The Way We Do Things Around Here
We all see the world through our own cultural lens, created by our experiences and the groups we belong to. We all belong to several groups defined by where we live, our community, job, religion, gender, and income level. Each group has a set of behavioural norms, and if you’ve been a member for a while, you know exactly what the rules are, even if they’ve never been articulated.
We move from group to group, and follow their different rules and expectations without giving it much thought. It’s automatic. In fact we usually only notice if we make a mistake. When we move into a group whose rules are unknown, it can be difficult to work effectively until we learn what they are, adapt, and practice until they’re automatic.
Getting New Employees Up to Speed
When an employee starts a new job, they have to go through this process. If the people they work with share membership in other groups, it can facilitate their learning and adaptation. A new employee who grows up in the same country for instance, will have shared cultural rules in other parts of their lives. New employees who come from a very different culture may not share experiences like employment, school, and mother tongue to draw on.
Managers view the world through their own cultural lens which defines the rules they follow and the expectations they have. Building trust with employees from different cultures can be difficult because management practices that work with employees with a shared culture may be ineffective—or even destroy trust with those from a different culture. Trust between the manager and the employee is critical to high performance.
If we are looking for certain behaviours and attributes because in our culture they represent competencies we value, we can fail to recognize those competencies because they are presented a different way. When employees feel devalued and misunderstood, they disengage.
Making it Work
The ability to build trust with employees, to recognize their talent, and to lower the cultural barriers to their success in the organization increases their productivity, their intention to stay, and the possibility of their advancement into leadership.
Many of us know that change is needed; many companies are motivated and have good intentions. As long as they continue to look through the narrow lens of their own culture, it cannot change. There are three levels of growth that managers need—awareness of one’s own culture; knowledge & skills applied to their own situation and strengths; and mindful action, repeated often enough to make new responses automatic.
This transformational management approach will enable managers to tap into what had been hidden talent in their new employees to maximize productivity and retention, and maximize organizational capacity.