IN TODAY’S diverse workplace, cultural difference training and people management performance are essential skills that every manager should have. Multicultural work environments can either contribute to miscommunications and misunderstandings, or when properly understood, can be a competitive advantage to an organisation.

It is important not only to be knowledgeable of your employees’ differences, but also to understand how to motivate and manage a group.

Employee performance is greatly dependent on motivation. Therefore, to maintain a healthy, productive and profitable work environment, employees need to feel inspired and encouraged.

An individual’s cultural background will impact how he behaves. At times, cultural differences will arise through subtle manifestations that are easy to miss and can often lead to misunderstandings and a decline in performance.

It is important to learn about the cultural background and customs of each individual. However, in the process of learning about these differences, one should be aware of generalisations and treat each employee with respect.

Rather than placing blame, managers should analyse situations with cultural awareness in mind, as certain circumstances can be interpreted differently.

Once the issue is resolved, it is important to implement a process to prevent the mistake happening again and make sure that all involved are content with the outcome.

Female role

One common cultural barrier involves the female role in the workplace. In many cultures, women are considered subordinate or secondary to men.

For example, women from some countries may not speak or make eye contact with their male counterparts. Those who are not aware of this cultural habit may find the lack of eye contact rude or disrespectful, when it really is just a cultural difference.

Another common cultural barrier is personal space. For example, studies have shown that most Americans prefer to stand about 1.5m from others. However, those from countries such as Germany and Japan are more comfortable standing even further apart. Arabs and Latinos, however, tend to stand closer.

Understanding these differences will result in fewer miscommunications. When properly understood, cultural difference training can strengthen the group’s overall skills and competencies.

In addition to cultural difference training, it is also important to understand people management performance. A motivated workforce results in an efficient, productive and profitable organisation.

Motivation does not necessarily have to come from monetary compensation. A well-compensated employee is not always a happy employee. In order to motivate employees, managers must learn to recognise and acknowledge employees’ accomplishments.

Take the time to coach your employees. Coaching allows your employees to grow and also communicates to them that you care.

Discussing your employees’ career path is also essential because it allows employees to know what can lie ahead. Build team spirit by scheduling offsite events to reinforce a positive work environment.

In today’s ever-growing multicultural workforce, managers need to understand their employees’ cultures. By doing so, they can better develop motivational tactics to maintain high productivity and employee satisfaction.