Decades ago, a workforce in Australia or New Zealand was composed of purely white guys. Diversity or equality was not practised.
Today, everything has changed. In the 21st century, many companies in the region have now developed a diverse and multicultural workforce.
One reason for this is because both Australia and New Zealand are encouraging immigrants to migrate to their countries to address their talent shortage.
In the future, the labour landscape in both Australia and New Zealand will become multicultural.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in August 2021 there were 3 million permanent migrants in Australia who arrived since 2000. Among migrants, India was the top country of birth at about 439,700 people.
About 59 per cent of migrants were skilled workers, while 32 per cent had family visas, and nine per cent had humanitarian visas.
The Human Rights website of Australia said that migrants impact Australia’s economy in many different ways such as filling skill shortages, fostering international trade through knowledge of overseas markets, cultural practices, business networks, and languages other than English, and investing in the Australian economy.
What is a multicultural workforce?
A multicultural workplace is characterised by diversity, encompassing various backgrounds, including factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, education, and disability.
What is an example of a multicultural workforce?
A multicultural workforce is made up of workers from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. For instance, white, Black, and Chinese American workers may all have different cultural perspectives. Even if all of them are American, they might still share more commonalities among themselves than with an immigrant colleague from a different country.
Another example is the difference in age and religion. One employee who is a Generation Xer may have different ideas about how to go about a project because of these factors. Another employee who is a Generation Zer may also have diverse ideas. LGBTQIA+ employees may see things differently from straight employees, and vice versa. It’s these differences in viewpoints which make a multicultural team great.
What are the benefits of a multicultural workplace?
Multiculturalism has many benefits, as it brings people together with different approaches, attitudes, and experiences. This can boost creativity and effectiveness. It can even increase engagement at work because your team learns different perspectives and stories from people of different generations, countries, or cultures.
Establishing a thriving multicultural workplace may not happen by itself. This becomes especially challenging when expanding diversity is a new initiative. Resistance to change and discomfort with colleagues who differ from oneself can be common issues. Cultural disparities might exacerbate communication difficulties and amplify typical workplace tensions. Realising the advantages of a multicultural work environment without experiencing the drawbacks needs deliberate effort.
But building a multicultural workforce is truly important. As Paul DeNicola and Paula Loop explained, “after years of asking corporate directors about the importance of diversity in the boardroom, we’ve got some good news: the vast majority see value in including more women and minorities. Nearly 95% of directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, while 84% believe it enhances board performance.”
How to handle a multicultural workforce
So how do you handle a multicultural workforce? We’ve provided some tips below which you can follow:
- Create an inclusive work environment where every team member feels valued and respected, regardless of their cultural background.
- Encourage open communication and create opportunities for team members to share their unique perspectives.
Cultural sensitivity training:
- Provide cultural sensitivity training to team members and managers to enhance their understanding of different cultures, traditions, and customs.
- Develop cultural competence to navigate potential cultural clashes and misunderstandings.
- Emphasise the importance of clear and direct communication within the team.
- Encourage active listening and ensure that all team members have a chance to express themselves.
Flexibility and adaptability:
- Be flexible with work practices and schedules to accommodate cultural differences, such as holidays and work styles.
- Adapt your leadership approach to suit the needs and preferences of individual team members.
- Establish a protocol for resolving conflicts within the team that takes cultural differences into account.
- Encourage open and constructive discussions to address misunderstandings promptly.
Recognise and celebrate diversity:
- Celebrate cultural diversity by acknowledging and respecting different cultural holidays, events, and traditions.
- Organise team-building activities that promote cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.
By implementing these tips, you can create a harmonious and productive multicultural team that leverages the strengths of its diverse members while mitigating potential challenges.