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Championing Multiculturalism and Inclusivity in the Workplace

Businesses around the world are increasingly championing the idea of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). As the U.S. diversifies faster than ever predicted and the world grows more connected by the day, business leaders are increasingly recognizing the need to build a representative workforce. Diversity training is becoming a basic part of employee onboarding. But building an office culture that actually supports multicultural individuals and practices and where everyone does feel like they belong is another thing entirely. To create an environment where all employees can flourish and benefit from multiculturalism, organizations needs to break down long-established barriers to inclusivity. Here’s what you need to know about how multiculturalism impacts the workplace and how you can develop more inclusive policies for a more welcoming culture.

How Multiculturalism Impacts the Workplace

When business leaders discuss culture in the workplace, they often focus on company culture, which includes the values and goals that all your employees share. However, no matter how ingrained your team members are in your shared culture, they also have beliefs and customs that they follow at home. Their unique cultural backgrounds directly impact how these employees think and behave.

As such, navigating a multicultural workplace can be challenging. There is the risk of misinterpretation, since professional etiquette and non-verbal communication can vary between cultures. Plus, when a certain culture is particularly prominent, those from non-dominant cultures may feel impacted by stereotypes, microaggressions, and a general feeling of being an outsider in the workplace..

Diversity training can be a start to easing the tensions within a multicultural workplace. However, when you make active efforts to incorporate multiculturalism into your shared company culture, you can create an environment where everyone can flourish equally. This allows you to truly reap the benefits of a multicultural workplace — including increased creativity and productivity across your team.

Policies That Promote Inclusivity

So how can you make multiculturalism a core part of your employee culture? It starts with developing policies that allow for greater cultural flexibility. While it’s important to create company-wide standards for employees, it’s also critical to be mindful of how your policies can affect your team members’ comfort on the job and feelings of belonging in your work environment. Here are two examples of policies that you can implement to promote inclusivity in the workplace.

Inclusive Dress Codes

Company dress codes can be a major cause for exclusion in the workplace. While often overlooked, your dress code policy can be gendered, inaccessible, and — relevant to multicultural workplaces — non-inclusive of minority cultures. For example, many traditional dress code policies prevent the wearing of face coverings and hats. This can make your work environment uncomfortable for people who prefer to wear religious attire, such as turbans and burkas, since they’ll have to decide to change their wardrobe or ask for accommodations and go against your company norms.

More generalized dress code policies give employees the freedom to embrace their cultures while still ensuring professionalism in your workplace.

Restrictive hairstyle policies should also be avoided. Long hair and facial hair can have important significance in some cultures, like some Native American and Sikh cultures, while dreadlocks and cornrows are traditional hairstyles for Black and African professionals.

Flexible PTO

Employers often offer paid holidays at the end of December so employees can celebrate holidays, and focus on a rest from business. However, not everyone celebrates holidays included in this time period. For instance, Muslim employees may prefer time off during Ramadan, which is as significant in Islamic cultures as Christmas in Christian cultures, while East Asian professionals may prefer to celebrate Lunar New Year. Multicultural families may even celebrate holidays from multiple countries and religions.

Treating late December as your company’s holiday season can force minority cultures to use their remaining paid time off (PTO) to celebrate the events closest to their hearts. This leaves little time for family vacations and mental health breaks throughout the year.

Flexible PTO policies foster more inclusivity in the workplace. Rather than requiring two weeks off around Christmas and the New Year, consider allowing employees to choose when they taketheir paid holidays.

Welcome Feedback With Open Arms

When you’re developing a multicultural workplace, you won’t always perfect your policies right away. Seeking feedback from employees is the best way to determine how inclusive your efforts really are. Be willing to learn about your team members’ cultural needs and make changes to your cultural development efforts based on the insights they provide.

As all your employees begin to feel equally valued in the workplace, they’ll be better equipped to thrive — and many will remain loyal to your company for longer periods of time.

Noah Rue

Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn't searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.

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