Yes to team diversity for better business performance

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As a Belgian MBA student in London, I have been experiencing diversity. Firstly, I am the only European student in a class of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Nigerian and Arabian students.  Secondly, I live in the multicultural city London, which has the greatest number of migrants in the UK with 2.8 million foreign-born people in 2012 (Rienzo and Vargas-Silva 2014). Moreover, I worked as a receptionist in a hotel in the South of France with an international clientele. My experience with diversity has been challenging and personal enriching for me due to the differences in culture, values, time perception, customs and traditions. For example, in my language school in Paris I met one of my closest friends, Abdul from Saudi Arabia. Before, I never imagined to get in touch with his culture,let alone be friends. But he inspired my life. Another example was during my work as a hotel receptionist. We had a lot of Russian guests who only spoke in orders to me. When a Russian client needed another key of room 200, they shouted at me “Key 200”.  Their way of talking came across as very rude and impolite to me. However, my Russian friend told me that it is their culture. Russians only express what they have to say and all the polite words around are unnecessary and a waste of time according to them.

My experience of meeting people from different nationalities enables me to improve my team working and cultural sensitivity skills for my future management career. Because of the globalisation and shifting demographic composition, variety in the workforce is common (Neves and Melé 2013, Simons and Rowland 2011). Moreover, governments imply equal employment opportunities legislation (Mullins 2013). Consequently, for a future manager, leading diverse teams will be a requisite in my industry. I will work with people from different ethnic origins, national culture, age, work experience, personality, accent, religious beliefs and family status (Mullins 2013).

Additionally, managers should be aware of the advantages of diversity for the business strategy and company operations. Firstly, diverse employees will attract more diverse customers as they provide access to multicultural markets. Consequently, the company will have a competitive advantage (Mullins 2013). Furthermore, companies with a diverse customer base and diverse staff will better understand the wants of their customers (Dow 2003). Secondly, a diverse organisation develops a good image to their staff, customers and stakeholders (Mullins 2013). Diverse teams have as well a broader and unique perspective and push the boundaries because of the differences in background (Simons and Rowland 2011, Ted x Talks 2012). A variety of people in teams will improve innovation and creativity (Senichev 2013). For example, in a marketing team of a fashion company with 4 male North Europeans and 1 Nigerian woman, the daily work will be executed through the same standards as all 5 employees have a marketing degree. However, during brainstorming and team sessions, the Nigerian woman will bring in different perspectives to people’s thinking because of diversity.

An example of effective diversity in business is US Inland Steel. The company put people from different perspectives in key positions and became profitable for the first time since its establishment (Senichev 2013).

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However, Diversity doesn’t only mean recruiting a variety of employees. It needs as well effective management. Companies such as BP, Barclays, JP Morgan and Coca-Cola assigned diversity managers in order to increase and closely manage diversity in their company (Dow 2003). Managers are challenged to execute cross-cultural management by leading teams from different cultures to work together peacefully and profitably for the company.

On the contrary, team diversity can result in problems with group cohesion (Simons and Rowland 2011). In addition, cultural differences can negatively affect a team. Geert Hofstede distinguished 6 dimensions defining a national culture namely Power Distance, Individualism versus Collectivism, Masculinity versus Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Pragmatism versus Normatism and finally Indulgence versus Restraint (The Hofstede Centre 2014).

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These 6 dimensions of national culture can occur as cultural differences in teams and consequently affect decision-making. For example, Belgium scores very high on the uncertainty avoidance and individualism curve but China very low on both dimensions (The Hofstede Centre 2014). Because of these differences, Belgians and Chinese people will struggle to agree and decision-making could take more time. However, it could be argued that there are variations of characters of individuals in each country. A country is not a homogenous whole and individuals could have other levels of the dimensions than their born country (Mullins 2013).

