In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Sujin Jang presented the concept of “cultural brokerage” as a way of facilitating interactions across employees from different cultural backgrounds to supporting team creativity. Her research shows that “cultural brokers” (team members with multicultural experience) can act as a link between team members whose experience is mainly limited to only one culture. This research has significant implications for an increasingly global workforce and for HR leaders working to support diversity and inclusion goals.
One key message for HR leaders is that while having diverse teams can foster innovative thinking, all of the members of those teams must also feel included in order to achieve maximum benefit to innovation and productivity. Our research at Gartner on D&I leadership also finds that an inclusive culture can have a major impact on team performance, particularly for diverse teams. (Gartner Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council clients can read our Creating Inclusive Leaders study here to learn more.)
But facilitating an inclusive environment where employees from different cultural backgrounds feel equally valued and included is not an easy task; even with cultural brokers on their team, leaders must be proactive about inclusion and should not depend on these brokers to foster constructive collaboration alone. We recommend four approaches to building inclusive team environments:
- Ensure leader behaviors match inclusive values: Our research shows that interpersonal integrity and productive conflict management are two leadership behaviors that effectively drive inclusive environments for employees.