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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

How to Embrace Cultural Diversity in Team Engagement

Embrace Cultural Diversity

Create a culture that means business™

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According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, 78% of Executives see diversity as a competitive advantage. People with diverse experiences are better prepared to offer insights and come up with better solutions. They make diverse teams smarter.

But how can diversity boost engagement in teams?

Having led multi-cultural teams in the Middle-East, Asia, and now in Europe; I can tell blending diversity and engagement gives outstanding results. But experience taught me that you can’t see the best outcomes unless you understand how cultural references influence team members’ expectations.employees

Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform competition. This makes culture-based engagement worth exploring! Here’s how to embrace cultural diversity in team engagement.

1. Middle-East: Building Trust and a Sense of Service

The one thing you notice immediately while working in the Middle-East is that everyone has (a lot of) time.

For many Westerners, time is a metric you optimize carefully. But in Egypt, I learned that time is valuable if you dedicate it to others: conversations, arranging business matters or making friends. Why? Because that’s what it takes to establish yourself as an honest individual worth doing business with.

When you build a trustful relationship where humility and respect prevail, others will do anything to serve you. And it’s worth exploring: according to a study published by Bart de Jong and colleagues, there is a direct link between trust and team performance,

If work is increasingly collaborative, it stands to reason that colleagues are more united than ever before. Still, only 24% of workers feel strongly connected with their peers. Therefore, an opportunity exists to strengthen trust and improve loyalty directly within teams. Simple habits, such as rewarding mutual help or introducing servant leadership, are powerful ways to embrace cultural diversity in team engagement.


2. Asia: Valuing Individual Strengths 

Singapore is a secular immigrant country. Influenced by Malay, Chinese, Indian and European traditions, it’s cultural diversity at its best.

Corporate DNA equals diversity for most workplaces in Singapore. But there is a subtle element of team management you can’t ignore. Each member exists as a distinct element of an all-inclusive holistic view (understand, team).

As a pragmatic European shaped by investment banking experience, I like to celebrate team successes extensively. It was a good motivation factor for the team in Singapore. But levels of team engagement improved when I decided to focus on individual strengths.

That subtle difference is not Asia-specific. Acknowledging individual strengths and recognizing people individually are simple ways to positively impact team engagement on the day to day.

According to a Gallup study, 67% of engaged employees strongly agree that their manager focuses on their positive characteristics. And when you focus on employees’ strengths, you are 30x more likely to make workers actively engaged at work.

chess3. Europe: Being Specific in Your Actions

From the outside, Europe could be “one kind of the same thing”. But made of 50+ countries, each with a distinct culture, a day at work in London, Paris or Madrid can’t be more different.

Take France, where work-life balance is taken so seriously that there is a ban on work e-mails outside of working hours. In London, politeness makes any difficult conversation an almost enjoyable time. Travel east to Germany, and work won’t happen without solid processes where everyone respects the rules (hidden or not).

Working in Europe reminds me every single day that we don’t all respond to the same triggers. In addition to different gender, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds; employees have different priorities and ways to be motivated at work.

Just look at how different engagement can be perceived:

  • 82% of employees say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options (Flexjobs’ annual super survey)
  • 40% of employees choose to leave a job because of a “lack of advancement/opportunity” (Express Employment Professionals survey)
  • 53% of millennials say learning new things or having access to professional development opportunities would make them stay at their job (EdAssist)

Engagement is indeed a multidimensional equation. Sure, having a strategic direction is paramount for consistency. But success on the day to day depends on your ability to listen to your team, understand cultural triggers, and ensure you can adapt your engagement plans to accommodate cultural diversity.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what’s excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire, French writer

Corporate DNAs evolve towards a diverse workforce, operating globally through team-based work. But only 48% of companies say they’re adequate at focusing on global cultural diversity.

Engagement and diversity go hand in hand, living and breathing across teams. For team leads, it means to focus on how culture, gender, or ways of working can impact team performance. And for their companies, it is to target employee experience and evolve towards a portfolio of diverse, inclusive and people-centric initiatives.

To learn more about the importance of employee experience, check out Achievers’ e-book Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.

Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience - E-book

Profile image of author: Coralie Sawruk

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