“It is a luxury to be understood.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The workforce and marketplace of today is increasingly more diverse. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, approximately 25% of the population is non-white. Companies of all sizes and industries are grappling with how to create new value for shareholders and constituents in order to remain competitive. As growth within traditional market segments moderates, the focus on Hispanic, African American and Asian segments is increasing. Many organizations now realize the need to align their organizational strategies to capture new and emerging market opportunities. Culturally appropriate communication is a critical component – and one size does not fit all. Here are a few tips for effective multi-cultural communications for individuals and organizations:
- Be prepared. Do your research. Make sure that you have the elements in place to ensure culturally competent communications, sensitivity in messaging and diverse employees at all levels who reflect the consumer base you desire to capture. Ensure that the culture of the organization is welcoming to all employees.
- Use experts. Don’t assume that because someone is of a particular race or ethnicity he or she is an expert. You need an expert in the organization and/or market segments you are trying to reach and experts who can create culturally relevant and sensitive communications. Don’t just translate.
- Build authentic cross-cultural relationships. Reach out to diverse people in your organization and in the communities in which you do business. Diverse employees and clients will pick up on the nuances of your interactions. Be genuine.
- Celebrate, don’t just tolerate. Move beyond tolerance. Diverse employees can be a huge asset. Value your current and new employees and celebrate the diversity and richness of perspectives and talents they bring.
This new world requires that individuals and leaders become comfortable with people who are different. In the past, many organizations have survived and thrived on the energy and passion of a few “insiders” – generally people who look and behave similarly. This is the old model. Success in the new world requires an inclusive approach that harnesses diverse talent and markets. For many individuals and organizations, this is a significant shift, but one with long-term dividends. Allow yourself the time, patience and resources to become educated on how to communicate effectively in a multicultural world and marketplace.
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Focus on building authentic relationships. Relationships require time and patience. Reach out to diverse professional associations, business leaders, experts, consultants and community leaders. Tips for effective outreach and networking:
- Start with who you know. The best place to start networking is with others who you know inside and outside of your organization. Ask for help in making connections and stay in touch once connections are made.
- Attend networking events. Professional organizations, multicultural marketing conferences, diversity forums, minority business expos and cultural events are all great places to network with diverse people.
- Partner with trusted sources. Work with trusted sources in minority communities to facilitate connections and networking. It will take time to build trust and to establish a mutually beneficial agenda.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. Establishing trust is the key to sustained successful relationships. If you say you’re going to do something – do it!
- Assume positive intent. Be positive. At some point miscommunication is likely to occur. When this happens, don’t give up. Assume positive intent and continue on the journey. Persistence is the key. Stay the course and establish yourself as someone with genuine interest in maintaining relationships.
“The path to effective, inclusive communications and networking
is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the process.” — Juliette C. Mayers