Cultural Diversity: the perks of working in a multinational organization

“Diversity; the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcom Forbes

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October was Global Diversity Awareness month at Ericsson; the month dedicated to demonstrating Ericsson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. During the month, activities were lined up globally, and in each local company. On October the 31st, Ericsson West Africa culminated the activities with a Cultural Diversity Day – where all employees were enjoined to come to work in an attire that best represents their cultural heritage.  Also, a prize was presented to the best dressed employee!

Of course, people showed up, and showed out! Indeed, Nigeria boasts about 250 ethnic groupings across the thirty-six states and federal capital, each with jaw-dropping native costumes. Therefore, one could imagine the ‘mother’ of all traditional fashion shows at the office! Not to be outdone, some of our expatriates also appeared in Nigerian attires, to the delight of everyone! After all, they live – and ‘belong’ – here for now anyway.

I could recall some moment of reflection on and appreciation of the diversity and unity in my workplace. I was struck by the consciousness that indeed the fun and camaraderie we all shared on the Cultural Diversity Day signpost some of the pluses of working in a multinational setting such as Ericsson. You have people from various parts of the world, different ages, genders, all working together to achieve a common goal. And while, of course, the large mix comes with its own issues, the benefits of inclusiveness, in my opinion, far outweigh whatever trials.

As it were, working in a diverse environment makes for enriching learning experience which helps to shape one’s broader perspective of things.  It wasn’t tasking for me though to fit into the setting, given my university experience with people from all over the world. However, a striking point is that the office/professional setting offers even more room for learning yet. In our daily interactions, meetings with colleagues, partners and clients, we imbibe lessons from one another consciously and otherwise unconventionally. I personally have assimilated a lot about countries like Sweden, Kenya, China, South Africa and Ivory coast, just from normal conversations over lunch at the cafeteria.

Indeed, significant benefits accrue from cultural diversity:

It Breeds Innovation and Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

When one sits at a meeting of, say, six people of different cultural backgrounds and experiences, several perspectives and suggestions to addressing a problem often ensue.  Every participant brings something unique to the table –thinking out of the box. While discussions may occasionally lead to disagreements, eventually one gets truly humbled upon realising that there really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to addressing situations in the world. The key is to keep an open mind, argue constructively, and discount personal differences; conscious that the best interest of the organisation is paramount.

Fosters Better Interpersonal Relations and Communication:

In a culturally-diverse working environment, one is on a steep learning curve, and needs to be tactful/sensitive in relating with colleagues. I have learnt that listening more, being observant, and making a conscious effort to understand and appreciate various cultural nuances help. People from certain cultures, for instance, place a high value on hierarchy and respect; some may be more vocal and confident in airing their views, while others may be reserved. Even non-verbal communication, gestures, eye contact, shaking of hands, and so on, vary by culture. A little research goes a long way in helping to address diversity situations, even for matters that one may perceive as simple. And here’s an interesting infographic I found on the different handshakes around the world!

International Network:

Working in a culturally diverse organisation exposes one to a large network of multicultural individuals or groups. One’s skills, interactions and work ethics are not only appreciated in the individual’s immediate environment, but also recognised globally. Opportunities do arise to travel across the globe to deliver services based on one’s professional skills and expertise. Such offshore travels afford international exposure and networks for career advancement beyond one’s expectations.

Free Travel Advice:

For Travel enthusiasts like me, this is an added advantageEarlier in the year, my friends and I made a trip to Kenya and Rwanda. Indeed, most of the tourist sites we visited came well recommended by my colleagues, who had unbeknownst to them successfully advertised their country to me over the years. While it otherwise seems easy to go online and check out places of interest, nothing beats a personal story. Without a tour guide, my friends and I were able to blend and navigate smoothly within both countries, in a manner suggestive that we had visited the place prior.

For an organisation, the benefits of cultural diversity are also far-reaching. Besides innovative ideas, wider market coverage and stronger corporate brand are dividends. I appreciate that at Ericsson, it is not only about strengthening the brand, but a true and conscious appreciation and celebration of diversity and inclusion. Here, no incident or feeling of marginalisation based on gender, age, or race.  One is truly fortunate to be part of the culturally-diverse environment that continues to enrich one professionally and personally.

Diversity and inclusion are important. They engender a healthy, united, stronger business and society for the benefit of all.

Click here to learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at Ericsson.

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