Human Resources Magazine, Feb Issue 2012

Human Resources Magazine, Feb Issue 2012

The inevitability of increased workplace diversity calls for more targeted talent management strategies. Here’s how you can better manage an increasingly multi-cultural workforce.

Managing a Diverse Workforce

An increasingly mobile workforce means people from different countries are travelling to greener pastures in pursuit of better prospects. Take Singapore as a classic example. We have seen a spike in foreigners in recent years because they are needed to help ease the labour crunch in certain industries.

Indeed, Singapore’s multi-cultural make-up has intensified as more individuals from different countries, races and cultures become our friends, neighbours, colleagues and employees.

There are certainly benefits to having diversity in the workplace and these include increased creativity because different ideas come together resulting in the possibility of greater innovation.

Having a diverse workforce may also enable your organisation to move into new markets because you can tap on in-house knowledge if your employees hail from those countries.

But the downside risk is cultural conflict may arise because of language barriers and even outright prejudice against new blood.

As a leader, how do you manage the diversity in the office so you have a happy and productive workforce?

Facilitate acclimatisation and assimilation

This begins with a proper orientation programme. Ideally, it should bring together locals and foreigners so everyone has a clear understanding of the company’s mission, vision and values and its working culture and environment. You should also create opportunities for regular interaction between locals and foreigners across all levels of workers, be it by sending them for training together or through social activities such as staff dinners and even specially designed “diversity retreats”. This will encourage employees to get to know each other better and develop an appreciation for each other outside work.

Assign mentors

As a manager, you need to understand the key role you play in helping the new employee become an important contributor to the company. This is even more critical for a foreign individual with different cultural expectations. One way is to assign a mentor, preferably a well-respected person from the department, who can help ease the integration process for the foreign employee.

Resolve conflict quickly

Should any personality or cultural clash arise, be sure to handle it in a professional manner and resolve it as quickly as possible. It is important to protect your work environment and curb the negative contagion from infecting other workers because low employee morale equals low productivity.

Be fair

As an employer or leader, it is imperative you treat everyone equally, regardless of where they came from. Make sure people are appraised based on performance and not on personal preferences because any sign of favouritism will negatively spread like wildfire through the ranks.

Take care of the spouse

Often and easily overlooked, the spouse plays an integral role in your employee’s happiness and hence, their productivity at work. If a spouse or family is involved in the relocation, take the initiative to help them integrate into society so they feel more comfortable with the change.

This will help give your foreign employee added peace of mind so they can focus better at work.

Today’s leaders need to understand increased diversity in the workplace is inevitable. It is thus critical they learn to manage it well so the company can harness the benefits of a diverse workforce while eradicating any potential obstacles for the future success of the company.

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