The flattening and spreading out of organizations in this increasingly international marketplace means that companies are confronting both challenges and rewards of a multi-cultural workforce. Working together, yet apart, multi-cultural team members collaborate on the same project(s) but come from different cultures, many times speak different languages and often work from different locations thanks to an abundance of virtual collaboration tools.
Most of us recognize on some level – and can testify in our daily lives – that the world is shrinking, altering the way we do business and forcing managers to deal with new linguistic, socio-cultural and organizational challenges that didn’t exist (as prevalently) 10 years ago. If you’re feeling adrift in a sea of new technology, social marketing and enterprise restructuring, consider the advantages to being able to pull from a variety of diverse resources to face the business trends of today and tomorrow.
1. Leverage diversity to remain flexible and agile in today’s business climate
“Globalization” affects us all, even those companies without an explicit international business strategy. Whether it includes outsourcing services overseas to lower business costs, expanding client base across the border or addressing a local talent pool made more diverse as a result of immigration, our world is becoming smaller. Having a diversity of talents from multiple cultures provides a wider view of the world’s business and consumer needs, enabling your team to more effectively adapt to market demands and better serve global clients.
2. Be smarter about courting customers
The market is becoming more crowded with incumbent and emerging enterprises competing for the same customer segments all over the globe. A culturally diverse team can give your organization an edge over competitors when accessing new markets by responding as closely as possible to local needs, as BMW China discovered. The luxury car maker successfully conquered the Chinese market thanks in large part to a design studio opened in Shanghai led by a multicultural team with strong local representation that was able to consistently anticipate local customer expectations.
3. Greater innovation and creativity spring from diverse points of view
With trade practices transforming rapidly in order to make way for the Millennial generation, new startup and entrepreneur values, cross-culture partnerships and the allusive “social business,” the more varying points of view managers have access to, the more creative their teams will be in solving age-old and newborn dilemmas.
The risk of managing a highly-diverse team is that, instead of working as a cohesive unit, members are unable to overcome fundamental misunderstandings and miscommunications. A trick to getting the best, most innovative ideas from a multi-cultural team is to establish clear goals that everyone, regardless of background, works to achieve.
Despite this risk, the international component to having a culturally diverse team facilitates greater creativity and promotes the flow of ideas and concepts.
More hands-on tips to managing multicultural teams in an interconnected world.