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Solstice, Mawlid, Las Posadas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day — how many of these cultural holidays do you and your management team recognize? More importantly, is your company aware of which holidays your international remote teams commemorate in December?
The end of the year marks what much of the world recognizes and celebrates as “the holiday season” – but what is your company doing to nurture cultural diversity and inclusivity? Do all team members feel like their celebrations are equally valued?
Even prior to the pandemic, professionals had already begun to experience the physical distance between themselves and their colleagues. Companies in many countries realized long before 2020 that shifting to purely remote working and hybrid models significantly reduced employee turnover, as well as increased productivity, and decreased organizational costs. However, companies must ensure that they retain a sense of cultural sensitivity, particularly over the holidays, when expanding globally and shifting to 100 percent remote teams.
In honor of our own global team members and leaders, and the diversity we celebrate at Globalization Partners, we have put together a list of five tips for boosting your cultural competency at work during the holidays — and year-round:
1. Emphasize the value of cultural competency among your teams.
Cultural competence is the ability to effectively interact with people from cultures different from one’s own — achieved mainly by embracing and actively learning about other customs and traditions.
With this in mind, and with the holiday season quickly approaching, consider not just the way you conduct international business, but how you practice your cultural competence within your international team, particularly during this time of year. Validating and celebrating each team member’s values and special events is key to successful people management, and it encourages open dialogue, while also promoting creativity and improving financial performance. There is no greater feeling than knowing that your cultural holidays are viewed as an enriching part of the wider team and company.
2. Develop Inclusive terminology.
“Get the team physically together for a leadership training in which all members are able to learn about themselves and each other through a common cultural language.” – Dan Messinger, Organizational Consultant at Cream of the Crop Leaders.
Messinger, who’s executive leadership trainings have been dubbed “groundbreaking” by Fortune magazine, encourages company leaders to exhibit and invite vulnerability and mutual respect. He also advises leadership not to limit this type of open interaction to one meeting but to continue unearthing and exploring this topic as a collective group regularly. Teams should establish an appropriate language that considers everyone’s religious and cultural beliefs; for example, referring to the festivities throughout the month of December as “the holiday season” instead of “the Christmas season” will help ensure team members from different religious backgrounds don’t feel excluded. Leaders should aim to keep the conversation going, and make this language a part of the company’s cultural DNA. At first, exhibiting vulnerability, particularly when talking about culture and people, can be daunting for any company to tackle head on. However, vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation – and what company wants to carry out international business without those two incredible strengths?
3. Host virtual social chats.
The aim of this type of meeting is for everyone to catch up and get to know one another in an informal setting – perhaps while also sipping on their favorite beverage! Placing an emphasis on culture can be a wonderful strategy to gain insight into the special ways team members celebrate significant events. Team leaders can also extend these social conversations to cuisine, art, music, and the like. Understanding the importance of a colleague’s cultural celebrations, especially in December where people may be hyper-focused on their own holidays, invites teams to value their coworkers’ festivities as well as their own. Having these cultural catch-ups biweekly or monthly also allows everyone to continue learning about other special days throughout the year, which boosts a company’s awareness even more.
4. Prioritize communication.
Companies must foster a workplace culture centered around communication and expression. Whether your teams focus on understanding nonverbal communication or cultural cues, or developing a common cultural language, communication is vital to the success of every company. Discussing and implementing company-wide decisions with the sensitivities of differing cultural norms in mind requires communicative finesse and decorum. Leadership’s commitment to acknowledging and respecting cultural diversity plays a huge role in that – leading by example is always the best policy. The importance of clearly, sensitively, and confidently talking about diversity, inclusion, and what that means for employees of differing cultures, can never be understated.
5. Be conscious of unconscious bias.
All companies must acknowledge and accept that they, and their employees, harbor and view the world through the lens of their biases. These can be unconscious or conscious, but both can alter the way company leaders come across to their international workforce. They may not even realize they are expressing an idea in a way that impacts someone of another culture negatively, which is why self-awareness is vital. A collective effort can make a significant difference. Self-assessments and an open feedback channel between employees and company leaders can set the tone for a communication style that resonates with every team member. Culture and language should not be contributing factors to any communication breakdown.
If your company does its cultural competency work, establishes open and unbiased communication, and actively voices the benefits of an integrated diverse team, you will not only see an increase in productivity and profits, but company-wide empathy and understanding.
To learn more about workplace culture, visit our blog about How to Build Culture on a Remote Global Work Team and 6 Ways Companies Can Build Cultural Competence — And Why It Matters