How to manage a culturally diverse remote small business team

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Diversity in the workplace is a topic that gets a lot of attention, but just how well are small businesses doing when it comes to hiring a more diverse workforce?  A scientific poll conducted last year by Small Business Majority found that small businesses are doing a good job at hiring a diverse set of entry-level employees although more can be done to increase the number of women and minorities in upper-management roles. The poll found that the proportion of women and minorities working in small business non-management roles reflects the diversity of America.

It turns out that increasing workplace diversity isn’t just the “right” thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. In “Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions,” Josh Greenberg points to several benefits of workplace diversity.  Organizations employing a diverse workforce can bring to market a greater variety of solutions to problems in service, sourcing and allocation of resources. Diverse workplaces also can provide a broader range of skills and experiences to service customers on a global basis. And companies hiring a diverse workforce benefit from a range of viewpoints, which can foster more ideas to draw on to meet business needs.

And if these benefits aren’t enough of an incentive to encourage workplace diversity, a study by McKinsey & Company, “Why diversity matters,” finds that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.  Ethnically diverse companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Manage a culturally diverse remote workforce

It’s one thing to manage a culturally diverse workforce when everyone is under the same roof. However, when a small business team includes employees working in different parts of the globe, there are more challenges. Remote.co offers advice for managing a culturally diverse remote workforce. Among its recommendations:

  • Educate yourself on what it means to be “culturally sensitive.” Don’t impose Western or a US-based approach to team members in other countries. Encourage communication to find out what works best for employees. As an example, ask globally remote employees about the best way to approach a task in their country.
  • Have a broad understanding of how work ethics play out in other countries. From country to country there are differences in what are considered an appropriate number of breaks to how much vacation is expected. Don’t impose US-based work values on workers abroad. Find out what is the norm and judge workers from that point of view.
  • Use cultural differences as a reason to celebrate, not separate. Use them as a way for team members to learn about other countries and customs.

Also employ virtual meetings whether video or web conferencing to bring teams from everywhere together for an all hands update or to enable small groups to collaborate. Cloud-based conferencing tools make it easy to launch a meeting from anywhere. Noise canceling headsets will ensure that background noise won’t interfere with the communication.

Above all, emphasize the team’s vision and goals. They are something everyone can get on board with regardless of their cultural differences.

As we enter the New Year, best wishes for continued success in meeting your small business goals!

 

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.