Future of Cultural Diversity & Business
As more businesses are entering the global market, it becomes very essential to understand cultural diversity. Thus, it is important to realize how diversity can affect performance. The world has changed faster than ever. The future is already here. The current pandemic has forced all of us to adopt these changes faster than ever before… For all these reasons, it was a real pleasure to have this conversation with Rohan Shah, founder of Hedweeg Innovations and host of the Future Talk, about the Future of Cultural Diversity & Business discussing leadership, working across different cultures, and the particular time we are facing.
What was your inspiration for starting Global Mindset Development?
How does it link to the future?
I started Global Mindset Development and I call it specifically like that because for me it is not only working with cultures or on intercultural communication. It is helping people to develop a mindset or to change their mindset and to be open to all the world opportunities. Therefore I think it’s linked to the future and all the opportunities that the future can bring.
The problem of communication across cultures is not only limited to the case you are in the same office anymore. How can we manage that remotely in such uncertain times?
When you are working remotely, it is not easy to identify that you have a communication issue. For example, my Maltese clients that work with India say that one of the issues is that Indians “never say no”. This is cultural! In fact, in the Indian culture, for a number of reasons, it is better not to say “no” or not showing disagreement in public, so the answer you are receiving is a yes but the actual meaning is no. It is what we call in intercultural communication the ability of “reading the air” or “reading between lines”.
Now, think about this when you work remotely, and all the misunderstandings that may generate. If they are not aware, the risk is that this communication is like a pause for weeks or months because you are waiting for an answer or you thought that that answer was ‘yes’ but then you don’t receive that product or service you had requested.
A lot is going on in working remotely and also in the challenges, and again, communication is the easiest one to identify but you can have other challenges linked to a different leadership style, different team management style… so the more we can, through all our work and our training, bring all these difficult conversations up, uncover them, the more we can then be able to tackle them and find solutions.
Lots of people across the globe migrate every year to different countries for job or project assignments. They will keep moving, however, the dynamics have changed significantly since this pandemic. How will the companies, societies react to this and address future needs?
I think we can identify two issues. The first one is that travel has been more difficult in all these months. Companies working internationally and people that used to travel to different countries to check a product or a service or manage an office… this year they were not able. So they had to improve their online communication and the procedures they used.
Of course, there is something that is still missing that is the personal, face to face, relationship, that, in some cases, was a faster way to solve some issues. We are adapting but at the same time, we are waiting for that time where we will be able to get back to travel and meet in person. Probably we will do this less than before because now we know also that we can save time and money … but of course, for others, there’s still a need to meet in person.
The second one is the change in the migration project of many expats, of people living abroad. Either maybe they lost their job and so in this case they have to reconsider where to live and how to live and find another job. But even if they still have their job, some of them are thinking to go back to their country of origin. This pandemic has made evident that we all need a support network. We need to have our social support. We are also constantly worried about our loved ones, either they are abroad or left behind.
I know, in Malta and in Italy, many decided to go back to their country “temporary” – maybe – even if they don’t know for how long it will be. We have people from Peru that decided to fly back to their country or from North Africa. This is something also to take into consideration from an HR perspective. HR should consider if they want to keep an employee to consider to have her working remotely for a while or to help them to find a support network or to reunite with their families. Of course, to do this you also need trust… Let’s say trust is another issue across cultures and when working remotely that we have to be aware of.
Now, coming to cultural diversity again, in this time of globalization, I think cultural diversity is very important… compared to the challenges, it has more benefits… and to be truly global inclusion of cultural diversity is important… what do you think?
That is a very interesting and important point. There are a lot of studies that show that diverse companies are more creative. But the step further that we have to do is that it’s not only about diversity. It’s not only about how many nationalities/different people you have in your company, but it is about to value their diversity. If people feel that they are included in a company and they are valued and their opinion counts… They can give more, be more creative, and be less afraid of innovation.
Leaders of the future need to be more flexible and adaptable working with different cultures and people. Do you think, “this will be an essential skill for future leaders?”
Yes, absolutely, and I think we need to speak about it. I think there is a need to have an approach that is human-centred. Of course, it’s not easy. You have leaders that have years of experience. They have worked maybe all their life in the same country and cultures. Now they have to make this switch. But it is truly something that can give back to the company a lot more. Indeed it opens opportunities, new markets, new niches, a new project or new networks.
What are the fundamental similarities between humans across the globe or culture? How can we harness them or leverage them in the times of globalization?
I think the pandemic has shown us a lot of similarities even if it was managed differently by the different countries. During the pandemic, I created a series that I called Far From Home: a talk with a friend abroad. I had the opportunity to talk with more than 40 people, friends and friends of friends.
The aim was sharing our experiences, what we were going through and also the resources we were discovering to deal with these challenging times. I think this is something all of us as human beings need and want. We need to share what we are going through and we need to find support. We need to care and to have someone that cares about us. Also what we found is that we all have amazing skills and resources and an incredible capacity to adapt, our resilience.
We are facing more and more challenges and changes. We are in a new and controversial period. Everybody is struggling, even if we still have a job, even if we are still healthy… But we are all struggling, this is what can help us: sharing to feel more human and more connected… And this is what we need.