Creating a diverse workplace

  • Hans M. Verheijke

Hans M. Verheijke

Gründer & Chairman
Business Performance Academy

Der Gründer und Chairman der Business Performance Academy blickt auf eine mehr als 35-jährige internationale Karriere als Führungskraft zurück.


Being open to multiculturalism will make your business ready for the global stage

This article was also published in The Straits Times - March 16, 2012

Article by Hans M. Verheijke,
founder and chairman of The Business Performance Academy in Heidelberg, Germany.

An organisation’s values set the tone for its employees, and its managers have to lead by example. A key value in a global organisation is a respect for cultural diversity. That means, accepting people from other cultures and believing that they can offer a different dimension to the organisation. A respect for differing viewpoints and values is the basis of good teamwork.
The business leader who aspires to be a global one focuses on educating employees to realise that mindsets, and often prejudices, shape behaviour.

Here are some tips to work better with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures:

  • Judge the content of a discussion, not the people who are contributing to it;
  • Match your body language with other people in the room;
  • Do not draw negative comparisons with your own culture;
  • Be ready with a smile — it is a universal gesture of goodwill. Even if you make a mistake, people are more likely to overlook it if they perceive that you are friendly, sincere and open-minded.

Organise and structure

To organise and structure international communicatioins and knowledge-sharing strategies, business leaders must be aware of the important trends related to globalisation:

  • Cumulative innovations. Shared knowledge can lead to innovations and inventions that rise above national abilities.
  • Major uncertainties. The European financial crises and the political transitions in the Middle East are examples of how inter-related the world is. Problems in one area can quickly impact others.
  • Blurring of boundaries. The way people work and live is influenced by not just the digital highway, but also the “air highway”. Air travel is easier, faster and cheaper than ever. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries are more than ready for participation and connectivity.
  • Dismantling of hierarchies. Members of the younger generation are more individualistic and want more say in shaping their lives. They are using digital communication to express their views on social and political matters. Authoritative regimes in many countries are often the target of political discourse.

Nurture the right qualities

Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting aspects of the globalisation challenge is leadership communication. People can learn a lot about the mindset of a global leader by how he communicates with his own team.
Leaders who engage and inspire their local organisations will function well as international heads. Equipped with high levels of emotional intelligence, these leaders are easily accessible, culturally competent and have all the right qualities to build strong international relationships.

Test openness levels

Working internationally means working across one’s own borders. To deal successfully with other cultures means to be open to other ideas. Here are some guidelines to identify your level of openness to change and to different cultures:

  • Name a country you visit regularly.
  • What are five typical habits of this country?
  • How many different “foreign” restaurants do you visit in your home country?

It is common to hear someone say that “the world is getting smaller”.
This is certainly true when you consider how easy it is to communicate with people halfway across the world through technology like e-mail and social media. Huge strides in aviation have also shrunk the time it takes to travel to various parts of the globe.
In a similar way, business leaders who increase accessibility and build a healthy respect for cultural diversity are ready to take their organisations global.