We often take for granted the way we communicate with one another. Similar to everything else we learn, the way we make interpretations, create assumptions and form decisions is based on our cultural upbringing. In a multicultural organization, how employees communicate can set the tone and foundation for a learning culture. As discussed in my previous blog about the various types of communication challenges that arise, it is critical to promote a work environment that supports business and customer needs, while instilling unity and high employee morale.
A productive workforce means creating an environment that supports diversity, while balancing the pressures of management, time and cost. There are many resources that provide communication tactics in a culturally diverse organization. However, I believe getting down to the basics is the best way to understand and implement techniques. I came across an article in AG Professional, “Multicultural Communication Tips for Today’s World,” that simplified the best way to promote effective communication. Below are four simple tips to keep in mind when interacting and communicating with others in your organization.
- Keep an open mind
- Have at least some knowledge of people’s cultural backgrounds
- Practice active listening
- Watch your nonverbal communication
- Maintain a personal touch
It is important to understand the way people comprehend, communicate and make decisions across different types of cross-cultural backgrounds. Although it may be difficult to interpret certain statements and behaviors, there must be a significant emphasis placed on the concept of acceptance and open mindedness.
“The key to success is understanding and accepting the differences on a multicultural team, and then using them to enhance the way the team analyzes situations and makes decisions,” said Kelley Holland, in a New York Times article, “How Diversity Makes a Team Click.”
We tend to be unaware of our own biases, placing stereotype and cultural assumptions on others. Creating an organizational awareness by providing diversity training ensures employees learn to be culturally mindful and gradually adaptable when communicating with people of different backgrounds.
Employees need to feel not only accepted, but valued in an organization. By attentively listening to the concerns and viewpoints of others, employees will start to feel confident in the workplace. Active listening means paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. According an article in Forbes, high-context cultures (Central European, Latin American, Asian, etc.) tend to incorporate their message through context, interpretation and non-verbal cues. On the other hand, low-context cultures (most English-speaking countries) expect direct messages face-to-face. Business leaders who recognize the importance of diversity training and take the time to make their employees feel appreciated, gain the benefits of a multicultural organization.
Alongside establishing effective communication within the workplace, expressing interest in aspects of an employee’s life outside of the office can create a strong relationship. Regardless of cultural differences, people want to feel like they are a part of a community. Effective internal communications in a culturally diverse organization means being able to share and exchange ideas based on mutual awareness, respect and credibility. Implementing diversity training to improve communication in the workplace is mutually beneficial for employees and the organization, ensuring a high level of productivity and return on investment.
With the increased globalization in everything we do, it is essential to establish and maintain effective cross-cultural communication. Workplace diversity can clearly create more opportunities than challenges. That said, we should place a strong emphasis on developing employees who are consciously aware of cultural differences and how to embrace to surface those opportunities.