Managing a culturally diverse workforce - Insights

Managing a culturally diverse workforce

Cultural diversity To implement diversity, it is crucial that organisations commit themselves by taking strategic approaches and embed concepts in all aspects of organisational functions. I will point out some factors you should bear in mind when carrying out HRM processes, which is most relevant to the management of cultural diversity within the workforce.

Managing a diverse workforce Ð should it be different from standard human resource (HR) process?

As we all know, in the hospitality industry where there is a high degree of customer-staff interaction, employees are the lifeblood of the operation; without them, all operations stand still. Human resource is one of the most important areas in the service sector due to the labour intensive nature of the business.

However, if you ever Ð and my bet is most of, if not all, of you have Ð worked in a multicultural environment, you would know that different cultures have different values, including work ethics and expressions of thoughts and emotions. If you are not conscious of this and approach recruitment and selection, staff inductions, performance appraisals, and reward systems based on your own cultural values, the results may disadvantage those who do not resonate with your personal culture.

The following will briefly highlight some points you should consider at each stage of the HR process.

Recruitment

In order to achieve the benefits of a multicultural workforce, it is essential to gain and maintain a level of cultural diversity. In reality, many organisations struggle with this as some sections of the population do not apply for work. However, before you start a recruitment campaign aimed at these audiences, it is important to understand why they are not applying for jobs in your organisation. You need to consider the following points:

  • Media used: Your chosen media channels for recruitment may only be accessible and assessed by a limited amount of people.
  • Unspoken message: If pictures used on your website and/or job advert are dominated by a certain ethnic group, it is more likely to put off people from other ethnic groups.Ê

Selection

Once having attracted a diverse group of applicants, you must make sure that the selection techniques are fair and effective. Some aspects you should consider are:

  • Culture-free methods: There are various selection methods such as interviews, work samples, psychometric tests, or assessment centres, depending on the job level and position on offer. But some methods are more often used in certain culture e.g. psychometric tests in the UK, which may imply the cultural bias in this method.
  • Unbiased criteria: As discussed in my last article, different cultural values result in different behaviours. It is crucial that any selection criteria are as job-related as possible. This helps you to be legally compliant and able to clearly justify the reasons for choosing your top candidate.
  • Staff/manager training: Whoever carries out the selection process needs to be skilled in assessing candidates against the set criteria and have an understanding of different behaviours of people.

Induction

The first few days or weeks of a new job are usually overwhelming. Research suggests that people from minority groups tend to take longer to be inducted and socialised. They might feel uncomfortable asking for more information, especially when there are standard processes and unwritten rules within the organisation. Some aspects you should consider when designing induction process are:

  • Clarity: Make it clear to all individuals what the organisation’s values are and what people need to do to progress.
  • Mentoring: A mentoring process can put a new started in contact with an experienced member of the team who can give them advice, guidance and support where appropriate. Ê
  • Flexibility: Ensure that the induction process is not too regimented so that individual concerns about the organisation, development etc. cannot be discussed.
  • Training: Ensure that managers responsible for inducting new staff are properly trained.

Performance appraisals

The essential elements of any performance appraisal are judgement and reporting, therefore the language used to describe and evaluate performance is crucial. For this reason, the appraisal process is critical for managing diversity within the organisations.

The style and content of the appraisal scheme may vary from one organisation to another. Whatever your organisational focus is, it is crucial that you make conscious efforts to eliminate factors such as prejudice, insufficient knowledge of the individual, the Ôhalo effect’ due to general likability, different perceptions, in order to ensure a fair appraisal is conducted with everyone.

Pay, reward and retention strategies

Reward has a certain level of impact on retention and effective reward strategies are seen as key in attracting, retaining and motivating staff; thereby contributing to the enhancement of organisational performance.

Your retention strategy depends on the nature of the contract and conditions of the labour market. For example, when you are short of staff you are eager to retain your skilled staff but when there is no shortage you may tolerate a level of staff turnover. In general, the hospitality industry often suffers from a high labour turnover and companies regularly develop different strategies to retain skilled employees.

As you gain diversity within your organisation, you realise there is no single strategy to satisfy and motivate a workforce from various cultural backgrounds. You need to consider many factors, such as local legislations; e.g. minimum wage, competitors’ current practice, your own HR policies, labour market and economic status, and of course, the factors that motivate your staff.

The last point is, of course, rather challenging to assess with a culturally diverse workforce. Extrinsic rewards such as a pay rise is not necessarily a good motivation and you may want to consider more intrinsic rewards such as:

  • Showing that the business trusts their judgement, particularly about local conditions
  • Giving them responsibilities appropriate to their level in the organisation
  • Provide them with appropriate training.

Living the value

In this piece we have discussed general HR policies and practices and implications of cultural diversity. HR policies need to be designed carefully based on complex factors, i.e. legislations and economic status, and cultural factors such as different values and communication patterns. Due to these aspects it is inevitable for organisations to establish a certain degree of flexibility in HR policies, however, those variations should not affect the business outcomes e.g. service quality and brand image.

Another important point to note is that the benefits of a diverse workforce cannot be achieved simply by establishing a series of policies and procedures. The concept of diversity management must be firmly embedded in every aspect of the business and all staff should live this organisational value. It may require a shift of organisational culture; but when it is achieved, your business will gain a strong competitive advantage.

By Yukari Iguchi

Yukari IguchiYukari Iguchi is the Academic Lead, Hospitality and Leisure at the University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL). Yukari has worked in various sectors within the hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars and theme parks in Japan, Switzerland and the UK. Since 2012 Yukari joined UDOL to share her knowledge of the hospitality sector with others. During her academic career Yukari also performed a range of roles including Programme Leader for undergraduate hospitality programmes, International Student Coordinator, International Collaborative Project Manager, and Online and Distance Learning Coordinator. Yukari is interested in the skills shortage issues within the hospitality industry and how educational institutions can make contributions to improve the situation through providing online learning opportunities. She also has keen interests in cultural diversity in both the hospitality industry and educational context, and has a passion on supporting international students within the UK Higher Education. For more information about the University of Derby Online Learning, go to www.derby.ac.uk/online/news/udol-notes/editors.

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