Monday, November 9, 2009

Cultural Diversity & Recognition

Rideau’s latest employee census puts us at 260 strong and we have a very diverse employee population.

Here are some interesting stats from our HR department:

• 50.2% of our employee base are women.
• 34.7% of our employees belong to a visible minority.
• We come from 39 different nationalities… from American to Vincentian.
• We are based in Montreal, the French speaking part of Canada. This means we work in French and English. But because our employees come from all over the world we have many employees who speak several languages at work and in the home. At last count, we speak 23 languages from Arabic to Vietnamese.
• We are also very family oriented… there are 26 different families representing 67 employees working at Rideau.
• I don’t have the latest stats on “best friends” working at the company, but I do know over 12% of new hires have come from our own internal employee referral program.

I believe Rideau’s makeup gives us a huge competitive advantage because we have to deal with cultural diversity everyday single day. Many of our client's struggle with this diversity but often, it is in distant faraway lands. At Rideau, it’s up close and personal. I’d like to explain how we deal with cultural diversity internally but first I’d like to turn to Dr. Geert Hofstede.

Dr. Geert Hofstede is a Dutchman who has done extensive work on how the workplace is influenced by culture differences. I learned a bit about Dr. Hofstede’s work when I took Recognition Professionals International’s CRP certification courses. But I only truly started understanding his work when I read “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell. This book details the tragic flight of Korean Airlines flight 801 which crashed into a mountain side on the island of Guam. Mr. Gladwell takes us step by step through the events leading up to crash and validates the quote on Dr. Hoftede’s homepage… "Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster." In this case, 228 people lost their lives.

In a nutshell, Malcolm Gladwell details how Korean culture inhibited the co-pilot and navigator from telling the pilot what they really thought he should be doing to avert disaster. What I found fascinating was how Korean Air put Dr. Hofstede’s work to practical use after the crash to prevent the same occurrence again and improve safety. They looked for something that would act as a leveler so the crew could speak freely and not worry about longstanding cultural norms. That leveler turned out to be English. Korean Air insisted that everyone speak English in the cockpit. This took everyone out of their “Korean comfort zone” and allowed people to speak freely.

Language is one of the levelers we use at Rideau to deal with cultural diversity.

The other is recognition. Here are some of the practical things that we do…

• We recognize everyone’s service anniversary annually. It doesn’t matter if you have 4 years or 26 years of service. On a person’s actual service anniversary, regardless of the number of years, department, position, nationality, location, language or position in Rideau you can be sure quite a few people are going to reach out and congratulate you.
• Likewise, we do the same for birthdays.
• We conduct internal Platinum Tours at Rideau. It is not uncommon to have senior folks and junior folks sitting on these tours. I once had a very senior 18 year employee sitting beside the cleaner who swept the floors and only been at Rideau for four weeks on a Platinum Tour. (Today that cleaner is a star in our call center)

Recognition is our great leveler…

Respect everyone. Appreciate everyone for who they are. Recognize everyone for what they do each and every day.

The beauty about recognition is that it can be used locally, nationally and internationally.

Embrace and celebrate diversity. Use recognition to level it out.


Tom Miller said...

Nice post, Peter. Rideau is an admirable company...

Sue Voyles said...

Peter, I really appreciate the comment about the junior and senior level people being side by side on the Platinum Tour. Would love to hear more about the cleaner who's the star in the call center.