“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.” Robert Alan Aurthur.

Does hearing the words ‘culturally diverse’ from a company make you shiver with wariness and apprehension? In the age of jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of an endless world wide web of judgement, our built-in BS sensors are well and truly flexed. Unlike the inspirational words of Robert Alan Aurthur that leave us feeling hopeful, a careless company mission statement seemingly looking to cover all bases doesn’t necessarily have the same effect.

Anyway – whether it’s a buzz-phrase or not, every company has a responsibility to foster a culture that is rich with diversity, cultural and otherwise, because it’s hugely important – for the benefit of both the company and the individuals! The hope is to foster a happy, comfortable, productive and innovative working environment for everyone – one where differences are celebrated.

A new kind of workplace

The typical workplace in Ireland has improved significantly over the last few years, and now, more than ever, companies have been forced to consider what will make their workplaces better for employees – staff happiness is finally being recognised for how crucial it truly is to the success of a company. Right now, 12.5% of the population residing in Ireland comprises of people coming from abroad, and this percentage is set to continue rising rapidly in the coming years.

What does this mean for companies like us?

From Net Affinity’s beginning almost 20 years ago when we employed just one person, right up to the present day where we employ 44 from 14 different nationalities, our offices have always shone brightly with a range of eclectic cultures. This is why the phrase ‘culturally diverse’ feels like a natural part of who we are. Given the fact that 57% of people thinking their company should be doing more to increase diversity among its workforce, the value of this has never been lost on us!

We need differing perspectives to flourish

It’s now widely recognised that more diverse companies are more financially successful, one reason for this being, productivity is naturally higher because employees working in a more diverse environment are happier, more comfortable, and less stressed. It also comes down to the output of work being of a higher quality, because cognitive diversity comes in to play. When it comes to solving problems, brainstorming ideas and solutions, or completing a project, we know that it takes more than one perspective or skill-set to be successful. According to the Harvard Business Review, colleagues do tend to gravitate towards people who think and express themselves similarly. This means companies can end up with like-minded teams, which stifles innovation and problem solving! This creates an environment for ‘low cognitive diversity’, and group-thinking. When your staff are a mix of people coming from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures, you’re more likely to breed innovation. And tastier lunchtimes!

What is it to be inclusive?

Diversity and inclusiveness go hand in hand, and at Net Affinity, being inclusive is something we are hyper-aware of, and try to reinforce regularly. What is an inclusive environment? It’s one where people feel like they have a voice they can use and that their thoughts and opinions are valued, regardless of who they are. Regular internal staff surveys checking in on all things that affect an individual’s day to day are a great way of gauging differing opinions and points of view. Listening to feedback is key. Surveying and not following through only breeds distrust and disengagement – whereas 83% of millennials say they’re actively engaged when they truly believe in their company’s inclusive culture.

An employee will never be truly happy until they feel authentic in their role and at work. This is what motivates us to continue striving for a truly diverse and inclusive culture. Like many companies, we’re not perfect and we have areas to improve in for sure – but we’re clear on where we want to be. Watch this space!