Cultural integration must be dealt with the same seriousness as technological or digital integration
The last decade saw the evolution in cross-border trade. As communications technology breaks down barriers, MNCs will continue to expand their footprint. This has facilitated the movement of global talent, with most MNCs encouraging cultural diversity. For HR professionals, attracting global resources would mean staying abreast with the evolving talent needs and devising strategies to not just attract, but also retain a diverse talent pool.
As business leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves is are we equipped to handle a multi-cultural workforce? Capability building is a part of the HR tapestry in any organisation. We need to encourage employees to be curious about cultural nuances and work towards establishing a ‘cultural quotient’. The cross-cultural flow of talent first started with the proliferation of the IT industry as talent moved across the country. That has now extended beyond national borders, making the whole process of inculturation even more critical.
For our business to thrive, we need people. To ensure that our workforce can deliver to its optimum potential, we need to invest in an environment that enables them to flourish. This can’t happen through makeshift solutions.
Often, people confuse orientation sessions with actual cultural induction. Cultural integration must be dealt with the same seriousness as technological or digital integration. At times, it is the smallest of efforts that can make people feel welcome. Living on foreign shores makes people crave for home and even a simple initiative like subscribing to a newspaper or magazine from various nationalities reassures people that they are being taken care of. Team lunches with global cuisines can serve as a trigger to cultural conversations. It is also a good idea to work towards an ecosystem that is culture agnostic. In fact, we make a conscious effort to invest in creating opportunities for employees to travel and expose them to international offices.
The process requires engagement of various stakeholders. HR teams will have to educate managers on how to leverage the presence of global colleagues while ensuring that cultural nuances in terms of interpersonal relations are not misinterpreted. Fostering a collaborative culture could be a great step in this direction where the company’s values and commitment to diversity is communicated across geographies.
The advantages of a multicultural atmosphere are plenty. Diversity of any kind, be it skills and experiences, linguistic, grassroots exposure, helps organisations service their consumers and clients better. Since people come from different backgrounds, they bring with them a variety of perspectives and this helps in solving problems creatively. A heterogeneous mix of people can also add value while making strategic decisions and eventually in improved execution, which, in turn, has a positive impact on productivity as well as growth.
To enable successful management of diversity, organisations must go beyond training the HR team and ensure that the messaging trickles down to every individual. It is important to get a sense of how employees deal with it. Simple steps like exposing employees to short-term assignments across geographical locations, making them work on global projects or encouraging them to learn the basics of a new language can all add up to the goal of creating a workforce that has truly imbibed the multicultural spirit.
There is no denying that a multicultural workforce is here to stay. Besides bringing together a diverse pool of talent, it gives organisations competitive edge. An inclusive work culture not only helps in retaining talent, but also attracts new talent. Organisations that have employees from different cultural backgrounds, more often than not, offer a broader range of services. All of this leads to a healthy working environment.
The author is vice-president, HR & Services, India & South West Asia at Coca-Cola India