One of your suppliers might adopt very informal greetings (perhaps even hugs) whilst another would find this totally inappropriate. The explosion of digital trace data such as emails and Slack communications—together with the availability of computational methods that are faster, cheaper, and easier to use—has ushered in a new scientific approach to measuring culture. Clare Cromarty is a Diversity, Organisational Development and HR consultant for EW Group, having worked across the sectors to build clients' understanding of practical commitments to diversity and inclusion through their approach to organisational development, HR practice and employee engagement. cultural intelligence) is an individual’s skill to vary their communication and management style depending on the culture and environment in which they are operating. Cognitive diversity helps teams during ideation but hinders execution. Cultural Adaptability is an individual’s willingness and ability to adapt their manner of communicating, motivating, and managing, across countries and cultures. Some of the findings are (1) cultural fit is important, but what predicts success most is the rate at which employees adapt as organizational culture changes over time, (2) cognitive diversity helps teams during ideation but hinders execution, and (3) the best cultures encourage diversity to drive innovation but are anchored by shared core beliefs. External adaptation, a function of culture in organizations, means that culture helps organizational members develop a collective identity and know how to work together effectively. We identified instances when team members discussing similar topics used diverse meanings, perspectives, and styles, and then analyzed the impact of that diversity on performance. There’s no doubt that times are tough and uncertain, and it’s hard to predict what comes next. A version of this article appeared in the. Being able to negotiate these differences ultimately make for much happier and more fruitful business relationships. In a recent study two of us conducted with V. Govind Manian, Christopher Potts, and William Monroe, we compared employees’ levels of cultural fit with the extent to which they served as a bridge between otherwise disconnected groups in the firm’s internal communication network. They often fail to consider cultural adaptability—the ability to rapidly learn and conform to organizational cultural norms as they change over time. Algorithms make estimates, but it is ultimately humans’ responsibility to make informed judgments using them. These are sample interview questions that will help you assess whether your prospective employee is a good match with your workplace culture and environment for employees.These questions are not listed in any priority sequence. When there is no merchandise in the market, we change our needs in replacement products. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of workplace adaptability to the forefront. We found that the opposite is true of perceptual congruence: It is predictive of higher job performance but unrelated to retention. Cultural Adaptability is our ability to recognise, understand and work effectively within a range of different contexts where there are different cultural norms. Proponents of cultural diversity in teams presume that it leads to cognitive diversity; that is, diversity in thoughts and ideas. People with high adaptability are often described as "flexible," team players," or as someone who "goes with the flow." This is where the importance of employees having an awareness of cultural adaptability comes in. Just as culture and technology change over time, so does the workplace. Our results indicate that the performance consequences of cognitive diversity vary as a function of project milestone stages. These include understanding and being aware of deadlines when we work with teams that operate in different time zones or perhaps with alternative working patterns (such as Dubai having a working week of Sunday to Thursday according to religious tradition). Recently, we've been discussing the importance of various soft skills in the workplace. Hiring managers should also not overlook cultural misfits. For instance, employees at Netflix conceptualized the work culture in terms of autonomy, responsibility, collaboration, and intense internal competition. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. By building trusting social bonds with colleagues, they were able to overcome their outsider status and leverage their distinctiveness. Cultural adaptability teaches us to have an awareness of our differences: empowering us to work around these potential challenges, benefit from learning how to adapt to different professional situations, deadlines when we work with teams that operate in different time zones or perhaps with alternative working patterns (such as Dubai having a working week of Sunday to Thursday according to religious tradition). Subscribe for access to leading-edge diversity practice, opinion, insight and exclusive event invites. Our computational-lingustics approach is challenging prevailing assumptions in the field of people analytics and revealing novel insights about how managers can harness culture as a strategic resource. An example would be a colleague from a German office moving to a London head office to oversee the launch of a new product. Yet the accessibility of these tools also raises important ethical concerns. The importance of adaptability and its definition in the workplace in a sentence means the capability of adapting itself quickly and in different circumstances. (a.k.a. In a recent study two of us conducted with Stanford’s V. Govind Manian and Christopher Potts, we analyzed how cultural fit and cultural adaptability affected individual performance at a high-tech company by comparing linguistic styles expressed in more than 10 million internal email messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees. But when we discuss how we can work more flexibly, we must also look at being able to change our style to the different cultures and environments in which we work. And they’re limited by researchers’ tendency to assume that distinctive and idiosyncratic cultures can be neatly categorized into a few common types. Adaptability is now described as a core element of success for workers in the modern day. New research analyzing email, Slack messages, and Glassdoor postings are challenging prevailing wisdom about culture. Part of the problem is that these studies use imperfect proxies for cognitive diversity, such as diversity in