Managing a Culturally Diverse Team

 

 Introduction

            Diversity, according to Lim and Noriega (2007) refers to the differences among people as characterised by such primary dimensions as race, age, and gender. The workforce diversity that individuals frequently address principally entails these fundamental issues. Nonetheless, not much attention seems to have been paid to the secondary aspects of diversity, which entails issues like relationship, status, religious beliefs, communication style, general appearance, and ethnic customs (Hudson 2008).  These differences are collectively described as cultural diversity. For a very long time, the hospitality industry has come to rely on a cultural diverse workforce. With globalisation now a key component of the corporate strategic planning of organisations in the hospitality industry (Hudson 2008), and as an increasingly larger number of minority employees and migrant labours enter the hospitality industry (Bharwani & Jauhari 2013), it has become necessary that the hospitality industry embrace cultural diversity. In particular, cultural diversity is especially crucial in multi-national hotels where the guests are diverse, the workforce is diverse, and managers are expected to be flexible enough to deal with a cultural diversity of this magnitude. The premise of the current essay is to explore how the management at The Westlin Hotel, Dublin, manages its culturally diverse team of employees, along with the opportunities and challenges involved.

Background

There are three key reasons why it is important that the management of an establishment in the hospitality industry adopts cultural diversity in its operations: (i) they have to deal with a diverse workforce; (ii) the guests visiting the establishment are diverse; and (iii) managers have to have the capacity to deal with the challenges and opportunities of such a diverse setting (Hudson 2008). This is important because the modern consumer in the hospitality industry has become increasingly demanding (Bharwani & Jauhari 2013), and diverse (Hofstede 2013). Consumers in the hospitality industry are also are also increasingly on the lookout for hospitality experiences that offers them multi-cultural dimensions.

            Hofstede (2013) argues that managers ought to converge or diverse business practices in line with the culture of the organisation they are managing. In the hospitality industry, managers are frequently called upon to deal with employees from diverse cultural backgrounds regardless of the property location. This demands that managers diverse certain business practices so that they can embrace diversity. In a cultural study by Hofstedes in which he surveyed some 116,000 IBM employees spread across 53 countries, the findings of the attitude surveys revealed that national culture is vital in distinguishing management practices based on culture (Hofstede 2011). Elsewhere, Bibu et al (2013) in their study that involved intercultural work teams, identified four vital aspects that managers in the hospitality industry ought to take into account if at all they are to lead a successful, culturally diverse team: (i) the ability to consistently realise team goals; (ii) being aware of the competencies, abilities and skills  of various team members; (iii) the ability to continually realise team goals; and (iv) to permit creative development on the basis of skills, abilities, and competencies of the various members of an intercultural team.

Cultural Diversity in the Hospitality industry: Current Status

As globalization moves a notch higher, an increasingly higher number of firms have realised the importance of competing in the global market (Sourouklis & Tsagdis 2013). It is more evident in the hospitality industry.  This has meant that the management at various international hospitality establishments have to deal with diverse guests and workforce. It has also means a change in the existing labour structure to accommodate a changing workforce. For this reason, managing cultural diversity is a big issue for the management of international hospitality establishments. It is important therefore that the management of the hospitality industry take decisive action in not only coping with the challenges, but also following the trends and capitalising on the opportunities that a diverse workforce presents (Bencsik 2016).

Various organisations in the hospitality industry have adopted specific strategies in an attempt to deal with the challenges presented by a diverse workforce. For instance, Hilton initiated a training and recruitments programme known as Elevator General Manager Program with the goal of training talented individuals who are also highly mobile so that they can be allocated General Management positions in the hotel's establishment in the international market (Gong 2008).  Candidates to these positions ought to be bilingual, in addition to being from diverse cultural backgrounds. Nonetheless, numerous companies in the hospitality industry still face challenges in terms of effectively managing cultural diversity. Two of these challenges are the stereotypes and discrimination emanating from inadequate assumption of other culture. This is quite evident even amongst managers. For example, many employers in the hospitality industry still harbour the belief that minority workers posses low skills and hence they are mainly offered low-skilled or entry level positions in the company, such as housekeeping and in the kitchen (Baum et al. 2007). Consequently, minorities accounts for between 30 and 50% of the employees in the hospitality industry at the hourly level, even as there are few minorities at the management level (Berta 2006).

Cultural Diversity: Opportunities and Challenges

            Cultural diversity is associated with negative and positive effects on an organisation. Nonetheless, Day (2007) advises that these differences should not be viewed as hazards but as benefits and opportunities in case an organisation can manage these well.

Benefits and opportunities

            The key benefits and opportunities include increased competitiveness, innovation, building image, and knowledge transfer (Baum et al. 2007).  

Competitiveness

            Managing culturally diverse teams leads to increase competitiveness of the firm. Considering the high level of competitiveness in the hospitality industry, surviving in the sector requires that companies take control of their labour costs, in addition to increasing customer count. This demands that companies take decisive measures in order to achieve these goals, including reducing their turnover, motivating the workforce, and attracting more customers. Faced with the need to satisfy the needs of a dynamic market, companies in the hospitality industry have resorted to cultural diversity in a bid to serve diverse customer groups with varying characteristics. Therefore, a cultural diverse workforce enables organisations to develop their individual capabilities in order to better understand diverse customer needs, in addition to maintaining long-term business relations with the customers.

