Company Culture

How Diversity Can be a Company's Competitive Advantage

Naturally, diversity has many faces. In the early state of a company that is defining a culture it is crucial to embrace diversity from the first day. Although it brings in a lot of challenges in terms of team communication, the pay-off is huge when you think of becoming a global company.

Cultural diversity, if not handled correctly, can bring widespread implications. Diversity can have many positive factors, such as being more adaptable, more innovative and more engaged. However, the negative effects can include team conflict, lost productivity and difficulty in communication.

Develop a diversity plan

Innovation is crucial for a startup to excel and diversity is a synonym for innovation. According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation, employees at organizations with 2-D diversity [two dimensions of diversity, it covers inherent (gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation) and acquired (skills and education)] traits are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the startup environment, timing is vital. But if there’s one thing worse than wasting time, it’s wasting potential due to a lack of diversity. The same research found that leaders who give diverse employees an equal chance to speak are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driven insights. Employees in a “speak up” culture are three times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential

Background matters: Words and expressions don’t mean the same

According Erin Meyer in his article “How to say this is crap in different cultures”, “employees in different parts of the world are conditioned to interact with each other in drastically different ways. The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch coworker will always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly”. Words and expressions can have vastly different meaning and implications for people from different backgrounds. Team members must be constantly aware that their intended messages are understood clearly when communicating with culturally diverse co-workers.

Body language is another cultural difference that must be considered. Hand gestures, mannerisms and even posture can be vastly different from culture to culture, and rectifying these differences from an early stage is vital to employee satisfaction and engagement.

In order to navigate the diverse workforce, managers and organizations need to be aware of their cultural differences. Any startup needs to make use of assessments and evaluate the diverse nature of their workforce.

Start with an employee satisfaction assessment

It’s critical that there is cooperation between team members, as this will determine the business’ success or failure. To achieve teamwork, implement an employee satisfaction system. Ask questions to determine the overall team health of the startup.

Feedback apps are on the rise, companies, such as GE and Accenture, are ditching annual performance reviews and choosing instead constant, 360 degree feedback solutions that solve the most common problem in today's rapidly changing environment: miscommunication. Many startups are choosing this continuous approach to feedback that is  cost effective and beneficial to every team member.

Another way to measure your employee satisfaction level could be a simple team happiness survey which will determine the biggest obstacles and challenges a culturally diverse company faces. During the startup phase, it's important to raise these questions as early as possible, as misunderstandings can cause team and company disruptions. Constantly remain updated by creating a culture that embraces frequent feedback.

Encourage diversity activities

A big budget is not needed to encourage diversity. It’s important to have diversity inclusion activities on a regular occasion. According to Boris Groysberg coauthor of Talk, Inc, “managers were cited as saying that “it's imperative that organizations develop activities that encourage diversity, in order to remain competitive in the marketplace”. Creating an understanding of cultural subtleties and nuances, allows team members to create an environment that is open to each other's verbal and nonverbal communication. Being able to freely express feelings and emotions, allows employees to feel trusted and open to others. This will lead to an environment that is collaborative and engaging.

Allow for flexibility

If you’re still planning on joining the global startup village, keep in mind that time differences will become an issue. With team members working from Portugal, The US and The Netherlands, Impraise found it necessary to make an articulation of new tools ,such as slack, Basecamp and hangouts , in order to make possible the communication and collaboration between coworkers.

Being part of the global village implicates having talented professionals located around the world work in different time zones, which means employers and employees here will need to adapt and become more flexible. People working remotely  will represent a  challenge for your leadership skills, requiring you to  involve  and motivate everyone in the team  to excel despite the distance.