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Srimathi Shivashankar

HCL Technologies

Diversity Lead

Read more about Srimathi Shivashankar

Are you part of the culture club?

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The might of globalisation

How big is Planet Earth? A quick Google search will tell you that it’s the fifth largest of the eight planets in the solar system, with a radius of 6,371km and a surface area of 510,072,000 km². And yet, despite the almost incomprehensible size and volume of the planet we live on, it feels, at times, as though it’s getting smaller all the time.

Innovations in travel, communications and technology in recent years mean that, where once we would all be content to remain in our chosen spot, these boundaries and distances have now been almost completely obliterated.

With this in mind, isn’t it time more organisations started proactively recognising this fact as part of their philosophy?

An influx of new perspectives

Perhaps the greatest consequence of increased globalisation over the last twenty years or so is that it has allowed businesses to benefit from new perspectives and thoughts. Business leaders have realised that a fresh intake of people, cultures, ideas and philosophies needn’t be seen as a threat. Indeed, it’s clear that the most successful organisations in recent times are those who don’t fear being swept up in a tidal wave of cultural diversity and change. Instead, they embrace new ideas, and the changes they bring. As a result, the boundaries faced within organisations to growing themselves and expanding are, increasingly, not geographical – they are ideological.

Only a few decades ago, organisations in Europe and beyond struggled to comprehend the idea of cultural diversity. Adopting a multi-cultural approach to employee engagement, and career progression, was seen as an unnecessary risk, and a threat to the established order of things. “But this is the way things have always been!” was a commonly-heard phrase as those in large corporations worried about what would happen to them if the status quo was subverted, and started to panic.

The biggest single problem with this approach was that it created divisions. Very quickly, splits occurred between the established ‘haves’ and a newer influx of ‘have nots’, who were not afforded the same employee benefits and opportunities for career progression as those who were better known. Of course, you don’t need to hold a PhD in Business Management to realise that any organisation that is split down the middle in this way has deep-rooted issues, and that such divisions are hardly a formula for success.

Embracing cultural diversity

As globalisation took hold, and the world became a smaller place, organisations began to realise that embracing cultural difference was no longer an option, but a requirement. Today, most organisations will tell you that they have programmes in place to ensure that diversity is encouraged, but is this enough? When you scratch the superficial veneer of these programmes, are these organisations truly as invested in embracing cultural diversity as they claim? Or are they simply looking to create a positive perception that will resonate with shareholders, investors and other internal and external stakeholders?

If these organisations are serious about embracing cultural diversity and all the benefits it can bring, it seems clear that they need to embed it into the everyday structure of the business. Today, it’s not enough to simply shout about how diverse you are and point to a few pithy lines on a website. The proof, as with all of these schemes, is in the pudding, and it’s only when organisations see cultural diversity as a positive platform for inclusion that can proactively help the business to grow, expand and create that they’ll truly see the benefit.

The importance of cultural diversity

Cultural diversity is not the icing on top of the organisational cake – it’s something that needs to be baked in as a core component of organisational behaviour and philosophy. Adopting this approach will not only ensure that your business is able to remain united, but will also ensure that it can benefit from philosophies that it might otherwise never have dreamt of. Is your business part of the culture club, or do you still view such programmes as a ‘nice to have’ value add for your employees? One thing’s for sure – one of these roads will lead you to trust, respect and success, whereas the other could result in nothing more than a sense of what might have been.

Organisations must include the need to redefine the workplace for a multi-generational workforce in their long-term vision and planning. This understanding must not be restricted only to HR but also to sales, marketing, management and other key stakeholders who must predict their changing customer base and be prepared to address the changes.

Differences are valued in workplaces where there is no place for misconceptions or discrimination. For building a workplace for tomorrow is not only in the hands of every employee today but also in their hearts and minds. Leveraging commonalities, communication, collaboration, customisation, community service and promoting a democratic workplace play key roles in building a workplace for a multi-generational workforce. When this understanding and advocacy is promoted, it percolates to every employee who will appreciate it. After all, the employee comes first!

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Srimathi Shivashankar

Diversity Lead

Read more from Srimathi Shivashankar
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