Citizens from the European Union (EU) are free to move to, live in and work outside their home country, as well as to benefit from the same rights and equal opportunities as citizens of the EU member country to which they are moving. At least this is what I thought. Although we live in a multicultural society, it can be difficult to gain a decent job, due to some obstacles related to cultural diversity, because in reality there are still companies that do not truly welcome diversity.The EU marketplace has ever more interactions between people from diverse cultures. Consequently, profit and non-profit organizations must adapt to this trend by showing flexibility and openness to people coming from different backgrounds with valuables skills and experiences. However, I have been confronted with employers who still stay in their comfort zone (understand = “We have always done things this way. Why change it?”) and discriminate against potential job candidates from abroad because they don’t speak the local language well enough (yet), or can’t value these differences in individuals. Companies must be open to change this and to hire employees from other countries, with unique skills, and not identical ones, if they want to be productive, profitable and competitive in a worldwide economy, because the company's success relies on its employees.
More diverse companies are smarter and more profitable
Nowadays, modern companies go beyond their time zone and expand their business across countries, and thus across cultures. It’s not because a company establishes an office in many European cities that it will automatically become internationally successful. Its employees will interact with clients from other countries and cultures, therefore it can’t ignore the importance of having a multi-skilled team, which includes expatriates. Companies greatly benefit from hiring talent from abroad because they often bring new ways of thinking, new attitudes, new practices and new solutions to problems.
The benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace are:
Increased creativity and innovation for more competitiveness:
Expatriates can analyse issues and suggest points of view from a different perspective, and thus bring different ways of solving problems, which is perhaps harder to achieve when employees are from the same culture. Expats can also have different ideas and marketing approaches that will appeal to the customers in the target markets.
Increased flexibility and productivity:
The European Union’s market has evolved, especially after the largest enlargement in the early 2000’s, and companies need foreign expertise and language skills. Expatriates can gather and provide sufficient information about local customs and laws from their respective country, and they also adapt quickly to new situations and can meet the new needs of potential customers.
Increase a company’s reputation and profitability:
Expatriates boost the service offered to
customers in your target market as they also speak their native language.
Therefore customers feel more comfortable and are more likely to do business
with your company if their contact person comes from the same country.
When differences still mean stereotypes and prejudices
It is favourable to have people with different qualifications, backgrounds and experiences in the same work environment, but it can also have negative effects on a group and can lead to:
Miscommunication: differences in opinion and language barriers between colleagues can result in confusion, frustrations or conflicts, and weaken the team spirit and development of the company.
Misinterpretation: prejudices about people of different backgrounds can affect their interactions and lead employees to misinterpret actions or behaviours and jump to wrong or false conclusions.
Resistance to change: employees who refuse to adapt to changes and new
ideas in their workplace, will prevent themselves from changing their
perceptions about others and therefore a progress in their mentality.
Cultural diversity and differences: how to increase it in the workplace?
companies include - and don’t exclude - cultural diversity
Smart employers understand that a “closed” environment can have a negative impact on their employees’ involvement in the organization and also on their business profits. Therefore, their Human Resource professionals must modify their recruitment and hiring practices to attract the best international talents and effectively manage diversity in the workplace.
Provide sensitivity training to develop “cultural competences”
If your corporate environment is not very diverse yet or if you see or
experience discrimination, encourage employees to have an open-minded and
non-judgmental attitude and teach them to effectively communicate with people
across cultures who look, act and think differently from them. This ability to
better understand each other will develop into appreciating each other, and by
embracing everybody‘s differences and strengths, remember that it can only
boost the business.
Integrate English as an additional corporate language
Our world has become smaller and ultra-connected, and
in order to interact with these connections, we must integrate a common
language for effective communication. Chris Pyak, Director of Immigrant Spirit,
is a recruiter of international talents for companies in Germany. He explains
in his article the importance for companies to
introduce English as the additional corporate language. Companies will see a return
on investment if they offer English language courses for staff who want to
learn or improve their level, and local language courses for the expats, who
usually like the challenge of learning a new language.
A diverse workforce can only be a win-win combination for everyone and bring back a new strong economy in Europe. As Chris mentions: “There are few objective obstacle for hiring you in English and provide training to learn the local language on the job. There are obstacles in people’s minds only.". Europe has opened its borders to 28 countries. My question to employers: Have you opened your company’s doors to more diversity? Are you ready to make your business more sustainable? I am ready to contribute towards it.