Cultural Diversity in organisational teams


What does cultural diversity bring to the organisational table?

Cultural diversity in organisations poses a challenge to organisational leaders and their teams. It is the responsibility of the leaders to provide sound direction in dealing with cultural diversity, but it is every team member’s responsibility to act in accordance with righteousness.

Where is cultural diversity present?

There are several situations in the organisation where diversity can play a role. Here are three examples:

  1. A sales person told a team member: “Keep quiet, you are making a noise”. The message was interpreted as culturally insulting and resulted in a situation that the branch manager had to resolve.
  2. In another instance, litter on the premises was a problem. A comment about this could easily have implicated a certain group of staff members but the root of the problem was simply the absence of a dustbin.
  3. A third example relates to preferences regarding tea breaks. In the northern part of our country, I have seen a preference for eleven o’clock but in the southern part, a preference for ten o’clock exists.

If this comes to the fore on a building site, for instance,  and we are all of the same cultural group, it is easy to deal with the situation on the spot. However, if cultural diversity is present, or the situation plays out in a retail scenario, a team talk, and a roster can solve the challenge.

Can cultural diversity impact on marketing strategy?

Cultural diversity can impact on a marketing strategy in both a positive and a negative way. The good news is that the organisational leader and the team can make it work!

When cultural diversity is being used to the benefit of the organisation, the following may happen:

  • Staff who are familiar with the cultural practices of the target market can be deployed in front line positions. Always remember that front line staff play an important role in conveying the professional image of your business. Make sure you combine cultural knowledge with technical competence, professional attire, and professional conduct.
  • Involving staff in strategic marketing planning can lead to ideas on how your organisation can solve the needs of customers in new ways (product development) or open up new markets that will allow your organisation to serve new markets in cultural groups different from those that you are currently serving (market development).

Organisations are negatively impacted by cultural diversity when sound knowledge and cultural sensitivity are ignored. For example, placing an advertisement that can be interpreted as hurtful or discriminating can impact negatively on your organisational image and ultimately on market share.

Three suggestions to dealing with cultural diversity:

  1. Choose to accept cultural diversity as a reality and to make it work for your team and your organisation. Quoting Margaret Gardiner in her Miss Universe speech in 1978.“We can choose to live together in peace although we represent different nationalities.”
  2. Use knowledge and listening skills to help you and your team. Do market research, ask for input, and listen to feedback. Do not simply act from your own opinion as a leader, representing a specific culture group. A business consultant can help you and your organisation in this regard.
  3. Consider drawing up a values statement for your organisation. This will have to be preceded by a team discussion to hear what is valued and represented by the team. If you want their buy-in, you need to get them involved. A business consultant can also help you to facilitate this process.

Remember that you, your team, and your organisation have an important role to play in your  local community and in the world. For many people organisational leaders represent the solution on  how to deal with socio-, cultural-, and economic challenges. As leaders we need to step up and deal with cultural diversity in a positive manner – let us be the change we want to see in the world!


Login to view more relevant and informative resources like this

Not a member yet? Why not join today?