We may not give it much thought, but our culture — the customs, traditions, and social conventions of the country or region where we were raised — can play a significant part in the way we live; shape our behavior and relationships and have a profound impact on our sense of self.
Cultural factors that shape society
Distinct groups of people may interpret the world around them quite differently from others. It is that unique worldview that helps explain the cultural variations from one society to the next. But what shapes our worldview? One of the first traits behavioral scientists look for when analyzing a society is whether it is based on individualism or collectivism.
People brought up in an individualist culture tend to focus on their own needs, prioritizing their personal benefit over the needs of the group. Personal identity and independence are important values in a society that identifies with individualism.
Conversely, collectivist societies prioritize group cohesion and interdependence, as they consider that the needs of the many are more important than those of the few. Unity and selflessness are the values to aspire to in collectivism.
Social psychologists also analyze other relevant cultural factors, like the tolerance a society has for uncertainty and ambiguity. The degree of optimism a person feels towards the future can also be influenced by environmental circumstances such as the availability of economic opportunities. A country or culture marred by war or conflict might mean that the people who live there, over time, come to value certainty and predictability over creativity and flexibility.
People also perceive and accept how power is distributed differently, and even our different inclinations to plan for the future can be influenced by our culture and its long or short-term orientation.
Personalities, behaviors, and decisions of individuals are impacted by their culture. But in a globalized society, how does culture impact how people work and how does it affect their interactions with colleagues and customers?
What cultural diversity brings to the workplace
Integrating diverse social cultures into the same corporate culture can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Some of the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace are:
- Different perspectives of a problem can provide a broader variety of possible solutions,
- More diverse companies are better at attracting top talent and improving customer and employee satisfaction, leading to better financial returns and performance
- Increased creativity and innovation are encouraged by thinking out of the box
- Faster problem solving
- Higher employee retention
- Better recruitment results
However, it’s not always easy. So, what are the challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace and how can they be overcome?
Cultural awareness and competence at work
Some corporate cultural styles and the values that characterize them are more common than others throughout the world. Styles that focus on “caring”, “results”, and “purpose” are the most common, but other values are found more frequently in specific geographic areas.
Let’s take the “authority” company value as an example. While it does not rank highly in the overall statistics, it is found to be most prevalent in the Middle East. And while African respondents to some recent studies seem to value “learning” and “purpose”, the Middle East and Eastern Europe give more importance to “stability”.
Communicating clear company values is important to help employees understand how to act in different situations. A company that openly and clearly values diversity and inclusion should be composed of people who feel the same way; those whose values don’t align with the company may encounter greater job satisfaction in a different environment.
In addition to clear communication, inclusive companies may find that smoothly integrating diversity is easier if employees and management are provided with diversity and awareness training. A leadership team that leads by example when it comes to diversity can help foster an environment in which each employee can thrive. Lastly, finding talent with the right cultural fit for the company is often key to the success of many businesses.
The benefits of multi-cultural teams can be a game changer for a company and for the people who work there. So how can each of us improve how we communicate in a diverse workplace? The first step is cultivating cultural competence, the ability to interact with people from different cultures. Be aware of our own cultural worldview and get to know and be open-minded about cultural differences and practices. There’s always more than one way to approach a problem and find a solution. The good news is that we can work on our awareness and knowledge of other cultures, constantly honing our cross-cultural skills.
At Ria, we understand that an inclusive and diverse workplace leads to better results and satisfaction, both for our customers and our teams. Our core mission has always been to help people stay connected to their loved ones around the world. Understanding different cultures is key to providing our customers with the best possible service. Learn more about Ria and our company culture.
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