Embracing Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: A Path to Success

Cultural Diversity

Embracing Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: A Path to Success


Cultural diversity (diversity and inclusion) in the workplace has become a driving force in today’s globalised world. As organisations increasingly recognise the value of a diverse workforce, it’s essential to understand what cultural diversity actually means, why it’s crucial, and how to promote it effectively. This article explores the significance of cultural diversity in an organisational context and provides insights on promoting, managing challenges, and celebrating diversity within the workplace.


What is Cultural Diversity in the Workplace?

Cultural diversity in the workplace refers to the presence of employees from various cultural, ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds within an organisation. It encompasses differences in values, beliefs, customs, languages, and experiences. A culturally diverse workforce is characterised by a variety of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to work, creating a rich tapestry of human experiences within the organisation.

Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability

Source: McKinsey


Why is Cultural Diversity Important in the Workplace?

Actively embracing and embedding cultural diversity within your organisations is crucial for several reasons:

  • Innovation and Creativity: Diverse teams bring together a wide range of viewpoints and ideas, fostering innovation and creativity.
  • Market Understanding: Employees from diverse backgrounds can provide insights into global markets, enhancing the organisation’s ability to connect with a broader customer base.
  • Better Decision-Making: Diverse teams reduce groupthink, leading to more informed and effective decision-making.
  • Employee Engagement: Inclusive workplaces promote higher levels of employee engagement, which contributes to improved individual and team performance.
  • Global Competitiveness: In a globalised world, organisations that embrace cultural diversity are better equipped to compete internationally.

 Organisations with diverse leadership teams generated 19% higher revenue due to innovation 

Source: Boston Consulting Group


How to Promote Cultural Diversity in the Workplace?

The promotion of cultural diversity in the workplace should not be characterised by a set of stand-alone tasks but rather as a holistic, intentional, and strategic practice that spans the entire employee journey and which is supported without exception by all organisational members (top to bottom!). Similarly, it is not about ticking off a list of “Diversity To Do’s” but rather creating a culture that incorporates these diversity expectations and practices into the fabric of everyday work life. 

At the strategic level, McKinsey (McKinsey Website Article: Delivering Through Diversity) calls out 4 imperatives for building a successful D&I strategy – these being: 

  1.  Articulate and cascade CEO commitment to galvanise the organsation
  2. Define inclusion and diversity priorities that are based on the drivers of the business-growth strategy 
  3. Craft a targeted portfolio of diversity and inclusion initiatives to transform the organisation
  4. Tailor the strategy to maximise local impact

In essence, McKinsey’s approach to diversity and inclusion emphasises the significance of top leadership’s commitment, extending this dedication to all levels, with a particular focus on middle management. This commitment should seamlessly align with the company’s growth strategies, considering how they recruit and advance individuals based on their diverse backgrounds and experiences. To make this approach effective, companies should formulate tailored plans that resonate with their workforce and align with their overarching growth objectives. Furthermore, flexibility is crucial, allowing organisations to adapt their approach to suit distinct areas within the company, diverse geographical locations, and the unique needs of their workforce.

Source: McKinsey : Delivering Through Diversity


In addition to the above strategic approach to delivering diversity, here are a few tactical factors that you can consider:

  • Values and Behaviours : Revisit your organisational values and identify what behaviours these values espouse – do they speak to the imperative of diversity or not? If not, perhaps it’s time to dust these off and try again.
  • Inclusive Hiring: Implement inclusive hiring practices to ensure equal opportunities for candidates from diverse backgrounds and to ensure diversity is part of the conversation from the outset.
  • Diversity Training: Provide diversity and inclusion training for employees to increase awareness and reduce biases which impact negatively on collaboration and performance.
  • Inclusive Leadership: Develop inclusive leadership at all levels, where leaders actively seek diverse perspectives, model the values and behaviours that support diversity, and challenge directly instances of diversity inequality.
  • Cultural Celebrations: Recognise and celebrate cultural holidays and traditions within the workplace – as leaders and managers we should celebrate the people we lead.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate cultural practices and personal needs. Take the first step and ask your people what they need in relation to unique circumstances. 
  • Organise Team Building Activities: Team building activities foster camaraderie and promote cross-cultural understanding, strengthening the bonds of a culturally diverse workplace.


Challenges Associated with Cultural Diversity

Challenges that organisations must watch out for include:

  • Weak Leadership: As highlighted above by McKinsey, the role of leadership in embedding positive inclusion and diversity practices and attitudes is critical. Unfortunately, many leaders find themselves lacking the gumption to uphold these practices. The reasons for this can be many; however, a crucial supporting factor in embedding D&I lies in psychological safety, which acts as a foundation that can provide the safe environment in which to wholeheartedly commit to the actions and behaviours that must be modelled for effective D&I to manifest.                
  • Communication Barriers: Differences in language and communication styles can lead to misunderstandings and negatively impact the achievement of expected results.                                                                                                               
  • Unconscious Bias: Implicit biases can affect hiring decisions, team dynamics, and organisational culture.                   
  • Conflict Resolution: Cultural misunderstandings can lead to conflicts that need to be addressed effectively.                
  • Exclusion: Failure to make all employees feel valued and included can lead to feelings of exclusion.

Companies with higher representation of women on their boards outperformed those with lower representation by 53% in terms of return on equity 

Source: Catalyst



Cultural diversity in the workplace is not just a buzzword; it’s a strategic asset that enhances innovation, market understanding, and decision-making. 

In today’s dynamic business landscape, a growing number of successful companies recognise Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) as a powerful asset that can provide them with a distinct competitive advantage. The motivations behind embracing D&I are diverse, reflecting the multifaceted nature of contemporary corporate culture. 

Irrespective of these motives – the story that the data is presenting suggests that by fostering an inclusive environment, companies empower their employees to perform at their best, resulting in higher levels of creativity, productivity, and innovation. This approach to L&D is not only about compliance or responsibility; it’s a forward-looking investment in the future of the organisation. 


Need Help?

Are you ready to transform your organisation’s performance and tap into the incredible power of cultural diversity? 

Contact us at OMT Global and we can help decode the intricacies of cultural differences within your teams and turn them into a strategic advantage. Our diagnostic approach will help you to better understand your team’s dynamics, foster effective communication, and boost innovation and performance. 

OMT Global

Established in 1989, OMT works with large organisations to develop the leadership skills of their people managers, from first-time leaders right through to senior-level executives. We provide a range of consultancy, training and development services for organisations that want to further develop and retain their talent. OMT excels in helping organisations move from ad hoc or one-off efforts to a new way of behaving and working.

Talk to us about how we can help you and your organisation