Connecting with your New Multicultural Employees

In corporate America, we often expect our new employees to hit the floor running. That somewhat overused phrase says a lot about the cultural values our organizations espouse—and why many newcomers fail to live up to our expectations.

While we must meet deadlines and productivity goals, we can’t do such things without human beings. And most human beings need a period of adjustment, a chance to familiarize themselves with the new surroundings before they’re able to become peak performers.

For some multicultural employees, this period is literally one of acculturation. They have been raised in families and communities—in the United States—where relationships are valued over tasks, data, and sometimes even knowledge. From their point of view, another commonly used phrase comes to mind: “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

Bridging these cultural differences—task versus relationship—is not impossible. But it requires a concerted effort on everyone’s part to meet each other half way between the two extremes. If you are a manager or supervisor, the following tips will help.

  • Establish a connection to build trust. Reveal some of your strengths and weaknesses. Showing your human side is a sign of leadership. And it will help you bond with new employees so they will feel more comfortable interacting with you.
  • Share your expectations for the job. Tell employees what you need them to do AND how you like it done (Do you want to know all the details? Would you like to see only completed milestones? How do you like to be informed?) Also, make sure employees know on what basis you will evaluate their performance.
  • Foster career growth opportunities. Once you have established trust with your employees, make it possible for them to have a “buddy” to ease the acculturation phase. And if employee resource or affinity groups exist in your organization, help your new employee connect with them as well.

These are only a few of the many ideas you can implement when new employees join your organization—no matter the color of their skin, sexual orientation, age, or physical ability.

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