Skilled managers responding to an increasingly diverse workplace know that now more than ever, cultural awareness is a key component to preemptively addressing and effectively managing possible work place tensions. Managers with intercultural training are well versed in best practice strategies to examine work place issues regarding a larger scope of cultural awareness such as: gender, ethnicity, generational differences, religion, sexual orientation, and other cultural factors such as socio-economic background and international experiences. Infusing or increasing cultural awareness in your corporate culture can help avoid HR liabilities regarding cultural misunderstandings. While productive conflict provides an opportunity for growth and increased understanding, keeping in mind the following cultural awareness strategies can assist you in creating well informed teams that keep unchecked cultural tensions to a minimum.
Aspirin for your HR Headaches
Infusing cultural awareness surveys and other self-reflective tools into your formal review process is one way to shift corporate culture toward an increase in cultural awareness. When workplace tensions arise, there is more often than not a simple misunderstanding at the root of it. Building formal intercultural communication strategies and processes into your infrastructure can increase corporate confidence since employees will know that if there is a concern, the organization has a logical strategy for handling it. Making resources available such as print material and mentoring with a manager who had completed detailed training in intercultural management can build a bridge to increased understanding while diminishing the need for formal arbitration.
Establishing a protocol to deal with repetitive complaints, including retention strategies, and if necessary termination proceduresbefore you need them is important whether you ever need to use them or not. Having the necessary documentation in place, including exit surveys after conflict resolution has been attempted, is important for a number of reasons. Keeping good records is essential for an HR team to review how well processes are working and where adjustments need to be made. If future litigation arises on any related incident, all the necessary documentation will be in place to demonstrate that the organization did all that it could to resolve previous issues with all parties.
Develop a Team Initiative
Company-wide training involving all levels of employees in the planning and implementing stages will create a cultural awareness message that is specifically tailored to individual groups within your organization, without singling any one person out. Increasingly diverse workplace settings offer a powerful opportunity for more creative problem-solving, increased understanding, and a more cohesive workforce. All employees want to feel respected, valued, and appreciated for his or her unique contribution to the company. The corporate culture should support workers across all cultures and provide an environment where they will feel comfortable and not singled out because of a cultural difference.
The responsibility for bridging the gap between cultures is the responsibility of a trained manager, not the employee. Creating teams where cultural differences are normalized through the corporate infrastructure, managerial support system, communication channels, and ongoing assessment, will build trust in management and leverage support when difficult situations arise that require coordination among teams. An interactive cultural awareness program to build understanding and team cohesion among work groups is important to maintaining a productive workforce that will keep the company competitive. When a diverse workforce feels that they are part of an industry leader, they will communicate that to clients, other prospective employees, and will typically work more efficiently, helping the company reach heightened profitability goals.
When teams feel that they are working together on common company-wide goals and that they are individually respected in the workplace, a synergy develops. With increased cohesion, the group momentum propels productivity forward. When this happens, it is palpable, and drives the team toward excellence. When a team feels that balanced force, they are more likely to handle conflicts that arise in positive ways without escalation to an HR issue. When employees feel comfortable that managers have the skills to handle sensitive issues efficiently and discretely, then a manager will be more likely to diffuse a potentially volatile situation before it spreads.
Managers who have the intercultural communication skills to build strong heterogeneous teams are in high demand. Seeking the new information you need to contribute to the long-term success of your company shows your employer that you are thinking strategically and not only have the company’s best interest in mind, but also are building skills that will make you an even more valued member of your corporate team.
Be the Change You Want to See
Industry data shows that the trend toward more diverse work settings is only going to increase as the 21st century continues to unfold. In order to address the needs of a changing workforce, promote employee productivity, and increase company profitability, corporations will need to plan for and invest in changes in corporate culture that reflect the evolution of ecommerce and global business trends. Pursuing cost-effective and highly desirable training from a respected programs such as the Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management available online through Notre Dame, is one way to be sure that your managerial skills evolve alongside today’s business needs.
Many managers are looking at online courses to bolster résumés and maintain a competitive edge. If you are in a position to implement cross cultural awareness at your company, and you are looking for specific strategies to promote intercultural communications to avoid workplace conflict, then advanced management skills may be needed, and consulting with a well connected mentor or pursuing additional online coursework may be an important part of the process. Not only will increased training provide your company with the solutions they need to address evolving employee demographics, but it can be a powerful tool in your 21stcentury management skill set. The dynamics of workplace culture is changing – be ready!