demographics, personalities, or self-reported beliefs and values. The training looks at how perspectives can vary when working with colleagues from different countries or regions of the same country. cultural intelligence) is an individual’s skill to vary their communication and management style depending on the culture and environment in which they are operating. Our diversity diagnostic tools provide you with detailed insights into a particular area of your business. Instead it looks at how we can respect and value difference whilst identifying ways to overcome potential challenges. It might be part of your wider diversity and inclusion objectives, that you not only aim for a workforce that is diverse but one that is inclusive to all of those within it. All rights reserved. In addition, the more adaptable you are, the more productive you'll be overall. But being adaptable is not just about embracing change. That’s because misfits need the trust and support of colleagues to be seen as quirky innovators rather than outlandish outsiders. Cultural differences can cause friction – to the detriment of an organisation and the people who work … Moreover, surveys provide static, or at best episodic, snapshots of organizations that are constantly evolving. He and Amir Goldberg codirect the Berkeley-Stanford Computational Culture Lab. Maybe you are already aware of cultural clashes within your own organisation that need addressing. For one, employers value employees that are successfully able to manage changes in the workplace. Leaders can signal the importance of these norms during onboarding and in everyday interactions, just as leaders at Netflix do by rewarding employees for sharing their mistakes with colleagues in order to promote beliefs about the value of transparency. In today’s competitive markets, it’s important for companies to have people in their workforce that are able to adapt to changing work environments. But when so much about the world (and work) remains in flux, it’s the organizations that embrace uncertainty that seem to fare the best. Such tools can be used diagnostically to assess the cultural alignment between firms during premerger due diligence, as well as prescriptively during integration to identify where and how to focus managerial interventions. The workhorses of culture research—employee surveys and questionnaires—are often unreliable. We are all adapting and creating flexible conditions to make work-life a bit easier. As we pointed out earlier, demographic and cultural diversity are related, but a demographically homogenous group may be culturally diverse, and vice versa. different styles, approaches and attitudes depending on their cultural background. Employees who were eventually terminated were those who had been unable to adapt to the culture. Diversity becomes an obstacle again toward the end of a project, when the team is deep into execution. In which case, jump straight to our Cultural Adaptability training page for details of how we can help. to the different cultures and environments in which we work. We also partnered with employer-review website Glassdoor to analyze how employees talk about their organizations’ culture in anonymous reviews to examine the effects of cultural diversity on organizational efficiency and innovation. Employees who could quickly adapt to cultural norms as they changed over time were more successful than employees who exhibited high cultural fit when first hired. Clare specialises in reviewing HR practices and supporting clients through challenging HR situations, ensuring values, integrity and inclusivity are at the heart of decisions. Cultural adaptability is the ability to adapt and understand other cultures within your day-to-day work environment. Amir Goldberg is an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Your HR department may, for example, have an entirely different work ethic and approach to the L&D team, yet they need to co-exist and work well together. A homogeneous culture improves efficiency and coordination, the theory goes, because employees agree about the norms and beliefs guiding work, but the benefits come at the expense of fewer novel ideas about how to accomplish tasks. People who see the world differently and have diverse ideas and perspectives often bring creativity and innovation to an organization. Cultural adaptability comes into play when planning global aims. Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman. Employee self-reports are often unreliable. But the findings about whether cognitive diversity helps or hinders team performance are inconclusive. Let’s look at each in detail. To further assess how cultural fit and adaptability affect performance, Berkeley’s Jennifer Chatman and Richard Lu and two of us surveyed employees at the same high-tech company to measure value congruence (the extent to which employees’ core values and beliefs about a desirable workplace fit with their peers) and perceptual congruence (how well employees can read the “cultural code” by accurately reporting the values held by peers). The workplace has evolved into a project-led environment where employees are expected to change focus from one priority to another, much quicker than any time in the past. For instance, an employee might have connections with colleagues that bridge both the engineering and sales departments, allowing her to access and pass on a greater variety of information and ideas. Those with high intrapersonal cultural diversity had employees with a large number of cultural ideas and beliefs about how to accomplish tasks within the company (measured as the average number of cultural topics that employees discussed in their Glassdoor reviews). Create organizational collaboration in a remote workplace The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed organizations to find new ways of boosting workforce productivity and engagement. Why is Cultural Adaptability so important? These cultural “adapters” were better able to maintain fit when cultural norms changed or evolved, which is common in organizations operating in fast-moving, dynamic environments. But because of their outsider status, they may struggle to have their ideas recognized by colleagues as legitimate. It’s in all of our interests to be culturally adaptable, both in our work and personal lives. This suggests that organizations may be able to resolve the assumed trade-off between efficiency and innovation by encouraging diverse cultural ideas while fostering agreement among employees about the importance of a common set of organizational norms and beliefs. For example, we looked