Last Updated 28 Jul 2020

Culturally diverse workplace

Category Workplace
Essay type Research
Words 1124 (4 pages)
Views 374

"Building a diverse, talented, and committed workforce is key to our success" (Web 1) says Rosalind Cox, manager of diversity and worklife planning at Ford. Ford is not the only company which concentrates more and more their efforts on establishing a culturally diverse workforce. It can be observed that companies throughout the world are increasingly emphasising the need for and the advantages of workplace diversity.

In the past, however, employers were seeking to build a homogeneous workforce, that means similarities between employees were of prior importance. Therefore it is legitimate to ask for which reasons this change in attitude has taken place and whether potential advantages of a culturally diverse workplace are linked to this reasons. This essay searches for answers to these questions and examines potential advantages of a culturally diverse workplace in a global business world.

The essay starts with an explanation why cultural diversity affects already nearly every society followed by a short discussion about what constitutes cultural diversity and thus a culturally diverse workplace. Next, potential advantages and disadvantages will be examined before concluding that advantages in a culturally diverse workplace can only arise when recognising and utilising cultural diversity adequately.

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The trend towards globalisation has accelerated during the last decades. The establishment of the European Union and the NAFTA are indicators for the diminishing barriers to trade; foreign investment facilitated by trade liberalisation and the general trend towards global deregulation has led to a tremendous increase in cross - border economic, technological, social and cultural exchange. (Web 2)

Companies have become "global players" establishing subsidiaries in various countries and / or forming cross - border alliances such as joint ventures or mergers. Global deregulation facilitated free movement of labour. The ongoing development of systems of transport, as cars, air travel, trains and so on enhanced the mobility of people. Companies acting on a global scale are sending their employees on overseas assignments working side by side with people of different national origins. Besides, we have culturally diverse populations as a result of the flow of immigrants and refugees towards industrialised countries seeking for a "better life". Consequently the composition of the society within countries has become increasingly diverse and is segmented in distinctive groups forming subcultures. Today, the multicultural society is rather the norm than the exception.

However, the term "culture" is not necessarily restricted to national origin and thus national culture. Culture defined as a "shared system of attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviour" (Davies, 2004) implies that within national borders subcultures appear also in form of gender, lifestyles, religion, age or sexual orientation to name just a few ones. Women, for instance, share different attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviour in comparison to men and have therefore an own culture.

However, some as Fitzgerald (1997, p. 1), argue that these groups represent rather identities "which do not constitute separate cultures". Thus, according to this point of view the definition of a culturally diverse workplace would have to exclude these characteristics forming distinguishable groups in societies. On the other hand, it is for sure that these specific groups contribute to diversity within society when defining cultural diversity as different existing systems of attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviour. Recognising this fact is important as the whole society represents the potential workforce and not just particular groups of national origins.

Since most managers refer to culture as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another....the interactive aggregate of common characteristics that influence a human group's response to its environment" (Hofstede, 1980; di Stefano, 1972, cited by Adler, 2002, pp. 16, 17) and consequently the way of feeling, thinking and acting (Hofstede, 1997, p. 4) this paper is also going to adapt this view.

Acknowledging that even this definition does not exclude gender, age, lifestyles etc. as representing forms of specific cultures within a country, this paper is going to concentrate on national cultures. One reason for this approach is that regardless whether referring to these specific groups as subcultures or as identities they are living or have been grown up within a particular country with a particular national culture which is likely to have shaped their ways of feeling, thinking and acting as the most dominant culture. (Hofstede, 1997, p. 4)

Furthermore, when we are talking about a culturally diverse workplace in a global business world the first thing which comes to our mind are different nations and national cultures which are involved with each other. The above discussion already indicates that depending on what we regard constitutes culture one might use a narrower or broader definition of diversity in this context. This might be the reason why there is not a commonly accepted one. (Bhawuk et al.,1996) Cultural diversity as a broad concept can be described as the "[...] variety of human experience and achievement [...]" (Web 3) and in this broad context culturally diverse people are referred to as "individuals who bring unique perspectives or outlooks to the organization". (Web 4)

However, we will use a more neutral definition of a culturally diverse workplace. In accordance to the above mentioned definition of culture we will refer to it as one where people with different "mental programs" (Hofstede, 1997) resulting from different national origins are interacting and involved with each other. According to a worldwide IBM research covering over 2000 companies carried out by Sparrow, Schuler and Jackson (Joynt and Morton, 1999, p. 207) most managers and businesses believe that achieving a sustainable competitive advantage is determined by an organisation's people. In addition, the capturising of specific knowledge and skills in order to carry out research and develop new products for customers is seen as key success factor. (Dakhli et al., 2002, p. 2)

Globalisation implies that marketplaces both domestically and globally become more and more competitive and the ability to provide innovations can therefore determine fall or success. The increasing importance for global businesses to establish a culturally diverse workplace and thus an international team has to be understood in this context (Joynt and Morton, 1999, p. 208): a large number of experts agree that building heterogeneous working groups, that is to say teams with members who have different "mental programs", are likely to be more innovative and creative (Dakhli et al., 2002, p. 1) and that the more different "mental programs" in the group exist the more distinctive their knowledge, points of views and ways of thinking are supposing that this leads to improved performance.

Similarly, Wanous and Youtz (1986, cited by Ely and Thomas, 2001, p. 3) found heterogeneous groups more capable to establish diverse approaches to tasks and solutions to problems which in turn is believed to result in a higher quality in decisions. But why do mental programs differ from one another and if so do they really ultimately lead to innovations, enhanced creativity or better decisions?

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Culturally diverse workplace. (2018, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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