At The Westin Hotel, Dublin, nearly half of the employees (50%) is made up of employees from 20 varied nationalities (Pieters 2014). The management has started various initiatives such as themes days and social events in the staff restaurant.  Additionally, the management has ensured that all staffs have access to diversity training, while managers have also been facilitated to become aware of the value of cultural diversity in the organisation, and to aid their staff in realising diversity. Thanks to the Westlin Hotel’s robust inclusion and diversity program, the company is in a better position to leverage employees' potential and unique strengths, in effect improving workplace effectiveness and productivity. This enables the business to work efficiently in a culturally diverse city such as Dublin where clients to the hotel are likely to be drawn from diverse nationalities, race, and religious affiliations.

Innovation

            According to Johansson (2007), cultural diversity has been shown to stimulate novel business innovations. This is because employees from diverse experience and cultural backgrounds bring in the industry valuable innovations by offering novel ideas from their diverse perspectives. Many surveys (for example,   ) show that in case a general workforce or team encompasses individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, such a workforce helps to present more effective resolutions for the business problems. In comparison with a homogeneous group of employees, diversified employee groups have been shown to manifest efficiency and outstanding performance in executing their duties. This variation is partly due to the increased novelty and creativity   of culturally diverse teams (Seymen 2006) owing to their diverse views, experiences, and perspectives.  

Knowledge transfer

Cultural diversity is also crucial in knowledge transfer. In a mono workplace, it is much easier to transfer knowledge and communicate with employees. This increases efficient as any communication barriers that might be present are greatly reduced. With a multi-cultural workforce however, it becomes increasingly complex to transfer knowledge. This is because the transfer of information and knowledge is strongly reliant on how capable employees are in accessing information and interpreting it (Boateng & Agyemang 2015). According to Bencsik (2016), 'knowledge, and its management, as well as its transfer become more complicated when applied in diverse intercultural environment ' (p.249). The Westlin Hotel promotes the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse employees, and actively engages in efforts to develop a diverse owner, guest and supplier base. This makes it easier to communicate, promote and transfer knowledge.

Building Images

            An organisation can enhance its corporate image by embracing cultural diversity. An organisation with a multi-cultural workforce sends out a positive message to the customers and other stakeholders that it is a culturally homogenous workplace, and that it is also likely to accommodate customers from diverse cultural settings. This is very important for companies in the hospitality industry, given the diverse nature of their customer. In the case of The Westlin Hotel, the high percentage of its workforce from different nationalities paints the picture of a company characterised by a highly inclusive culture. This is likely to attract more customers to the hotel.

Challenges

Baum et al (2007) opines that despite the aforementioned benefits of a diverse workforce, companies in the hospitality industry still encounter various challenges.

Communication challenges

Various cultural backgrounds and diverse languages escalate the challenge of communication between members of a diverse workforce in an organisation. Language is regarded as a vital component of the various cultural aspects that constitute cultural identity. Powell (2006) opines that language differences frequently lead to miscommunication. Differences in cultural backgrounds also make it hard for employees from diverse backgrounds to communicate effectively (Baum et al. 2007). 

Employees of a company characterised by a diverse working environment are thus usually poorly prepared in managing the high level of uncertainly common in intercultural communication.  According to Baum et al. (2007) various cultural backgrounds usually arouse misunderstanding in the event that communication becomes inefficient or unsuccessful. If at all the managers at The Westlin Hotel are to ensure that their staffs effectively work in a diverse background, they need to be sensitive to cultural differences that are likely to impact on employees' working relationships (Seymen 2006). Towards this end, the company has been involved in cross-cultural training in an effort to assist employees deal with intercultural communication challenges.

Discrimination Issues

            Cultural diversity leads to communication challenges and misunderstandings, which in turn trigger discrimination. Discrimination issues could see an organisation faced with increased claims and lawful, thereby reducing employee retention rates, increase the company's costs, and affect the corporate image negatively (Baum et al. 2007). To avoid such challenges, The Westlin Hotel has instituted cultural diversity as part of its policy. In addition, the company has also developed various programs with the goal of increasing awareness on the need for a multicultural workforce.

Training challenges

            The key goals of diversity training are to increase sensitivity and build up respect among customers and employees alike.  Lim and Noriega (2007) advocates on the need to reduce short-sightedness in employees and cultural ethno-centricism as the starting point to developing a diverse workforce. In this case, multicultural training aids in enhancing awareness regarding cultural diversity amongst employees, in addition to establishing a culturally rich environment (Baum et al. 2007). The Westlin Hotel periodically conducts training needs of its employees with the aim of assisting them to understand the benefits and requirements of cultural diversity. Additionally, training is also aimed at increasing the employees' skills and knowledge in handling customers from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Conclusion

            As the global business environment becomes increasingly competitive, it becomes important that companies adopt strategies that will give them an edge over their competitors. This is very important for the hospitality industry. In this case, having a diverse workforce has enabled companies like The Westlin Hotel in Dublin attract customers from diverse cultural backgrounds owing to its multicultural workforce, thus increasing its competitiveness. Also, the multicultural workforce has enabled the company to increase its level of innovation, and ability to transfer skills and knowledge from various settings. Ultimately, this has help to develop a positive image of the company. However, the company has also been faced with various challenges, including communication barriers and training challenges. To overcome these challenges, the company has resorted to cultural diversity training programs to create awareness on the benefits of multicultural staffs, in addition to adopting cultural diversity as part of its policy. 

 

 

 

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