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Diversity in the workplace: Increasing Your Cross-Cultural Awareness

UnityAustralia is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world, with 46 per cent of Australian’s born overseas or has a parent who was born overseas. This, combined with increased globalisation of the business world demands a heightened awareness of cultural diversity when dealing with businesspeople of differing nationalities. In order to achieve a successful business transaction, priority must be placed on cross-cultural adaptability.

What is Cross-Cultural Adaptability?

Cross-Cultural adaptation is the ability of a person to adjust to the ideas, customs and social behaviour of an unfamiliar culture, and consequentially be able to work effectively without any cultural barriers.

Australia’s Corporate Culture

There are several distinctive key elements of Australia’s corporate culture that make it unique, and should be understood when dealing with business in the country:

  1. Personal Relationships are valued
  2. Negotiations proceed quickly, however, some time should be allowed for giving and taking
  3. Interactions are fairly informal, with managers preferring to be addressed by their first name
  4. Eye contact is important when conversing, as it indicates that you are listening and paying attention
  5. Australians tend to shorten, substitute and combine words into ‘slang’ language, which is often without using correct grammar or social ‘niceties’.

With increasing diversity, however, these cultural ideals cannot be relied upon to influence business interactions, as other cultures have significantly different methods of practice. Examples of differing corporate cultural values include:

  1. China – businesspeople are greatly influenced by customs and tradition.
  2. France – employees operate under clearly defined roles and identifiable contributions.
  3. Germany – workers place priority on the quality of relationships.
  4. USA – organisations emphasise control and mastering a piece of work.
  5. Brazil – businesses places priority on achieving the defined goals, and less on deadlines.

How you can improve your cross-cultural adaptability

Demonstrating cross-cultural adaptability stems from an organisation’s ability to showcase, promote and demonstrate diverse ideas, customs and behaviours within its business environment. To achieve this, it is essential for organisations to provide an environment that encourages diversity in its employees, through providing appropriate resources and training to increase their cross-cultural adaptability. Once this environment has been created, processes can be put in place to change the organisation’s practices, ideas and behaviours which will allow its members to operate in diverse environments. Additionally, responsibility is placed on the individual to put these processes into action; the onus should not solely be on the organisations to promote cross-cultural adaptability. This personal accountability can be achieved through participation in training and utilisation of the resources that they receive, and using these tools in all future business transactions.


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