‘What a small world’ – An all too familiar phrase exercised frequently in the UAE, usually to makes sense of coincidental encounters that occur between the city’s ‘global citizens’. With the inspiring and sometimes surprising interconnectivity of the country’s residents hailing from around the world, it should come as no shock that the current UAE population is comprised of 83 percent non-UAE nationals, and within that, 58 percent are South Asians, 17 per cent are other Asians, and 8.5 percent are expatriates from Western countries. With the ease of immigration and increasing number of people seeking exciting career opportunities outside of their home country, the UAE has become a cultural melting pot which inevitably also translates into highly multicultural workplaces right throughout the country.
Cultural diversity has many reported advantages in the workplace, including increased employee innovation, learned appreciation and respect for cultural differences, and better service for customers and clients. However, managing a diverse workforce also comes with its challenges, and understanding how to simultaneously motivate individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, and keep them engaged, is something all successful international business owners must become adept with. Above all else, it is paramount that all employees feel they are appreciated and that their opinions are valued, as well as ensuring they feel respected and valued regardless of their heritage. By creating a positive work environment in which all employees feel valued, it provides a common practice of knowing and embracing diversity. As a multicultural interior design company, Medy Navani, Founder of Design Haus Medy, interprets five ways he engages his employees in a multicultural workforce.
Ensure Everyone Is Working Towards A Common Goal
Employees are the backbone for meeting objectives that are set out within any company. Ensuring teams are working together towards these common goals and consistently restating them provides employees with a defined path to follow, and provides a channel in which diverse ideas can be expressed freely. By providing these set goals, it ultimately provides a guideline in which the team can use to work together and allow for their different creative opinions to shine through in a positive environment. Particularly where language and customs differ, it is important to keep all employees on the same page in order to minimise challenges posed by cultural ‘barriers’.
Difference Isn’t Always Down To Cultural Difference
It is a common misconception that when people of different nationalities have a difference in opinion, it is assumed it is due to cultural difference. It is also equally common that we expect others to react in the same way as ourselves to situations. Both are inevitably inaccurate. People are different, and so they react differently, and ultimately should not be expected to share our opinion. Personality, ability, and skill need to be taken into consideration when recognizing differences in the workplace. Although people may be of the same culture they are still individuals and thus need to be treated as such. Remember, we all have emotions, and although the triggers may be different, it is important to convey a consistent message that these feelings are taken into consideration and are cared about.
Train Your Team!
Training is a great way to benefit both employees and the company, as it develops skill sets and cultivates cultural awareness and team bonding that can support in building the organization. Seen as one of the strongest motivational tactics for promoting an increased sense of self worth amongst staff, untapping employee potential, developing team relationships, and managing cultural differences, staff diversity training is an overall great way to foster an elevated sense of self-awareness throughout an entire organization. By placing both old and new employees on diversity training programs, it allows for all team members to understand the company’s expectations towards how colleagues treat one another. When it comes to skills training, always ensure fairness is exercised when it comes to deciding which employees are offered the opportunity, and seek to run all staff through training in either a staggered or simultaneous manner.
A great way to encourage employees to interact and learn more about one another’s cultures is to create “out of office” bonding experiences. Organize inclusive social events such as company family days, holiday parties, and team building weekends or activities, to give employees the chance to mingle and bond in a more casual environment. Why not open the opportunity to host ‘cultural days’ when employees of different ethnicities and backgrounds can share some traditional foods with colleagues and do a casual talk on the unique customs of their respective countries or religions. Activities such as this can bring unprecedented levels of joy and learning, and provide a fantastic way for connections to be made and relationships to be strengthened.
A large part of keeping employees engaged is respecting and understanding their ideas, career goals, and opinions. Asking for feedback from the workforce in regards to their job role, management, and career progression provides an opportunity to communicate expectations of the company and colleagues, as well as allows for the company to understand where it may have room for improvement. This is also a great way to increase the employees self-esteem and loyalty to the job and team. Open communication motivates employees and allows for continued growth and engagement.