Multiculturalism is a term used both descriptively and prescriptively. It is used descriptively in reference to the cultural diversity of communities with a significant proportion of people with mixed cultural origins. It may describe the demographic makeup of an entire state or that of an organization such as a business, school, city, or neighborhood.
Prescriptively, the term relates to principles and policies that value diversity and is inclusive of cultural variation in language, religion, dress, values, and basic assumptions about life. In terms of integration, multiculturalism is contrasted to assimilation and the expectation that immigrant groups should adapt to the cultural norm. Whereas assimilated communities are often described as “melting pots” or “salad bowls,” the term “cultural mosaic” is more apt to be used in reference to multiculturalism.
The Evolution of Multicultural Workplaces
Many companies now boast a global presence. This has led to a rise in multicultural workplaces. In an age where most of us are celebrating diversity and cross-cultural communications, this is the face of the future.
Just as it made sense for Victorian explorers to hire local guides to lead them through the heart of Africa, it made sense for businesses venturing out of their comfort zones to employ people with local knowledge.
In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race, and ethnicity. It now includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures, and even disabilities. Companies are discovering that, by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they are gaining benefits that go beyond the optics.
The business has the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse, and inclusive society. We can only accomplish this by starting from within our organizations. Many of us know intuitively that diversity is good for business.
The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year. The moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact – as proven by multiple studies – makes this a no-brainer.
As organizations strive to remain competitive, many recognize the necessity of global outreach in order to sustain a strong presence throughout the world. There are many opportunities and challenges facing businesses with an eye toward global outreach.
Many opportunities are associated with a culturally diverse workplace and global expansion may have the potential to provide just such a diverse workgroup. Cross-culturalism in business can provide leaders and employees with a wonderful opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
In addition, “the more opportunities for business leaders to interact with people from different cultures, the more likely they will be to have positive attitudes from different cultures and identify, learn and apply diverse culturally-appropriate business behaviors”
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