The importance of multicultural teams in companies
In 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Hangzhou, the headquarters of Alibaba, the Chinese giant managed and created by one of the most admired global leaders, Jack Ma. The experience was unforgettable.
Alibaba VP Brian Wong invited me to participate in the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy program, which chooses those who will be responsible for leading the company’s international expansion.
I feel compelled to write about this program in light of the anti-immigrant policies recently signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The world is upside down. One of China’s most important companies invites young people of different nationalities to join its work team and help it expand around the world. At the same time the United States, a nation built on hosting immigrants, has begun to close the door on multiculturalism, despite that characteristic’s massive contribution to so many of its organizations, especially in technology.
It is difficult to understand that there are still business people who doubt the need for diversity. But there are.
So I want to enumerate some of the advantages of working with a diverse team. I noticed these advantages during my work experience at global and multicultural companies, in Latin America, Spain and the Hispanic market in the U.S. and they have affected my professional growth:
1. Diversity promotes creativity: Individual differences among coworkers can increase productivity. I have seen the way multicultural companies foster better ideas — including surprising approaches that would not have come about in a monoculture.
2. Diversity forces people to work harder to maintain team unity: If a team is committed to a particular objective, it will always be important for its members to try to understand the different thoughts and especially different cultures of the other members. This leads workers to focus on something greater than themselves to achieve their goals. The process often produces conflict, but when managed properly, the conflict results in greater synergy and a much stronger product.
3. Diversity improves communication and negotiation skills: My native language is Spanish, but I often have to speak English with colleagues and prospective business partners. That responsibility inspires me to learn how to relate ideas in a clear, simple and useful way. It’s clear that many of my teammates work just as hard to do so — making our entire team stronger.
Global leaders such as Mr. Jack Ma understand these strengths and many more. Such leaders deserve our admiration.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Alibaba. The incredible experience they gave me months ago has been one of the best of my professional career. I was left with great memories, learning and contacts from around the world for whom I wish — and expect to see — the best professional success.
Long live multicultural companies!