Discovering People

Chalk and Cheese ö Working in a Diverse Environment

Watch out for this article this Sunday (12th March) in the Sunday Telegraph Employment Lift Out.

In every working environment there is always a complex mix of personalities and cultural diversity. How do we effectively work in and manage such a complex environment? The secret is to embrace it and work with it.

As the work force is becoming more diverse, the more factors become involved in the day to day functioning of a work environment including age, gender, race, language, personality and education. The 1950ās version of an employee ö a young white male, with a wife and 2.3 children who is the sole breadwinner ö is a notion of the past ö an outdated stereo type. The only generalisation to be made about the current workforce is donāt generalise about it.

The first step to cohesion in a transformational and divergent workplace is to identify and accept that everyone is different. There is no such thing as the perfect or ideal employee. Everyone, like their fingerprints are unique.

Once a manager has accepted that each member of the team is an individual, they can work towards understanding the team and harnessing the power of each personās idiosyncrasies. The individual differences among staff may in fact give the team its unique features, its capacity to be innovative and the ability to achieve.

Not only does a manager need to appreciate the nature of the team but they need to be able to express this to each member. It is essential for a manager to convey that they are aware of everyoneās individuality and that everyoneās contribution is as important as the next. Nothing makes an employee more secure and needed than a sense of belonging.

While appreciating each personās individuality it is important to allow team members to think for themselves. This fosters and also extracts a personās unique characteristics and identifies to the team the individualās strengths and also their weaknesses. By bringing these strengths and weakness forth a manager can identify areas for improvement, areas for praise and specific areas that will ultimately enhance the groups performance. It is also important to convey that there is no such thing as a stupid question or answer- each person has their own way of contributing. This will allow the team to develop and grow together, giving them a sense of empowerment, instilling in the team a notion of commonality of purpose that will bring them together. It is essential as a manager to involve everyone by giving them the freedom to express their own ideas and desires for the team. This will help to foster an environment where people feel motivated and feel they can contribute to the cause. "People with different dreams can share the same bed" ö Chinese saying.

A key point to successfully managing diverse work environments is to be adaptable. Change your management approach to suit each individual - each person needs to be managed in a different way dictated by their needs while keeping a central management style or thread that is common with all staff.

Overall, the keys to success are to remain focused, determined to work effectively and have a sense of humour!


Corrine McDonald ö Recruitment Consultant, Temporary Division and Assistant Manager Discovering People - Hurstville