Concern for business
In the complexity of today’s businesses, one fundamental principle of success remains constant and that is the need for communication (Humes). For the past several years, the workforce within organizations and companies are increasing in diversity, thus, communication should take into consideration several intercultural elements in order to become effective. How to nurture and maintain effective intercultural communication between employees and outside the boundaries of the organization is now becoming an area of increasing concern for business.
In carrying out this research, the use of literature review was utilized in order to learn more about multiculturalism, diversity and on maintaining effective communication between individuals who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds. With advances in technology and the advent of a global economy, diversity and the merging of people of different cultures in organizations becomes inevitable. Diversity and multiculturalism are current issues in the workplace that will continue to present formidable challenges.
Diversity refers to the entire spectrum of an individual’s dimensions, primary of which include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation. Secondary dimensions may include communication style, work style, organizational role/level, economic status, and geographic origin. Multiculturalism, on the other hand, refers to the specific policies developed to respond to and manage ethnic diversity. History has shown us that nations are enriched by the ethnic, cultural, and language diversity among its citizens (Banks, 2001).
Organizations of today are increasingly realizing the fact that to achieve success and maintain competitive advantage, they need to expand their outlook and use creative strategies to draw on their most important resource – the skills of a diversified and multicultural workforce. Workplace diversity and multiculturalism are people issues that are focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization and how these can be harnessed to create the environment and organizational culture for making differences work.
Experience and recent research indicate that when recognized and valued, both enhance individual productivity, organizational effectiveness, and sustained competitiveness. In such an environment of rapid change and transition, organizations must work to constantly develop and maintain in diverse workforce new knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes and ways of thinking, being and doing. Since the great wave of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, the racial and ethnic diversity of the American population has been changing at its most dramatic rate (Briggance & Burke, 2002).
Persons neither white nor African American constitutes almost 18% of its population today, and this demographic change is further escalating according to the Population Projections branch of the U. S. Census Bureau Communications skills are of primary importance as it serves as the foremost connection between the major functions and main purpose of an organization. Effective communication within the workplace setting continues to be one of the basic challenges to organizations, especially in this global age where intercultural differences abound.
The way personnel communicate in an organization can further spell “the difference between efficiency and ineptitude, success and failure, making money or losing it” (Winnet). Robert Kent, a former dean of Harvard Business School even stated that “In business, communication is everything” (Blalock, 2006). Indeed, communication, if ineffective, is expensive for business. The National Commission on Writing estimates that American businesses spend around three billion dollars per year in order to provide adequate training in writing and methods of effective communication for various individuals
What makes intercultural communication important is the changing environment and increasing complexity of the 21st century workplace. First, organizations are getting flatter ad leaner, which means that managers must communicate with as many people whom they have no formal control. In today’s participatory trend of management, communication provides the key to build trust, promote understanding and empower and motivate others. Secondly, the employee base is correspondingly getting diverse, reflecting differences in age, ethnic heritage, race, physical abilities, gender and sexual orientation.
Diversity is increasingly becoming an economic issue for most companies rather than just social responsibility as they realize the advantage of making full use of the creativity, talents, experiences and perspective of a diverse employee base. Lastly, the use of teams is getting to be the in thing in the 21st century workplace where collaboration all depends on communication. With businesses getting more global, the challenges for more effective intercultural communication are equally getting more difficult.
Organizations need to conduct negotiations and bargain for agreements during their overseas business contracts as well as consider joint ventures and adapt products to answer the needs of a diverse market. To ensure success, these people must be equipped with the skill to effectively communicate with different cultures. Thus, the implication of intercultural communication within the organization or the company is of great magnitude. A case in point is EuroDisney which incurred losses of US $1 million a day in 1994-95 not only because of the recession in Europe but also because of intercultural insensitivity.
Intercultural communication thus means getting the competitive edge. While specialized business knowledge is important, it may well not be enough to guarantee success without the necessary skills in intercultural communication. Individuals with intercultural communication skills are those with certain key competencies and characteristics and usually demonstrate open-mindedness, inquisitiveness, patience and self-awareness. These are the basic skills which help nurture a sympathetic, personal and intuitive approach to doing business.