Five Effective Communication Strategies for Diverse Teams

In today’s workplaces, it’s common to find team members from all different parts of the world. The biggest challenge of managing cross-cultural teams is to ensure that no team members' contributions, skills and talents are hidden under cultural differences. Immigrants have always been a critical part of Australia’s workforce and their contribution is growing at a steady pace.

They bring with them their unique sets of expertise and skills which are invaluable to organisations in multiple ways.

We often take our communication techniques for granted in that we make assumptions, make decisions, and form unconscious opinions based on our own cultural values. Effective communication instils a feeling of cohesion and unity in your teams.

Let’s take a closer look at communication barriers in diverse teams:

· Direct and indirect communication

While western cultures tend to prefer direct communication, other cultures often prefer indirect ways to communicate.

· Accents and fluency

Non-English speaking employees often feel sidelined due to their inability to express their ideas clearly in the predominant language of the workplace.

· Different Attitudes Towards Hierarchy

In American cultures, for example, the employees often address the boss by their first name. Employees from diverse cultures may be more reticent in opening up a conversation with the leader.

How can you improve communication when it comes to managing multicultural teams?

1. Learn How the Source Culture Accepts Information

Different cultures accept (and trust) communication from different sources. For example, some cultures are not comfortable with direct, public communication in front of a group. Others may prefer communications to come through their group supervisor or line manager. Some cultures are more comfortable with written or email communication while others prefer oral communications from their manager.

2. Implement Training Programmes for New Employees

Timely implementation of diversity and inclusion courses can be a useful way to orientate new employees early on and to make them familiar with some of the basic steps in effective communication. This helps prevent many of the pitfalls associated with poor communication and misunderstandings.

It’s important to ensure that everyone understands that effort should be made to overcome any misunderstandings that can arise from different styles of communicating.

3. Local Employees Should Also Undergo Training

Communication skills training is essential not only for employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds but for all employees. This helps them appreciate the importance of having a diverse workforce and also motivates them to shift their mindsets in the process.

It’s also very important for managers and leaders to undergo adequate training as they may not be aware of the challenges faced by diverse employees. Experiencing culture shock can be stressful but having managers that acknowledge and embrace difference always helps make new employees feel welcome.

4. Slow Down Your Communication

While communicating with cross-cultural teams, speak slowly, paraphrase your words often and ask your team if they understand fully. If they have any uncertainty take time to clarify for them. Consider sending out written copies of all communications so your staff are able to process them in their own time without slowing down productivity.

5. Request for Regular Feedback

One of the most effective ways to improve your cross-cultural skills is to seek regular feedback from your employees. Let your team know you want to become more sensitive to their needs while providing guidance on their duties and roles.

The steps outlined above helps eliminate hidden resentments that fuel unproductive conflict.

Implementing leadership and diversity training workshops can help create an inclusive culture which is a key step towards harnessing diversity benefits. Symmetra has a range of face-to-face and online programs which can enhance inclusivity and ensure more effective cross-cultural communication.

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