Research has shown that diversity in the workplace has many positive effects on a business’s overall success. Although creating a diverse and inclusive workforce can be challenging, it’s well worth the effort for a number of reasons. Companies that want to grow and remain relevant cannot afford to ignore the power of diversity.
Although most business leaders are aware by now of the potential revenue benefits of a diverse team, many haven’t considered how workforce diversity can contribute to ethics. In international business, integrity is a cornerstone that helps companies succeed in multiple markets.
Why are Ethics Critical in International Business?
Strong ethics are important for any business. However, from an international business perspective, they are even more important. Companies that start serving new markets or working with other businesses abroad have an obligation to prevent causing harm in the areas they serve.
Companies that engage in international business are visitors and guests in other economies and cultures. Their leaders need to maintain high ethical standards to build trust and make a good impression. Fairness, respect, and trustworthiness are all important elements of ethical behavior.
Falling short in international business ethics can drive companies out of lucrative markets and affect a company’s reputation. Here are some of the ways workforce diversity can help strengthen ethics in international business.
Improves Awareness of Ethical Problems
Diversity among team members means there will be a variety of experiences represented within the workforce. Diverse experience and knowledge can help teams identify different facets of potential ethical problems than more homogenous teams.
A team that lacks diversity might approach international ethics problems without nuance— they might see the issue as simple, with a simple solution. A team that’s more diverse, however, might see the issue from a different lens, based on their experience. Because of this, they will be better able to brainstorm a comprehensive solution that improves the company’s standing in international markets.
Reduces the Effects of Groupthink
Groupthink is the phenomenon of people in a group making poor decisions simply because they feel pressure to conform to the group’s consensus. Often, in groupthink situations, people support ideas that they don’t believe in because they are afraid to speak up and challenge the group’s decisions or actions. This can be very harmful for many reasons, especially when questions of ethics are involved.
Having a diverse team can help reduce the phenomenon of groupthink. Groupthink most often occurs when a team lacks diversity. When a team is more diverse, people are more likely to share differing perspectives, which leads to better problem-solving.
From an ethical perspective, eliminating groupthink as much as possible is critical. If a group makes a subpar decision surrounding an ethical question, the consequences can be significant. In international business, avoiding groupthink can help avoid ethical breaches that cost the company money or cause harm to the communities they affect.
Helps Limit Cultural Barriers & Boosts Cultural Sensitivity
Cultural barriers can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and ethical breaches. Having a diverse workforce, preferably including people who are multilingual and have deep cultural knowledge of the markets a company is serving, can help limit these barriers.
A diverse team can overcome and limit cultural barriers in several ways. First, they are likely to have higher levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity. This can help teams detect or anticipate cultural barriers that could cause problems. Additionally, more diverse teams will have a wide range of perspectives and skillsets, which can lead to better, more creative problem-solving. They are more adaptable overall and might find it easier to implement necessary solutions.
Diverse teams can also help increase collective cultural sensitivity and cultural competence within an organization. By getting to know people who have different cultural experiences, team members can build their cultural sensitivity and empathy. This is a huge asset in international business ethics.
Improves Innovation and Collaboration
Succeeding in international business requires high levels of collaboration and creativity. Teams that don’t cultivate these qualities often struggle to establish footholds in new markets. Making ethical choices that will benefit the organization often requires some creativity and someone who will play devil’s advocate, challenging ideas so that only the best solutions remain.
Because different cultures have their own unique norms and established values, it can be difficult for an “outsider” to understand what’s needed to succeed in an unfamiliar market. Even with diligent market research, the reality of working ethically within a new culture can be a challenge for teams that lack innovation and collaboration.
Having a team with different perspectives represented can help boost innovation by helping everyone see ethical challenges from different angles.
It also provides accountability and reduces opportunities for groupthink to take root. Highly diverse teams encourage people to share their ideas and consider new, innovative angles when brainstorming.
Building Diverse Teams is Ethics in Action
Diversity is smart from a business perspective. However, it’s also a reflection of a business’s values and ethics. It’s not ethical to exclude people from a company’s workforce because they don’t conform with the rest of the team. It’s not ethical to bend to implicit biases and make excuses for not hiring qualified candidates who happen to be different from the “typical” hire.
Building a diverse team and an inclusive culture takes time and effort. But for businesses looking to succeed internationally, it’s almost mandatory. Ethical companies are diverse companies— and they also tend to outperform their competitors. It’s truly a win-win!