The Multicultural Workplace – Team Building within a multicultural group


Ireland has changed. With the arrival of different nationalities into our work place, they bring with them a whole new approach, culture and work ethic. These differences invite with them the opportunity for us all to learn about diversity and allow the new comers to contribute in positive ways to organizations.

The challenge that lies ahead is: how does a company build a cultural awareness programme into it’s HR policy and training initiatives – to help the different groups understand and appreciate their differences and grow together. Ultimately, the key words are team building and effective communication.

Building stronger bridges between multicultural teams is crucial, if businesses are to fully enjoy the benefits filtering through to productivity and profitability. Multicultural work environments are places of great potential, yet much can be lost when the communication lines are not open or cultural awareness programmes are absent.

People may show up in the workplace speaking our language or their own, but they are using very different rules in their employee engagement. It is often rooted in their cultural upbringing, linguistic influence and the cultural norms they use in interacting with their own culture. People look through their own eyes and culture and try to fit the world into their version of how things should be, which pose challenges in a team project environment, where decisions and deadlines are the key drivers. This often shows up in communication styles, approaches to tasks, conflicts and decisions making. Some people will be flexible and dynamic, while others will work rigidly within their own cultural framework; and this is where the interpersonal relationships either never get off the ground or start to disintegrate. If there is no programme or framework to express and communicate openly, and depersonalise the personal issues, the company often pays in lower productivity, poorer staff relations, or worse, loss of key employees.

Like any team integration initiative, it’s important to raise the awareness that differences do exist, and acknowledge where things may go wrong; then explore how team members can leverage these differences for the benefit of all. The key to unlocking this door rests in finding an organisational framework for communicating within teams, where diverse styles and cultures can blend together and create the level of co-operation needed for organisations to thrive.

If you are planning to implement a training course, consider some key components to successful implementation of a programme:

Encourage staff to expand their cultural knowledge, by providing information on the Intranet, creating a buddy-support system. Organise cultural information days for specific groups within the organizations.

Support the individual rather than their background: Cultural impressions are often built on generalizations. Foster an environment where the individual is valued and appreciated for their contribution, irrespective of their background.

Implement team-building days and initiatives where people can learn about difference and how to adapt and connect with their own cultures as well as others, and understand cultural mechanics at work in team environments.

Run communication programmes, which allow staff to learn about communications styles and preferences and how they impact on other people. Encourage active listening in these programmes, where people learn to pay attention to the words being said and the cultural context in which it is said.

Encourage knowledge sharing: Encourage colleagues in your multicultural team to share knowledge with one another and help build team skills sets. A wealth of new approaches and skills may be uncovered that will benefit everybody.

To open the doors to better communications within an organisation requires an open system, with rules of engagement that work for everybody. Having an effective model of communicating, that can be used across an organisation will pay dividends on a business and personal level for both staff and employers from all cultural backgrounds.

Would you like to build a better Team in your organisation?

Yes we need Team Building and Communications Training