30 August 2018

Multicultural Teams in Companies

Just a Regular Task or a New Challenge for a Manager?

Practice and experience of successful global companies show that spectacular potential is hidden in multicultural teams which in case of a good approach can be transformed into significant competitive advantages of an organization. In a multicultural environment out-of-the-box views together with innovative ideas and creative approach towards solving current and strategic tasks are generated.

However multicultural teams can also be a source of serious problems for an organization because there is a collision of not only diverse opinions and positions but also different values and worldviews that are by their nature opposing.

The risk of misunderstanding and disagreements is significantly increasing when it comes to representatives of peoples with a complex history of relationships. You might not notice it, but your business is losing several percent of its profit due to arguments among staff about monuments in memory of politicians who lived about half a century ago, about long-gone events or foreign policy of state X which your business has nothing to do with. Multicultural team makes an organization vulnerable to factors that don`t have nothing in common with your business.

Prevention of such problems requires from a leader not only the general knowledge in the sphere of personnel management, but also the ability to distinguish specificity of different cultures, be ready to build relationships between various value systems, to find platforms for consolidation and integration of the representatives of different cultures.

Common mistake of many leaders is a strong belief that having vast experience and high competence in managing a team as such, they can manage any team. However, it's not true. Multicultural teams are complex and fragile systems. Maintaining the environment of constructive competition of ideas and prevention of team members from getting into destructive conflicts of values is a challenging task even for an experienced manager.

Team leaders should be fully aware of the cultural diversity of the staff members they manage, they should be able to adapt to the interlocutor in the process of interpersonal communication, should possess good knowledge of intercultural communication and motivation features of the staff.

Researches show that to form sustainable knowledge, competences and skills in the sphere of multinational personnel management the manager will need about 3 years of practice.This period will be sufficient for being in the environment with different cultural background and through trial and error acquire sufficient knowledge about national and socio-psychological features.

If corporation has a sufficient financial cushion and is ready to sacrifice a couple of years of its development to bring up a manager, who will be capable of managing a multicultural team then this option might be suitable for you. However, what should be done if you want to speed up the process and in 3 years you plan to reach new heights instead of still working on creating favorable environment in the organization? Standard answer to this question is educational programmes for the managers. Having attended a course dedicated to cross-cultural communication, as well as other advanced educational courses about how to interact with representatives of other cultures, you will get the answer to the majority of your questions.

Nevertheless, sometimes even all these things might be insufficient. The fact leader knows how to manage a multicultural team is just half of a solution to a problem, not less important is to be aware of who he specifically manages. For this purpose, qualitative research of the team structure is needed, to define the individual specificity.

It is necessary to realize an important fact: the majority of multicultural teams function and develop more or less the same way, nevertheless every single multicultural team differs from another multicultural one. It is highly likely that your multicultural team is unique, so ready-made ''recipes'' on how to enhance the results and provide new opportunities might be insufficient. In order to increase effectiveness of your team, you should know and understand it. This requires conducting deep socio-psychological research and finding individual approach while establishing training programmes, seminars and consultations.  

Relationships within the team, the way communication between the team and the manager will be established and, in the end, the overall atmosphere in the company, all these depend on how effective the system of communication in a multicultural team will be built and how competent its leaders will be in the sphere of intercultural communication.  

Head of Educational Programmes Department

European Consulting Group "Business & Politics"

dr Natalia Ustinova

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