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Workplace


that although diverse teams may be more complex to coordinate or manage because everybody doesn’t think and behave the same way, they also tend to be more innovative,” says Cukier. “A real positive outcome of increasing diversity in teams is you get better decisions and better ideas overall.” A 2014 article in the Journal of Diversity


Management noted that the positive effects of a diverse organization include a strong knowledge base created by a variety of cultural experiences, an in- house resource of cultural trainers and informers, as well as a greater tendency to expand the business into foreign locales. But there are some hurdles, including a difficulty achieving harmony in groups and conflicts that require strong manage- ment skills to overcome. Folks from dif- ferent cultures may interact differently, which can lead to misunderstandings. Scott Crowley, regional managing


partner at MNP’s Toronto office, has seen it happen. He worked with one employee from the Netherlands who had a very direct manner, but some perceived her as being overly critical. Another employee from Southeast Asia was accustomed to a hierarchical office environment and was uncomfortable communicating with the higher-ups. “People only know what they know, so it takes a lot of education, learn- ing and shiſting of how you see things,” Crowley says. “Part of an inclusive work- place is understanding our differences and where they come from — it’s about being better through understanding.” To help new immigrants integrate into


the workplace and overcome cultural challenges, MNP works with regional offices and external consultants to create solutions. “Bridging cultural diversity is a competitive advantage in business,” says Karen Cooper, MNP’s vice-president of human resources in Calgary. “Our com- mitment to diversity allows us to draw on knowledge from different cultures, back- grounds and international experiences, and brings richness to our team, clients


and profession.” At MNP, diversity inte- gration is handled through formal onboarding, experiential learning and mentorship programs, as well as targeted diversity hiring to employ people of ethnic descent into specific client groups. “It’s easy to say we’re committed to


inclusiveness, but the only way to know that it’s working is to ask our staff,” Crowley says. “We do 360 reviews with all our staff, myself included, and diversity is a big component. It’s about living these values, not just preaching them.”


How to help everyone get along Creating an inclusive atmosphere is a process of continuous improvement, says Cukier. “Organizations need to under- stand that it’s not just an HR issue, but a strategic issue. You have to apply a diver- sity lens to everything you do, whether it’s corporate governance, product develop- ment, communications or procurement.” When it comes to unconscious bias,


she has seen organizations create check- lists of areas where bias can creep in (such as inviting everyone out for happy hour even though one of the team is Muslim and doesn’t drink). “This strategy helps everyone take responsibility for building an inclusive environment,” she says. To counteract biases, people must first


identify and own their biases, adds Fiona Macfarlane, chief inclusiveness officer and managing partner for EY in British Columbia. “Then they must be mindful, respectful, curious and supportive of col- leagues’ differences, while understand- ing their own frames of reference.” Sometimes it’s as simple as asking ques- tions like, “Do I typically hire the same type of person or personality type?” or “Who do I take to important client or cross-team meetings?” EY has a variety of unconscious bias awareness-raising tools and resources, including a self-reporting tool designed to foster self-awareness of work styles and cultural preferences. The goal is to help employees effectively communicate and


collaborate in a global team environ- ment, Macfarlane says. “An important aspect of leadership is to turn around and see who is following you. If those who follow you all look and behave just like you, something is wrong. That is not rep- resentative of our highly diverse society.”


The same, but different Diversity is essential for creative tasks, or when you need to solve complex prob- lems or start a new campaign, says Marc- David Seidel, associate professor in the organizational behaviour and human resources division at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. And there are right — and wrong — ways to cultivate a cohesive, culturally diverse workplace. Many organizations adopt sensitivity pro- grams, but Seidel says they only work in severe cases of overt discrimination. Then there are the team-building initia- tives, but these tend to be useful only when they’re not focused on diversity. Instead, he says, one of the most effec-


tive strategies managers can adopt on a day-to-day basis is to create working groups with tasks where an individual’s expertise fits what the group needs. Maybe it’s analyzing an overseas culture or exploring a global market. “You want to put people in a situation where every- one sees them as the expert,” he says. “So it becomes ‘Bob is an expert on that sub- ject,’ or ‘we couldn’t have completed the project without Bob’ as opposed to ‘minority Bob.’” It’s a way to cultivate respect and create opportunities for em- ployees to work together, Seidel says. “The real benefits of a culturally


diverse workplace come from having dif- ferent points of view and experience, and having a functional level of conflict where people are free to disagree and you can build on it and learn something,” he says. “The key to success is being able to embrace different experiences, values and opinions in an atmosphere where people feel comfortable voicing them.” — Sydney Loney


JUNE/JULY 2016 | CPA MAGAZINE | 17


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