6 Reasons to Hire Team Members Who Aren’t Like You

by Jobbatical August 02, 2016

The end of your comfort zone

Chantale, a French Canadian co-worker in our anglophone workplace, returned from her errand run with a bunch of grapes. They were nice grapes, but she’d been sent to buy raisins. Those who didn’t know that the French word for grapes is raisins were shocked. How could they work with someone so incompetent?

Although Chantale was a highly qualified worker, her presence nudged some of her colleagues out of their comfort zones. They just didn’t know what to expect.

If you’ve ever reflected on the quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” you must have had a reason; you either wanted things to change or you were suspicious of too much comfort — for good cause!

First of all, let’s acknowledge that the comfort zone, on the surface, has its pluses.

If Maria, a twenty-something middle class woman from Barcelona, hires Rita, a twenty-something middle class woman from Barcelona, she won’t be in for many surprises. The two will share a language and communication style, and their common tastes will smooth the office’s social interactions.

But here’s the need-to-know: Is all of that good for business?

The answer may surprise you: Hiring team members who are culturally just like you can create blind spots that sabotage your company’s success. Hiring people from diverse backgrounds can give your business a needed boost in the right direction.

6 Advantages to hiring people from different cultural backgrounds:

  1. Knowing how to address the needs of people of different cultures: The nursing profession is at the forefront of building cultural diversity in the workplace because they’ve recognised the need for cultural sensitivity in dealing with an increasingly diverse patient base.
  2. Building success: According to this study, a lack of cross-cultural competence is a major reason why businesses fail.
  3. Knowing how to meet the needs of the local multicultural community: If you live in a multicultural region, you need to know how to address the needs of the various cultures there.
  4. Gaining the cognitive growth necessary for generating creative solutions: Researchers at Harvard University give strong evidence that intelligence expands when individuals are compelled to face conflicts of understanding within diverse groups.
  5. Gaining the sensitivity needed to banish stereotypes and increase understanding of those different from you
  6. Diversity in the workplace is the wave of the future: The business world has for a number of years recognised the growing cultural diversity of workplaces worldwide. Time to leave the past behind and embrace diversity, because it looks like it’s here to stay!

A Creative Petri Dish

Discussion between people of different backgrounds is a great opportunity for a group to come up with creative solutions. You can’t hire an employee from every culture on the planet, but if you have a mixed group the discussions that will take place will open your eyes to the needs of your potential foreign clients. Chantale’s mistake, above, reminded her co-workers that a word, for example, may not mean the same thing in every language.

If you already have team members from different cultural backgrounds, kudos to you! You’re on the right road, and you know all about how different viewpoints can get the creative juices flowing! If, on the other hand, you’ve unwittingly created an office monoculture, it might be time to consider putting diversity into practice. All the best!

Originally published at jobbatical.com on August 2, 2016.

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