Working in diverse teams is like global cooperation on a smaller scale. Different languages, experiences, personalities, contexts, expertise, etc. come together to achieve a shared goal. As diverse teams are more likely to be successful and innovative, for instance, it makes sense to focus on team building to bring out the best of the members.
Key factors for building successful diverse teams include creating a safe space where everyone is respected and valued as themselves, the team has a shared vision, and clear ideas and instructions on how to reach the goal, differing opinions are welcome, new members are welcome, and the general atmosphere is supporting and positive. This requires a conscious effort from all team members and the whole community, as well as structures and processes in support of the teams and individuals. The employer can offer e.g. training, workshops, or guidance on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics. DEI issues are everyone’s business and responsibility, and a much discussed topic in all sectors these days. For instance, the Finnish organization Inklusiiv, provides a data bank full of articles and studies on this topic.
Much depends on the team spirit. As a team it is essential that there is a foundation for mutual understanding and respect in order to perform well, especially when the team consists of diverse team members. This is especially important when there are changes, e.g. when new team members start, or when there are challenges. Adversity might because by the workload, underlying differences in ways of working, or something stemming from other spheres of life. Any disruptions might cause unnecessary frustration, stress and conflict.
When a team has shared goals and guidelines, and an open and respectful atmosphere, it works better together. Consider the details of your team culture and whether the culture supports the individuals in their work as best as it could. Review your ways of working, support methods, and structures at regular intervals to ensure that they are up-to-date and fit the team’s needs.
Food for thought:
It is interesting to see that sometimes misunderstandings in intercultural teams rise only after a while. After a while in intercultural co-working surroundings a sense of normality and routine is established. That leads people to act according to their own cultural behaviour more and more even though intercultural awareness would be required. People might also modify their behaviour according to the current (inter)cultural context. Clashes, big or small, in communication style or other behaviour might become more apparent when people get more comfortable in the working community. Then again, some actions or processes, for instance, might benefit from being modified to fit not only a diverse team but also the goals of the work or employer better.
Consider new ways of thinking and working as opportunities to improve performance, innovation, business, etc. If you can take the best sides of diversity and harness them to good use, the results might be surprisingly positive.
Things to consider in diverse teams