Many companies have a diverse workforce, either by design or by necessity. Sometimes the employees come from different countries or racial groups, while in other situations the differences may be economic or professional – highly paid accountants don’t mix well with truck drivers. Whatever the reason for heterogeneity may be, it is necessary to apply adequate management techniques to account for the sensitive nature of multicultural teams.
If your company shares such concerns, here are a few tried and true strategies that could help you make the best out of the versatile makeup of the team:
Emphasis on team building
It may sound like a cliché, but the team will be just as strong as its weakest link. It is essential to allow every person to feel welcome and comfortable, since this the only way to avoid factionalism and poor communication. A range of organized activities can be helpful in this regard, including weekends spent together on a corporate retreat, after-work yoga sessions, an internal newsletter with information about new employees… Exact choice of appropriate measures depends on the circumstances, but the idea is to bring the people closer by helping them to learn about each other.
Diversification of management
Every group with significant representation in the workforce should also be represented in the management structure. This sends the message that contributions of all workers will be respected and that every employee has an open path to better paid positions. In turn, this will improve motivation and should have a positive impact on overall productivity. In addition, managers who previously belonged to certain teams of sub-units will be more receptive to the issues related to their area of primary expertise.
While it’s understandable that companies prefer to have the same set of rules for everyone, there are instances when it makes sense to be more flexible. An obvious example would be to respect different religious or national holidays, but there are more subtle ways to adjust the employee management system. Corporate attendance management program could account for the type of tasks that certain teams perform, so that specialists and field workers don’t have to go out of their way just to touch the punch clock every morning.
Clear dispute resolution mechanism
When issues are resolved early and transparently, there is less chance for ongoing hostility between groups within the workforce. Inter-departmental rivalries are a real occurrence, and they can be particularly difficult if they involve cross-border communication among culturally diverse individuals. Having a well-defined procedure for handling complaints and misunderstandings provides a sense of fairness and decreases the need for members of particular groups to seek support within the group rather than with the management.
Workforce management is a two-way street, and receiving feedback directly from the ground level is simply necessary. Even the best laid plans run into difficulties, and top managers are usually the last to know. That can be avoided if all employees have direct access to decision makers and have the freedom to state their opinions freely. Not all suggestions will be implemented, but at least there will be an open exchange that will help identify the areas where additional work is needed.