Why consider multiculturalism at work?

“Monument to Multiculturalism” by F. Perilli. Located in Toronto. Photo by S. Meritt.n


During the last few decades, the world has become significantly smaller and flatter. Rapid technological development has made traveling and international communications easier and more affordable. Integration and globalization heavily affect both individuals and businesses. Now organizations are able to be involved in international activities, regardless of the company size and field of business. Among other changes, globalization has made companies consider multiculturalism at work as a necessity or a good way to make international business activities more acceptable and reachable.  

Who needs multiculturalism at work?

Globalization affects businesses of all sizes and fields. If global corporations’ have clear reasons to adopt multiculturalism, then with small and medium sized enterprises the situation is less clear.

According to the study of the European Commission, the majority of SMEs have reported cultural awareness and diversity to be as important for them, as it is for the global corporations. Indeed, even if the company’s area of operation covers only local market, it is still a stakeholder at the global market, which is a multinational structure. If multiculturalism in the international market is a necessity, not a matter of choice, it is that also in the local market.

Despite the acknowledgment of the importance of diversity, only some SMEs have adopted the concept, due to the lack of effective management or the risk of failure being too high.

However, even if multiculturalism adoption feels like a doubtful move for a small or medium size enterprise, it can be worth taking a risk. Surely, in the modern world, “one of the biggest risks is not taking risks”.

Why take a risk?

First of all, within an international team, members learn how to deal with different people. It is challenging but beneficial to a company, as it gives a broader access to potential customers and suppliers in the domestic region, if not in international markets. Diversity at workplace can give a possibility to differentiate better connection with, for example, cultural and linguistic minorities.

Importantly, cultural diversity can be a company´s lifesaver. The international characteristics of the team allow its members to receive diverse experience, as well as knowledge about potential solutions to various problems. People from various cultures can arise with the best solution, as they look at a problem from different angles. It can be an advantage for the company, as the problem-solving process turns more thorough.

Multicultural environment can increase the productivity of the team. Increasing productivity is always a big goal and challenge for management. There is always place for improvement. However, pulling together all the strengths of individual workers, who are related either to their cultural backgrounds or their personalities, can significantly strengthen the ability of the team to solve various tasks faster and more effectively.

Three basic steps to effective multiculturalism

One important question is: how to get there? We have analyzed different strategies and approaches and picked up three to try at first.

The first important step is to ensure a strong support from the CEO. In this case, support does not mean a top-down decision making but mentoring the whole process.

However, CEO alone does not define the whole corporate culture. For the whole organization to truly change, involving every single member is required – from the top manager to each employee. The CEO, nevertheless, has to have a strong vision on opportunities, to gain the credibility about the idea among the employees.

As mentioned before, it is important to take a risk. However, taking a risk does not mean to be exuberant. There is no need to start with such a change that requires solid investments and, thus, can lead to a huge loss. The establishment of diversity can start with small experiments at the lowest level.

Last but not least, focusing on the strengths that each employee can bring to the table is crucial. It is wise to take time and dig deeper, to understand how workers with different backgrounds and communication abilities can give to the working process. The downside to remember is that all employees are individuals, who do not have to necessarily reflect all the qualities common for their backgrounds.

To conclude, nowadays it is important to take risks and try to expand horizons, also in business. Multiculturalism can positively affect the performances and reputation of a company, in regional market and globally. Thanks to the CEO, new opportunities can rise and ready to catch, as long as they do not affect the company´s safety. Moreover, new international employees can bring high value to the company, keeping in mind that every person is individual, regardless the nationality and background.