Multicultural workplaces have become a reality. The nature of the world is that cross-cultural barriers are coming down, allowing for multiculturalism to establish itself in the workplace. Several weeks ago, we discussed the impact of globalization on businesses and their customer service experiences, today we’re going to touch on how globalization has created multicultural workplaces and what that means with regards to employee and customer relations!
The Evolution of Multicultural Workplaces
Many companies now boast a global presence. This has lead to a rise in multicultural workplaces. In an age where most of us are celebrating diversity and cross-cultural communications, this is the face of the future. Just as it made sense for Victorian explorers to hire local guides to lead them through the heart of Africa, it made sense for businesses venturing out of their comfort zones to employee people with local knowledge.
That need has evolved.
With the growth of regional and global markets, diversification of industries and the growing availability of education, companies are able to hire people based on their merits rather than their place of birth.
There are still hurdles to be crossed, racial issues to be fought, and it’s certainly not paradise on earth yet. All judgments aside, humanity has come a long way from those Victorian explorers.
Go back thirty years – chances were most Western companies would send out ‘Season’s’ Greetings’ cards to their clients and employees around Christmas and New Year’s. Meanwhile Asian companies would do the same for Chinese New Year and Thaipusam, while the Middle East would celebrate Eid al-fitr. Different regions of the world had different festivities.
Now, with the growing diversity and awareness of that diversity, many companies realize they can’t just hold to ‘their’ primary holiday season.
The Internet’s Role in Multiculturalism
This is subject is an entire thesis all by itself. We’ve all accepted that the Internet has been a vital ingredient of globalization. It has brought down borders, opened communication lines, and connected people, regions, and countries – it’s also started social movements, and not always in a good way, but we’re not here to judge today.
In short, the Internet has given the world access to itself. People now have access to each other’s cultures in a way they never did before. It’s not just about the greater awareness of different cultures, but also because, thanks to the Internet, companies don’t necessarily only deal with clients, consultants, or other companies within the borders of their nation/region.
Similarly, customers on the hunt for something specific are no longer bound to use the business down the street. Ecommerce has seen to that – can’t find something? Try eBay.
It’s Not just about Employees
The increase of multicultural workplaces isn’t just about the people who work there. Take our office, for example – we’ve got more than 15 different nationalities across our 8 offices. That doesn’t just mean a diverse cultural awareness, but more than that, it grants us – and our clients and customers! – access to different languages as well! Across our offices, we have roughly 20 languages in house. This helps us overcome language barriers that previously would have made business difficult.
Clients and customers should be able to communicate with a company on their terms, in a way that avoids misunderstandings and miscommunication. This isn’t just about language. Multicultural workplaces have an increased awareness of different customs and traditions. In Thailand, public contact is discouraged, in the Middle East offering your left hand is offensive, while in many parts of South-East Asia pointing with your index finger is the equivalent of ‘giving someone the finger’ in North America. These little bits of knowledge add up to an ability to respect different cultures which put clients and customers at ease.
The Impact of Multiculturalism on Companies
This continued evolution has allowed for multicultural workplaces to spring up all around the world, in all manner of companies, in all manner of countries. Even small businesses operating solely within borders are becoming more and more exposed to the wide world and the many cultures in it.
Where globalization has driven companies to become more competitive, the growth of multicultural workplaces has allowed for an improvement in both customer and employee experiences the world over.
Yes, there are still issues on the table: not all workplaces are as welcoming of multiculturalism as others; but the undeniable fact is that the world is moving towards global multiculturalism, and it is likely that those companies who are going to survive are the ones who can best evolve along with these social transformations.