Due to advancements in technology and increased globalization, people are connected in ways that weren’t possible before. As a result, today’s workplace has naturally become a more diverse environment in terms of gender, nationality, experience level, culture, personality, and more. People from different countries and cultures come together in the same room to collaborate, giving companies the advantage of being able to find better talent with a multicultural perspective.
Despite the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, many employers are hesitant to do so as the practice comes with challenges that can be difficult to overcome.
One of the biggest obstacles to increasing diversity in the workplace is the language barrier that employing a multi-national team presents. While it’s a huge benefit to have differing perspectives and opinions from people all over the world, it can be difficult to understand one another completely, even when speaking the same language, as different colloquialisms and accents may not be easily understood by everyone.
Employers can expect there to be more conflict as coworkers struggle to understand one another. They may need more time to figure each other out, which is where strong interpersonal skills and cultural sensitivity come into play.
Prejudice and Stereotypes
Whether you like it or not, there will always be people who hold prejudices against others or stereotype groups of people based on their opinions. This can be a tough problem to overcome in a diverse workplace as unspoken prejudices can create separation in teams, slowing productivity in an insidious way.
Lack of Trust
Team members from a minority group may not feel comfortable expressing their ideas or opinions to others, especially if they are new to the team. This may be especially true if their manager is of another culture or race as they may have experiences of having been treated differently in the past.
A diverse workplace needs a manager who has strong leadership and communication skills. This person will use a sensible approach to making every team member feel included and valued for their efforts and opinions.
The Cost of International Business
Building an international business is expensive as there are often visa and accommodation requirements for team members moving across borders for work.
Some organizations seek sponsorships for the travel of talent to and from different locations. These sponsorships can be quite complex, resulting in a lot of administrative work, but their (almost) limitless budget for accommodations and travel makes them worthwhile.
With conflict comes decreased productivity. If conflicts between cultures cannot be properly resolved, it will have a lasting effect on the overall productivity of the team. Ultimately, this can also affect employee satisfaction and the company’s reputation and image, thus impacting the bottom line.
As you increase diversity in the workplace, you’ll likely see an increase in discrimination and biases. Whether based on gender, race, religion, or some other difference among your workers, discrimination slows productivity and creates division in the workplace. It may even keep minority team members from being themselves, thus hindering teamwork, creativity, and innovation.
It’s important to set expectations with your team early about how they are expected to act while on the clock. Let them know as often as possible that you enforce a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace offer organizations many benefits, but the practice does come with some challenges as listed above. Through teamwork and sensible management, however, these challenges can be overcome to create a productive and pleasant multicultural work environment.
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