Cultural Diversity: Understanding Its Impact in the Workplace

Updated: Sep 13

Harnessing cultural diversity within workplaces is crucial to supporting staff, from a variety of cultural backgrounds, to be their best and generate excellent results.

The term 'culture' relates to socially transmitted values, behaviours and attitudes, which are particular to a specific ethnicity, nationality or religious group or organisation.

It involves the shaping of language, belief systems, ideas, traditions etc. Culture is learned, shared and generally accepted within groups.

Culture has a significant impact on how we interpret life and our environment

Culture has a significant impact on how we interpret life.

Culture is socially constructed and is passed between generations. It is of immense importance and gives us, as human beings, a framework through which we interpret our increasingly complex world.

Cultural diversity is perceptible. It can be seen in many visible and non visible characteristics. People come from different ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds.

Therefore, a workforce will have staff with a multitude of diverse experiences, thoughts, cultural understandings and approaches.

Cultural diversity includes and develops a variety of perspectives that can be benefit a business, generating a culture of innovation and more efficient ways of working.

Knowledge and understanding of cultural differences builds diversity and inclusion

Developing knowledge and awareness of different cultures helps to build workplace and business rewards.

The benefits of working within diverse teams is enhanced by multiple possibilities, including the potential to develop products and services to attract a wide variety of talent.

It is however, only through knowledge and understanding of cultural differences and embracing difference, that these benefits are truly realised.

Within the business setting, cultural diversity can make communication especially challenging. The ways of working and thinking between peoples of different cultural backgrounds can be vastly different. This can create barriers to effective communication.

Cultural stereotyping and prejudice.

Stereotyping and prejudice give rise to negative behaviours. They create misunderstanding and conflict between people who are not members of the same culture, and can lead to discrimination.

Cultural stereotyping and prejudice leads to discriminatory practices and behaviours, and can seriously damage workplace relationships.

These behaviours negatively impact diversity and inclusion and create issues for team cohesion, effective working practices and lower productivity. Put simply, they bad for business.

Any barrier to building inclusion into working practices, will ultimately affect your business ability to harness creativity and innovation from your staff teams.

Barriers prevent your ability to attract talent, engage staff teams and build productive business relationships.

Many articles focus on the challenges of cultural diversity within the workplace. Here, we will focus on cross cultural communication, as a means of developing, and promoting, diversity and inclusion.

Cross-Cultural communication.

The key to understanding culture lies in communication. Culture is expressed, to a large extent, by the ways in which we communicate.

People of different cultures respond differently to language, signs and symbols due to the frames of reference embedded within cultural upbringing and related understanding.

Understanding cross cultural communication is key to effective relationships. It enables a workplace to benefit from the key differences in understanding and behaviours that can impact greatly upon a business success of failure.

An organisation that has developed the ability to learn from, and engage with, a wide range of cultures is ideally placed to benefit from a more engaged workforce.

It will be better placed to support its staff, through the development and promotion of inclusive processes.

Well developed skills in cultural communication help to support an engaged workforce

An understanding of cross cultural communication will greatly enhance engagement within a workforce.

People of different cultures have developed their own specific language and behaviours, full of the nuances that cultural diversity can bring.

What has meaning for one culture may not be relevant or have a completely different meaning within another. Due to this factor, many misunderstandings can arise.

These misunderstandings can be even more problematic when people of different cultures are trying to collaborate on projects within the workplace. Meanings and understanding can become confused, due to misinterpretation.

The role of management, in ensuring that cultural diversity and its importance to effective team building, is a critical one. Embedding cultural knowledge and learning is essential to increasing work performance and adding value to your business outcomes.