at the extent to which an employee used swear words when communicating with colleagues who themselves cursed frequently or used personal pronouns (“we” or “I”) that matched those used by her peer group. “At the workplace or any other areas, if one encounters challenges and changes, being adaptable will help them find a way of doing away with such setbacks,” he adds. We found, as expected, that a high level of cultural fit led to more promotions, more-favorable performance evaluations, higher bonuses, and fewer involuntary departures. Adaptability can be defined as creating modifications or changes in oneself to adapt or suit the new environment. During a company merger, cultural conflicts can occur when two or more companies are brought together, which is why being capable of adapting to changes in management is so crucial for success and to minimize downtime and team disruption. to focus on the cultural pressure points of your organisation –. In contrast, a heterogeneous culture sacrifices the benefits of consensus in favor of healthy disagreement among employees that can promote adaptability and innovation. Why do we need to be culturally adaptable? We found that value congruence is predictive of retention—employees with it are less likely to voluntarily leave the company—but is unrelated to job performance. Culture is what makes companies “best places to work” in great times and holds them together during tough times. Many of the ideas that your team will come up with will be unfit, some of them will be excellent, and a few will be brilliant. The term “diversity” is often used to connote variation in the demographic makeup of a firm’s workforce. Language is an obvious aspect to consider when we work across new and different geographies. An example of that is adaptation. Workplace adaptability is nothing new; we’ve always embraced it in different ways. Being adaptable in the workplace is important for a number of reasons. It is during these times that team members have to unify around a common interpretation of the problem and come to agreement about what needs to get done to solve it. Cultural Adaptability is our ability to recognise, understand and work effectively within a range of different contexts where there are different cultural norms. 3 A resilient organizational culture: Supports flexibility and adaptability in a changing environment. In a recent study, we analyzed the language that employees used when describing their organization’s culture (for example, “our culture is collaborative,” “our culture is entrepreneurial,” and so on) in anonymous reviews of nearly 500 publicly traded companies on Glassdoor. Teams benefit from learning how to adapt to different professional situations in a number of ways. These results suggest that the process of cultural alignment does not end at the point of hire. Interviewers are looking for qualities that make you successful in a job. Third, leaders should foster a culture that is diverse yet consensual in order to promote both innovation and efficiency. Over two decades ago, I boarded a plane for a teaching job in Japan. So bringing teams together and helping them work cohesively should be a focus for management. Tips For Workplace Cultural Adaptation. Employees in a leadership role often have to manage unusual circumstances where there are no explicit instructions. Most eventually adapted to the behavioral norms of their peers, and those who stayed at their company exhibited increasing cultural fit over time. Adaptability is a critical quality that employers seek in early 21st-century employees. Dysfunctional teams can have a major impact on productivity, company culture and the ability to recruit. Although their written and spoken English is perfect, they feel at times excluded in casual conversations with their new colleagues as they don’t always understand idioms and colloquial language used around the office. These diverse ideas help employees excel at complex tasks, such as dreaming up the next groundbreaking innovation. Time management can also be taken into account when thinking about attitudes towards lunch breaks (whether employees take a whole hour lunch break or not), thoughts towards flexible working arrangements and rules on punctuality (with some cultures expecting a meeting to start exactly on time, whilst others adopt more relaxed approaches to start times). But to make sure they flourish inside the organization, managers should consider assigning them to roles in which they are likely to develop strong connections within particular social groups. Providing training for your team around Cultural Adaptability demonstrates your organisation’s commitment to the inclusion of an assortment of cultures and that you value the contribution that diversity brings. Adaptability in the workplace   means being able to change in order to become successful Adaptability is a soft skill that employers seek when hiring candidates. You can find out rather quickly which category you fall into by listening to other people are saying or have said about you. Adaptability is the nature of adaptation or adaptation to adapt to the new environment. Consistent with prior work, we found that cultural fit was, on average, positively associated with career success. Cultural adaptability — which reflects your organization’s ability to innovate, experiment, and quickly take advantage of new opportunities — is especially important at this historic moment. He and Sameer B. Srivastava codirect the Berkeley-Stanford Computational Culture Lab. Culture is easy to sense but difficult to measure. However, we also identified a set of individuals who benefited from being cultural misfits: those who did not have networks spanning disparate groups but instead had strong connections within a defined social clique. A North/South divide can even exist where employees from various regions of the United Kingdom use different terms and phrases – which have the potential to exclude those who do not understand their meaning. How can these findings inform leaders’ understanding of culture as a tool for improving the performance of employees, teams, and the broader organization? We’ve seen that there are trade-offs associated with diversity in teams, but how does it affect the performance of entire organizations? The benefits of being culturally adaptable extend way beyond situations such as company mergers and acquisitions. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. 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cultural adaptability in the workplace

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