of the unification and total homogenization of culture, the diversification in the field of culture is observed. Culture-related global trends are modified under the influence of the local context; simultaneously, local cultural values and meanings are reemphasized in the globalizing world community. In multicultural organizations, representatives of various ethnic groups must find a way to fruitful collaboration. Multiple cultural and historic entities that possess their own systems of values are able to preserve their identity in the context of globalization. Being undervalued, the diversity of cultural peculiarities specific to individuals from different countries can result in insufficient business practices. Thus, the promotion of cultural diversity in organizations is a viable and efficient managerial strategy.