In conclusion, with the globalisation human resources managers have a big pool with candidates and a lot of choice for the best possible talent (Mullins 2013). Consequently, future managers in the fashion industry should learn how to lead diverse teams. Diversity can as well improve business performance but there can be challenges. Managers should focus on looking for talent instead of recruiting a variety of people only to obtain the image of ‘diverse company’. Diversity in a company should as well be followed up. I agree with Lord John Browne, the chief executive of BP, as he says that recruiting is about finding the best person for the job despite their colour, gender, age and country of birth (Dow 2003).

Sources
Dow (2003) ‘Variety can help you thrive’ [online] Available from <https://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/legal/results/enhdocview.do?docLinkInd=true&ersKey=23_T19811536812&format=GNBFULL&startDocNo=0&resultsUrlKey=0_T19811536820&backKey=20_T19811536821&csi=146174&docNo=3&scrollToPosition=396&gt; [02/05/2014]

Mullins, L. (2013) Management & Organisational behaviour. Harlow: Pearson
Neves, J. and Melé, D. (2013) ‘Managing Ethically Cultural Diversity: Learning from Thomas Aquinas.’ Journal of Business Ethics [online] 116 (4), 769-780. Available from <http://web.a.ebscohost.com/bsi/detail?vid=3&sid=e611f17e-9f3c-4f96-a13d-095e1006a438%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmU%3d#db=bth&AN=90429120&gt; [02/05/2014]

Rienzo,C. and Vargas-Silva, C (2014) Migrants in the UK: an overview [online] Available from <http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/migrants-uk-overview&gt; [02/05/2014]
Senichev, V (2013) ‘Human resource diversity and performance within the frame of organizations, teams and individuals.’ Business: Theory & Practice [online] 14 (4), 337-345. Available from <http://web.a.ebscohost.com/bsi/detail?vid=5&sid=ef47ee35-ae38-4e26-a26c-007b404455dc%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4206&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmU%3d#db=bth&AN=93743393&gt; [05/05/2014]

Simons, S. and Rowland, K. (2011) ‘Diversity and its Impact on Organizational Performance: The Influence of Diversity Constructions on Expectations and Outcomes.’ Journal of Technology Management & Innovation [online] 6 (3), 171-182. Available from <http://web.a.ebscohost.com/bsi/detail?vid=3&sid=ef47ee35-ae38-4e26-a26c-007b404455dc%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4206&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmU%3d#db=bth&AN=78548964&gt; [05/05/2014]

Ted x Talks (2012) TEDxUNC – Joseph DeSimone – Diversity as a Fundamental Tenet of Innovation [online] Available from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rp9H8avhurE&gt; [05/05/2014]

The Hofstede Centre (2014) National cultural dimensions [online] Available from < http://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html&gt; [02/05/2014]

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5 thoughts on “Yes to team diversity for better business performance

  1. Reading this blog on diversity, I can only confirm that diversity, as in my own working environment, has proven to be of great value. I work in Luxembourg for a company that has branches worldwide. For the 300 employees, our office currently has, we have more than 20 different nationalities covered. This not only provides a cultural diversity, but also provides a ticket to a global market with clients being serviced exactly as they want and require, resulting in excellent company results, both financially and culturally. I personally believe that great diversity makes people more tolerant and less scared of the “unknown”.
    I can only applaud and encourage more people to embrace each others differences and learn from it in any way possible.

  2. Management and leadership style at our company are based on a constant interaction between the management and the employees.
    Feedback from people on the field is of the utmost importance to maintain a healthy balance and a healthy work environment.

  3. I think that ethical behaviour depends upon the values, culture, personality of the individual. It can be influenced by religious beliefs, education and ethical norms learned through our youth. I wonder whether we can learn how to be an ethical person because you state that universities give Business Ethics as a subject…

    1. i think that ethical behaviour can definitely be encouraged and furthermore learned. For example a company can set frameworks to create more ethical operations such as a Code of Conduct. The financial services sector needs an ethical driven change to increase consumer trust after scandals such as the Libor Scandal. The sector has to avoid unethical incidents.

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