Hiring from known talent pools can create too much “sameness.” Here’s why a multicultural workplace wins out over a monocultural environment, every time.
It’s often said that the best workers come as referrals from current employees. That’s one reason that so many companies offer employee bonuses for referring a friend or colleague who is hired by the company. The strategy is a good one for finding people who fit your culture or who share your values.
The trouble is, hiring from “known” talent pools such as current employees, alma maters, and favorite associations can inadvertently lead to too much “sameness” at work. Ultimately, companies that create a monocultural environment are missing out. Here’s why a multicultural workplace wins out over a monocultural environment, every time.
What is a Multicultural Workplace?
The simple definition of a multicultural workplace is one where employees come from a variety of backgrounds. From an HR perspective, this includes age, race, gender, gender identity, education, disability, ethnicity, and religion.
True multiculturalism goes beyond this checklist. As this BetterUp blog points out, “A truly diverse workforce also includes employees with varied political viewpoints, immigration statuses, educational, and professional backgrounds. In addition, it’s actively inclusive of neurodiverse and disabled individuals.”
Benefits of Cultural Diversity at Work
The business case for creating a multicultural workplace is strong. Both employees and companies benefit from diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at work.
- Bigger Talent Pool – By recruiting and hiring people from a more diverse background, your company has access to a bigger talent pool for employees. Over time, your inclusive culture will enlarge the talent pool as diverse candidates choose to work at a place that values differences.
- Broader Market Engagement – We’re all operating in an increasingly globalized economy. Individuals, companies, and markets tend to work with others like them. The more your workforce and leadership represent different cultures, the more you can align your language, behaviors, and offerings with those cultures. You’ll be welcomed in more markets, and you’ll be more adept at operating within them.
- Improved Creative Thinking and Engagement – As this HR News article says, “By allowing your employees the chance to work and mix with people from different linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds, you are challenging their biases, norms, and worldview in a positive way. These challenges allow them to think more critically about what they already know, helping them to flourish both individually and as a team.”
- Increase in Productivity – When employees have a sense of belonging, it’s easier for them to perform at an optimal level. In fact, one study found that company cultures with a high sense of belonging have seen a 56% increase in productivity (and a 50% reduction in the risk of employee turnover).
- Competitive Edge – A different BetterUp blog articulates this point well. It says, “Groups that are more diverse perform better, make better decisions, and earn more revenue. Especially in certain industries, like tech, that are historically homogeneous, cultivating deep-level diversity will help your company differentiate itself and attract the best talent.”
How to Build an Inclusive, Multicultural Workplace
Building an inclusive, multicultural workplace takes intention and effort. But the payoff will be a whole new way of working together.
Here are some essential characteristics of a multicultural workplace.
- Representation – Strive for diversity at all levels in the company. This means not only recruiting diverse employees but building career paths and promotional opportunities for all employees.
- Celebration – Create ongoing opportunities for individuals to share their stories with others in a group. When celebrating holidays, look for menu choices from that culture. For more general milestone celebrations, be sure to offer foods that are inviting to a range of palates. Learning about one another’s background, culture, and preferences helps break down barriers and builds connections that translate into more collaborative work.
- Opportunity – It’s easy to say you want a workplace where everyone has equal opportunity for upward mobility. One challenge to that good intention is unconscious bias, which can get in the way of making sound decisions. Of course, we believe a skills and competency-based approach to workforce management can help you overcome unintended bias in the workplace.
- Education – Take a broad look at learning and development. Do you offer multicultural training for employees and managers? Are learning opportunities available in multiple languages? And/or do you offer language training? Be sure the right learning opportunities are required – and result in the skill development and behaviors you expect.
- Safety – Insist on safety for all at work. Be sure your policies insist on respect for all. Model respect at your workplace. And be sure to act immediately and decisively when employees, customers, or others threaten the safety and well-being of anyone who works for you.
- Freedom – DEI expert and author Minué Yoshida urges employers to build cultures of freedom. “Individuals should feel safe and free to express themselves, speak up, stand up for their rights, and have the accessibility to flourish anywhere, regardless of their abilities or circumstances,” she says.
It takes time, intention, and practice to get it right and keep it going. But when compared with a monocultural environment, a culturally diverse workforce and inclusive environment can be tremendously rewarding to your company and your entire team.
If you’re looking for ways to build or improve your multicultural workplace, download our Competency Management Toolkit to see how a focus on skills and competencies may help. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems may support your next steps.
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