Diversity used to mean having a workforce that was made up of different races and ethnicities. While this is still the case, as time has progressed (and we as a society have advanced) diversity is no longer constrained to those two components. It encompasses many different elements with teams being made up of LGBTQ people, those with different ways of thinking, tenure, gender, personality, education…the list goes on and on. Essentially, the definition itself has diversified and an organisation which prides itself on and encourages and implements difference will deliver results, better work and be more innovative. As work places strive to move away from homogeny, they start to better represent society at large. And when society is diverse, we start to get along with one another and everything is more enriched.

Working with a wide variety of people can be stimulating and educational; it’s important to know how to manage a diverse workforce so that your team is effective. Here are 5 simple and effective ways to help you.

Open the channels of communication

Diverse teams can be made up of people from all over the world with unique and nuanced viewpoints. This is a valuable asset to have. However, it is important to ensure all channels of communication are open so that you avoid any misinterpretation. What might be polite in one culture may be grossly impolite in another. Language is a reflection of culture. Take for example a Californian asking an Argentinian to do something soon. Each language and culture has its own definition of what (and when) soon is. This goes for body language, too. In many Anglo-Saxon cultures eye contact is important when communicating; however, it can be a sign of disrespect in some Asian cultures. Keeping the communication open means discussing any confusion and mishaps and will help to nurture better relations overall.

Say goodbye to any preconceived notions

We truly live in a global world, aided further by advances in technology and communication. While we have been exposed to many different cultures, people and languages for a long time, it doesn’t prevent us from harbouring preconceived notions and stereotypes about specific cultures. In order to manage a team of diverse people effective, it’s important to eliminate any ideas you might have about a culture – especially a culture you aren’t from.

Foster a culture of teamwork and trust

Bringing two people with varying levels of experience from two different places together can be an effective way to increase personal development and learning. It’s also a brilliant way to get many ideas together because there is more creative scope. The inspiration and discussions that can derive from working collectively can be a great way to create cohesion between your team. The social aspect of teamwork can result in success – Google did a study and found that employees excel in teams when they feel their work will help their colleagues, customers and community. This also brings in the vital element of trust. Through creating high levels of trust you engender collaboration, enhance better communication and this leaves less space for miscommunication leading to higher levels of tolerance and an understanding beyond cultural habits.

Develop your team’s conflict resolution skills

Working in a team of people from all over will invariably bring about disagreements and disputes. Throw work schedules, attitudes and habits into the mix and conflicts can happen. The diverse styles of working can generate successful work but they can also generate resentment. By letting the team listen carefully to different perspectives and explore options instead of going to management, they will learn how to deal with any problems that may arise. Teach your team that acknowledging conflicts, giving yourself time to stop and take a moment, get rid of assumptions and clarifying positions will aid them in the long run and give them the skills to make a good manager.

Ask for periodic feedback

One of the best ways to manage a diverse team is to seek periodic feedback. By asking your team how well you are performing, you can see the areas that need to be improved. For example, there may be some in your team who is vocal and will tell you that you’re a good manager (great!). This could skew the reality because perhaps someone who is more shy might think there are some areas that you need to improve on but they haven’t vocalised it. Asking for periodic feedback (this works both ways, by the way) ensures that you can always improve your management style and create a more cohesive and adaptive work environment.

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