Cultural Awareness in the Workplace-2

The Importance of Cultural Awareness in the Workplace

We live in a world that is extremely interconnected. New technologies and processes have opened new doors to remote working, expanding global markets and hiring employees across borders. These have become the ingredients for many thriving businesses across the world. Hiring abroad can bring in fresh perspectives, creative insights, and new innovations. However, this influx of new talent can come with its own set of challenges. Miscommunication, misunderstanding, and exclusion are all common consequences when cultural awareness is not followed correctly. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way! With the right measures in place, you can ensure that your unique blend of employees is a harmonious and productive one. In this blog we will discuss what cultural awareness is, the importance of cultural awareness in the workplace, what you can do to become more culturally aware and measures you can put in place to ensure you are playing your part. 

Cultural Awareness Meaning:

Let’s start with the basics. Cultural Awareness in the workplace is when your teams and employees can understand and embrace cultural differences and interact with people from different backgrounds successfully. Having cultural understanding ensures that you have the knowledge to be culturally sensitive and understanding of how culture affects an employee’s behaviours so they can feel safe working for your company.  

But what is culture exactly? Live Science states that culture is based on the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group. This may include elements such as language, social habits, religion, cuisine, and arts. Often, culture may be rooted firmly in what country or area the person originally comes from, how they were raised or what race they are a part of. Each country offers a rich blend of its own unique cultures. Globalisation has opened channels for people from these different cultures to move in search of work. Furthermore, digitization has made it incredibly easy for workers to work remotely for different countries. This is an exciting development in the place of work as companies can benefit from fresh perspectives and new ideas. However, this new way of working can also cause issues, let us unpack why.

Why is it Important to be Culturally Aware?

Working with different cultures can create an environment that is diverse, vibrant, and bursting with new perspectives. However, without cultural awareness in the workplace you could easily slip up and make your employees feel under appreciated, unsafe, and misunderstood. Sometimes you may do this without even realising it. This is because each culture is complex with its own set of intricacies. Therefore, it is important to learn about these intricacies before hiring a new team. 

But the need for cultural awareness in the workplace doesn’t stop there. Here are a few other reasons why you should strive to be more culturally aware: 

  • Enhanced communication: The way you communicate may not be the same as how somebody else communicates. Certain word usage, tone of voice or phrases may come across as rude, condescending, or confusing to those that are not used to them. For example, some cultural groups may value speaking in a loud tone of voice while others prefer softer tones. Some cultural groups prefer addressing a person with their first name while others like to formally address someone with a surname. These are subtle, but they can make a world of difference. Therefore, understanding how your employees communicate can ensure you have better communication channels without costly mishaps and communication barriers. 
  • Inclusivity and respect: A goal for any manager or business owner should be to have your employees’ best interests at heart. By creating an environment where your employees feel included, appreciated, and safe they will be able to do their best work. This promotes an environment where everyone is respected and included which will form healthy relationships and company culture. Your employees will therefore have higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.
  • Successful Globalisation: Being more culturally aware can open doors to reaching customers from different countries. This can be a great next step for your business’s growth. However, it is important to put in the effort to understand the cultures of the countries you want to market to. This ensures a smooth transition, reputation and communication. 
  • Creativity and Innovation: People that come from different backgrounds may have useful insights that you haven’t had access to before. For example, in a marketing sense, an employee from a culturally different background may have better insight into a target market that you want to reach. Additionally, you are adding fresh new ideas to your toolkit which can lead to innovative solutions and products.  
  • Positive reputation: Companies that prioritise cultural awareness are seen as more favourable to customers, employees, and investors. This is because you show others that you care about the greater good of others. Ultimately, you will create a strong reputation and build brand loyalty. 
Cultural Awareness in the Workplace

How to Increase Cultural Awareness in the Workplace:

It’s time to make sure your company is doing what it needs to be more culturally aware. Dealing with sensitive topics can feel awkward and daunting at times but with time this process will get easier. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips for you to help you on your way:

  • Get to know the cultures of your employees: There’s no better way to understand something than to just ask about it. Engage with your employees to get a better understanding of how they wish to work and the culture that they come from. Gain insight into what would be sensitive areas for them and how they can be supported in expressing their culture effectively. Make sure to be respectful in your approach and don’t be influenced by any stereotypes or bias. 
  • Enrol your staff in sensitivity and cultural awareness training: Cultural awareness should be implemented in all corners of your business. You can do this by giving your staff a course that will give them the tools to work successfully alongside those from different backgrounds. These courses may make them more aware of how they could offend or harm those that are different and improve their communication tactics. Make sure not to single out any individuals in this training as it may make them feel uncomfortable. 
  • Invest in a Workforce Campaign: Often action can come easier with the help of reinforcement. A Workforce campaign is a professionally designed campaign that communicates a message to your staff over twelve different touchpoints. This clearly portrays your message in your emails, on posters, through toolbox talks and more. By repeating your message loud and clearly employees will be more likely to remember it. Additionally, this form of messaging shows your employees that you care and that you don’t tolerate any form of exclusion. 
  • Build a safe channel of communication: Make your employees know that there are channels that they can reach out to whenever they feel that they are being violated. This can be through your HR department or anonymous messaging. It is important to make sure your employees feel safe enough to reach out when they have a concern. 

How to Measure Cultural Awareness in the Workplace: 

The reality is that implementing these steps won’t be a one-time solution. Like most things in business, cultural awareness in the workplace needs to be measured and improved upon to ensure it is working at its best. That’s why it’s important to put measures in place to keep track of your progress. You can do this through the following ways: 

  • Culturally sensitive surveys and questionnaires: Asking your employees for their feedback can help you know where you can improve. You can assess where your strengths and weaknesses lie and reestablish your goals moving forward. It will give you an idea of how your employees feel towards diversity and how your diverse employees are being treated. 
  • Focus Groups and Interviews: Continue where you started by asking your employees if the measures you have put in place have made them feel culturally accepted. This shows that you value their opinions and want to give them a platform to speak up. Gather people from diverse backgrounds in a group or one on one and ask them about their experiences and suggestions for better cultural awareness in the workplace. 
  • Anonymous feedback: Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable enough to voice a concern when they think management, or another employee might find out. Creating a space where an employee feels comfortable to speak out may help them in expressing their concerns about cultural awareness in the workplace. 
  • Retention and Turnover: Sometimes it takes a loss of an employee to realise that something is wrong. Monitor your turnover rates by investigating reasons for leaving the organization. Try to identify any patterns that may be related to a lack of cultural awareness. But make sure not to make an employee feel uncomfortable and don’t push the subject if they don’t have any comments on it. 

Next Steps: 

How do you demonstrate cultural awareness? Cultural awareness in the workplace, no matter what country you come from or how big your business is, should be a priority that you strive to work on every day. It will not only lay the foundation for teams that will thrive but create a culture that people from all over the world want to be a part of. 

Keep your message of cultural awareness at the forefront of your business by investing in a targeted messaging campaign with Workforce campaigns. We craft appropriate and effective messaging campaigns that are professional and hard hitting which can be downloaded at the click of a button. You message can be displayed on twelve touchpoints to ensure you are getting your point across. Visit our store today to find a campaign that is suitable to your needs! 


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