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Cultural Flexibility: How Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Impacts Business Communication

Madeleine Monaghan-Golda |

Diversity Equality Inclusion write on a sticky note isolated on Office Desk. In the last decade, diversity and inclusion in the workplace have become a priority for most businesses worldwide. As well as contributing to a more fair and equal society, workplaces that welcome a diverse balance enjoy 35% more success than less varied organizations.

Ahead of our cultural flexibility talk at IMEX 2021, today we’re taking a closer look at the impacts of diversity on communication. By reviewing the challenges posed by diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we’ll suggest some key strategies required to overcome them.

Let’s dive in.

Challenges Posed by Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

African businesswoman giving educational workshop to diverse team at office.

One of the most incredible things about the modern workplace is how many different cultures it has to offer. Every employee brings something new to the table, often influenced by their diverse heritage, benefiting businesses in ways we could never predict.

As we’ve already made clear, the advantages are immense. But what about the challenges posed by diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Language + Accent

First up is an obvious one, but it’s something many people often forget. According to a survey conducted by Rosetta Stone, 90% of organizations struggle with language barriers in their day-to-day work. Since speaking, writing, and typing are some of the most significant forms of communication in the workplace, differing language is a huge problem.

Accents can also cause some challenges for businesses aspiring for productivity and efficiency. Both regional and international accent variations can cause miscommunications, lengthening discussion times, and slowing down the chain of productivity. Filling your teams with people from different backgrounds and locations is a critical aspect of capturing a broader worldview, but how do we mitigate the challenges this brings?

Stereotyping + Bias

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace allow us to engage fresh perspectives and appeal to wider audiences. The problem is, a large proportion of diverse employees face discrimination due to misunderstandings, cultural assumptions, and racial bias. One study found that 40% of employees will leave a company after experiencing harassment, bullying, or stereotyping to seek alternative employment.

Stereotyping in most cases comes from a place of ignorance, occurring when cultural research and understanding are limited. In organizations that employ people from all over the world, this is guaranteed to impact communication negatively.

Varying Communication Styles

While language is one of the key forms of communication in the workplace, it doesn’t always stop there. One of the most extraordinary things about the human race is our ability to communicate in different ways – but are workplaces equipped to deal with this?

For deaf or disabled employees, non-verbal forms of communication may be preferred. While the modern world has many solutions to overcome these challenges, most businesses aren’t taking advantage. Cultural differences can also intersect with varying communication styles. Specific language uses can come across as abrupt, or using hand gestures could confuse unfamiliar team members.

Communication is essential for business success, but so is diversity and inclusion. How can we combine the two for the ultimate thriving organization?

Strategies for Communicating Across Cultures

Team Huddle Harmony Togetherness Happiness Concept

Listen to the Needs of Your Team

For business leaders, operations managers, and HR professionals, finding the best ways to communicate across diverse teams should be a priority. The first step to success? Listening to the people who make your organization unique.

You can achieve a valuable and culturally aware communication strategy by:

  • Surveying your teams on what works for them
  • Arranging awareness sessions to increase cultural familiarity
  • Assessing the needs of both leaders and team members
  • Pinpointing where your employees believe weaknesses lie
  • Ask employees how they identify themselves and tailor communication

Learn About Different Cultures

Expanding the worldview of your organization is an essential part of growth and sustainable success, achieved with a diverse and varied workforce. One of the best ways to retain balance and attract global talent is to actively commit to cultural education.

Depending on your hiring strategy, many of your employees will have grown up without exposure to different cultures or identities.

You can mitigate the challenges of this by:

  • Offering learning opportunities to your whole organization
  • Using the experiences of your diverse employees to further education
  • Engaging open and honest conversations that prioritize equality awareness

Make Language Inclusive

When it comes to communicating across cultures, evaluating your use of language is a major step to showing better cultural resonance. The way we use words has a significant impact on the people around us, and providing a guide on diverse and inclusive language is incredibly important.

You can begin making language more inclusive by:

  • Using basic vocabulary and avoiding location-specific slang words
  • Neutralizing language to avoid alienating people of different genders
  • Avoiding excessive use of acronyms and provide explanations if used
  • Avoiding stereotypical assumptions of particular cultures or ethnicities

Diversify Your Comms Team

Communications teams carry vast amounts of responsibility when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity. As well as delivering internal updates to your teams, they’re also responsible for communicating with the outside world on behalf of the organization.

One of the most effective ways to communicate more seamlessly across cultures is to diversify your comms team. By embracing a diversity policy and employing people from different communities, you’re much more likely to overcome barriers posed by cultural differences in communication.

Aventri and Cultural Flexibility at IMEX America 2021

Madz-Speaking-LiveSession IMEX America 2021

Are you interested in learning more about this increasingly important topic? I'm pleased to announce that I will be taking center stage at this year’s IMEX America. Talking about cultural flexibility, I'll explain how to hone our skills for communicating across cultures and building better awareness of the world around us.

If you’re heading to IMEX Las Vegas 2021, why not meet us there? You can visit booth #E3013 or book a one-to-one chat with our talented team to talk about the latest innovations in event technology.

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This Post was Written by Madeleine Monaghan-Golda

Madeleine is the Global Head of Training at Aventri. Madeleine specializes in professional development training for teachers, staff, and executives using active listening skills to learn engaging strategies for communication and clarification.

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