Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

It is interesting to note that if the population of the world was reduced to a village of just 100:

  • 61 would be from Asia
  • 13 from Africa
  • 12 from Europe
  • 8 are from South & Central America and the Caribbean
  • 5 from Canada and the USA
  • 1 from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

(Source: If America Were A Village by David Smith Released July 10, 2009)

The January 21, 2003 release of data from the 2001 Census shows Canada to be an increasingly diverse country, particularly in its urban areas.

In Canada, almost 60% of immigrants in the last ten years have come from Asia. In some urban areas, the impact is striking: Vancouver and Toronto both have 37% visible minority populations, with the largest group being Asian.

By 2017, almost 1 in 5 Canadians could be a visible minority.

Because of ever increasing global trade, employers will increasingly need to hire international staff to better serve the diverse population. Cultural intelligence is becoming increasingly important in the Canadian workplace. People from different cultures often have diverse values and beliefs.

By way of example, one of the most obvious differences in the way different cultures view things is what is known as an individual rather than a collective mindset. North Americans generally tend to operate as individuals. They are inclined to measure their success or failure on their individual and independent contributions to the organization.

This reflects how an independent trait is seen as someone having self-made success. However, in a collectivist culture, employees are valued when they work well in groups and when they demonstrate loyalty both to their colleagues and to the company.

As diversity increases in the workplace, so does the necessity of understanding and being able to adapt to differing ways of working with others. This requires an ability to see things from the other person’s point of view.

In order for this to happen, a person needs to be willing to both listen to and respect differences. These skills are becoming increasingly important as the workplace becomes more diverse in its make up. Diversity is about learning from others, providing support and respect to those with similar and different experiences, and creating an encouraging workplace that welcomes new opinions.

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