Research exploring the link between culturally diverse teams and organisational outcomes is relatively sparse, despite the focus on inclusion and diversity in the workplace this past year. Yet the benefits these teams bring to business are numerous – as long as those in leadership positions (like line managers) provide inclusive environments and careful management of their people.

If employers are to strengthen employee relationships in multicultural teams, they need to explore the opportunities and challenges these teams face in the first place. As such, we conducted a series of online focus groups with managers from three different global regions (the UK, Middle East and Asia-Pacific) to assess their varying perspectives on managing multicultural teams.

Download the research insights

The resultant report draws on these findings to offer practical guidance on overcoming communication barriers and problems inherent to cultural differences. It sets out the key recommendations to help managers navigate conflicting viewpoints, opinions and cultural beliefs – the end goal being to foster an environment of inclusivity and empathy within their teams.

Managing multicultural teams: Exploring the opportunities and challenges

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Insights by region

The findings generally encompass all three regions (detailed in the report). However, we’ve captured some of the key regional differences below:

UK

Respondents felt the UK is a multicultural society, but less so than the other regions. Participants also saw innovation and creativity as the key benefits of cultural diversity.

Download the report for UK insights and analyses.

Middle East

Being part of a multicultural team is the norm in the Middle East region. Participants did, however, experience more of the challenges of working in multicultural teams, particularly around communication.

Download the report for Middle East insights and analyses.

Asia-Pacific

Respondents felt pride at living in a region that encourages multiculturalism. Participants experienced similar communication challenges to other regions, but greatly valued the innovation of their teams.

Download the report for Asia-Pacific insights and analyses.

Insights and recommendations from all regions

Here we include a snapshot of findings and recommendations common to all focus group regions (explored in-depth in the report).  

Multicultural teams require patience and openness to be effective  

Make sure you foster patience and openness by: 

  • being sensitive to demographic differences, values, attitudes and experiences 
  • encourage employees to get to know each other on a personal and professional level 
  • suspend your judgement about others until you’ve gathered enough information 
  • avoid a blanket approach to managing different people  
  • treat people in a way that caters to their unique, individual needs. 

Communication is a challenge to master  

You can overcome these communication challenges by: 

  • using meetings to raise awareness of language barriers  
  • nudging ‘code-switchers’ back to the shared language 
  • talking with team members to see what can be done to promote better communication 
  • highlighting the achievements of each team member in meetings 
  • listening out for cultural nuances of communication from team members.  

Remote working resolves some issues but exacerbates others 

Make the most of remote working by: 

  • encouraging the use of rich media like video-conferencing 
  • building awareness of the best intervals to meet when working across time zones 
  • getting to know the communication preferences of your people  
  • finding creative ways to bring the team together for catch-ups and hangouts. 

Download the report, Managing multicultural teams: Exploring the opportunities and challenges, to explore these recommendations in depth.  

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