Today, Australia celebrates 20 years of Harmony Week. This is a time for us all to celebrate the cultural diversity in our communities and organisations. Yet this week, given the horrific massacre of 50 people by a white supremists in Christchurch in New Zealand, Harmony Week should also be a reminder of how crucial it is that we bring people from different backgrounds together to avoid such tragedy.

Simply put, bringing people together can break down the barriers that can lead to fear and anger. But, it can also have the benefit of being highly rewarding for people and the organisation.  In the US a study in to the economic value of cultural diversity showed that companies which create an inclusive employee experiences see a more productive workplace.

At Randstad, we have the good fortune to be working with an organisation that is proving diversity can be a strength.

Multicultural Development Australia (MDA) works with migrants and refugees when they arrive in Australia to give them opportunities to fully contribute and participate in our multicultural society. In lates 2018,  Randstad and MDA partnered to run our first Shaping Young Futures program for migrants and refugees.The Shaping Young Futures program is a mentoring program where Randstad’s recruitment consultants work with MDA participants to get them “job ready”. The structured program consists of resume writing, interview techniques, personal branding and social media, networking and first day on the job tips. At the end of the program they take part in a speed networking event in our offices with some of our clients, to help the participants gain confidence and meet people who are open to working with migrants and refugees.

The change in some of the participants was fantastic, they gained confidence, connections and some found jobs.

So what more can be done? Here are my top tips to build strong cross cultural teams.

  • Create a space where all are welcome. Make sure that each person is participating equally on the team. Assess your meeting techniques and management styles to make sure they work for everyone involved.
  • Over communicate - sometimes we can take for granted that because someone speaks English, they completely understand what we say but English maybe their second or even third language. Something acceptable for us could cause a misunderstanding. Over explaining can be a big help! Be prepared to explain things you’ve always taken for granted.
  • Respectful culture - Create a culture where asking people to repeat themselves is not offensive. Always be specific and use support materials, stories, pictures to help illuminate the conversation. Avoid slang, or words with two meanings or confusing context. Ask questions to ensure understanding.