We are currently in Cultural Diversity Week, (14-22nd March) here in Victoria, which is the biggest event in Victoria’s multicultural calendar. Held annually it strategically coincides with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21st of March, which is also coined, ‘Harmony Day’. Across other states there are various events held that promote cohesiveness.

Australia is diverse, no doubt

Facts from the Harmony Day site and Victorian Multicultural Commission quote that around 45% of Australian’s were born overseas or at least have one parent who was. Interestingly Victoria’s statistic sits at 46.8% for this category. Another positive pick up was that 85% of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for Australia. My opinion is that agreement here comes from the good in people’s heart, the opposite is too ugly to contemplate, that it is ‘bad’ for Australia to be multicultural. So I am unsure of the validity of this 85%.

This Week

The hype of this week really comes from community-based organisations and state and federal agencies leading key messages of inclusiveness. The Victorian Multicultural Commission and Harmony Day organisations are clear examples of this. Corporates get on the ‘band wagon’ mainly by running Harmony Day events for the week, where employees exchange information on their cultures, languages and faiths.

Next Week?

What will happen next week and the week after that, in businesses that internally have a diverse set of employees or who are in partnerships cross border, across cultures? In my opinion not much, unless there is a specific leader championing cultural diversity, unless there is governance, budget and planned execution to operationalize learning and practice based change.   The effort here has to be linked to the bottom line, business cased to cause an effect to performance, otherwise it is just another ‘nice to have’ initiative that loses funding to other higher priority plans.

But I hear the cynic out there asking – is there a way to link cross-cultural competence to performance? Yes, there is – at MindTribes we have filled this gap and can show that within 90 days of engineering change cross culturally there is a resultant spike in performance metrics.

What next?

So absolutely register an event for Harmony Day for your company or team or if you are in Victoria, head down to Federation Square on the 22nd of March for the Multicultural Festival – do something to mark Cultural Diversity Week, but then on the 23rd of March really consider what next.

If you are a corporate leader and you feel that there is a pain point working cross culturally (you may have operations in India or Manila or you may have a diverse leadership team), we should talk confidentially to see if there is some sustainable, measurable change we can affect together.

Embrace a new culture this week, it is good for the soul.

Div Pillay is the Founder and Director of MindTribes Pty Ltd a unique consultancy that works to build cross cultural competence. She believes that being culturally aware is the first level, however being able to operationalise that awareness into how you run a meeting, build a relationship, provide feedback or communicate a change in direction takes concerted and deliberate effort to put into practice.   MindTribes can assist with this ‘rewiring’. 

Div Pillay

Div Pillay is a cross cultural expert and Co-Founder of MindTribes – a 2016 Telstra Business Award Finalist company that improves cross border performance by realigning people to the foreign cultures in which they work.

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