Internationally Diverse Employees are Sexy

January 24, 2012

You can stop dialling your lawyer to file a sexual harassment lawsuit.  I am not about to encourage CEOs and HR managers to start hiring job candidates because the new employee is a curvy Brazilian supermodel or a well tanned Italian stallion.  Excuse the controversial headline and start thinking “attractive” along the lines of what cultural diversity can contribute to an organization that is faced with the culturally diverse challenges that a globalized workplace delivers.

So just to be clear, hiring hunky Alessandro because he is an enjoyable piece of eye candy is NOT alright.

It IS alright to hire Alessandro because his education, work experience and professional work ethic make him a good fit for the available position.  And it is perfectly acceptable that his cultural background gives him an added edge in the eyes of the potential employer because the marketing position that he applied for means that he will be dealing with many partner companies overseas in Europe making his heritage an added bonus when it comes to bridging the lines of communication.

Encouraging a culturally diverse workplace where there are people from a variety of international backgrounds is extremely attractive to employers for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that it is profitable to the fact that it is marketable.

According to Targeted Diversity Recruitment Centre, a diverse workforce enhances:

1. Connection with the customer:
The needs of diverse customers can be better understood when the workforce itself is diverse.

2. Employee motivation:
Employees maintain productivity when they know that they are treated with dignity and respect.

3. Employee innovation:
A work environment favourable to diversity is open and flexible and also favourable to employee innovation.

4. Employee recruitment and retention:
A workplace that emphasizes interest and concern for its employees as people first is able to attract a higher-quality workforce.

5. Continuous quality improvement:
An environment where employee talents are valued will help to continually improve quality.

Creating a diverse work environment is important to employers.  It demonstrates that they support the inclusion of all ethnicities and all backgrounds; encouraging equal opportunity employment.  Companies that encourage this type of a workplace also tend to be the ones that provide the most support and training for their new hires.

So how does this relate to you as the job seeker, not the employer?  It would seem like you are out of luck.  After all, you can’t exactly change your genes.  So if you are a pasty white person (no offense to the pasty white people, I am one of them too and I feel your pain when it comes to trying to get a tan in the summer and ending up looking like a lobster instead) there isn’t much you can do about it if the recruitment office is looking to diversify the team and wants someone with a unique ethnic background.

But let’s think about it for a moment.  Are they really hiring based upon skin colour?  Hopefully Probably not.  They are more likely looking for the diverse cultural viewpoint that they assume is coming with that skin colour. They might indeed be looking for someone to join the business development team that deals mainly with East Asia.  They assume that they should hire someone from that regional background with the expectation that this person will be familiar with the cultural expectations and nuances of doing business in Japan, China, Taiwan and maybe even Mongolia.

They are hiring someone with cultural experience; they are hiring someone who knows how to effectively communicate and deal with these ethnic differences.  Why can’t that be you?

The workplace of the 21st century is looking for diverse employees so you need to make yourself more diverse.  So what if you are one of the aforementioned pasty white people who grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario where the closest thing you had to Chinatown was sushi you can pick up at the pre-made food section of your local Loblaws Superstore.  I know I did.  But that doesn’t mean much on the grand scale of things.  I still know that many Asian countries are high context cultures, preferring to leave things unsaid and let cultural expectations fill in the blanks.  I know that word choice is extremely important since very few words can have such a complex message where as in low context culture such as America, everything needs to be explicit and fully explained.  I know that harmony, order and self-development are important underlying values and therefore confrontations and other forms of disagreements are often avoided which could come at a cost if the party I am dealing with is put in an uncomfortable situation and I don’t realize it.  And I got all that from my extremely brief International Marketing class at college.  Think about the insight I could gain if I actually travelled to and worked in Japan for a few weeks or even a few months.

There is no reason why we need to be restricted by our cultural diversity or lack there-of.

With all the educational travel opportunities available through the hundreds of organizations, there is no excuse for not being diverse on a global scale.  At the very least you can Google the information but that does not compare to living it firsthand.

Here is my advice.  Consider taking some time away to live it firsthand.  If you are a student, take a semester off or commit your summer vacation to doing an international internship.  If you are a more seasoned professional and don’t feel like you are able to take what amounts to 3-6 months off in order to do an internship, consider completing an educational tourism program where you take an intense two week vacation that is dedicated to learning a new skill and immersing yourself in the culture at the same time.  Imagine that you are a senior journalism editor and you had the chance to travel to Cuba to work on an international magazine alongside Cuban locals, engaging in everyday conversations and business interactions.  It would be not only thrilling but a wonderful career advancing use of those vacations days you have been allocated.

When it comes right down to it, diversity is here to stay.  Globalization of the workplace is happening.  International internships, edutourism travel programs and further training are the tools you need to adapt.  Because when it comes right down to it, the business world is changing and if you want to stay ahead of the curve and not close off any avenues of opportunity, you need to be prepared.

Remember, diversity is sexy attractive in a good-for-customer-service-and-innovated-work-environment kind of ways and not an Alessandro-is-super-cute-when-he-has-no-shirt-on kind of a way.

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