The Increasing Workforce Diversity Requires New Skills for Leaders and Their Employees
Over the last eight years we’ve noticed a dramatic shift in our clientele. Our firm trains companies and individuals in presentation and communication skills. This shift in our clients’ demographics, which includes Fortune 500 companies, has necessitated us to adapt our perspective and delivery of skills to be of most value to them.
In industries we serve such as technology, health care and bioscience, our audience attendance went from 80% white men with a sprinkling of Caucasian women and people of color, to between 70% and 80% immigrants, first-generation Americans and women.
In other industries those percentages aren’t as high but are still at 50%.
What it all adds up to is this: there’s a competitive advantage opportunity for companies that leverage diversity effectively. And for those that don’t, they risk being left behind.
How did this change our firm?
My business partner, David Booth, and I came to realize that it takes unique presentation tools and communication techniques for folks born somewhere else or from another culture to be successful in the United States.
Where the American culture rewards assertive and charismatic male leaders who share information about themselves, many other cultures champion a more reserved and private nature.
It’s not that people from other cultures necessarily have trouble with English as a second language, but more so America as a second culture. Without proper training, some of these folks can appear timid, insecure, or lack confidence. This can affect their work performance, and your bottom line.
These traits can be deeply ingrained and require special training to overcome. It’s quite challenging to let go of cultural influences that have been ingrained since childhood.
This challenge also includes women, surprisingly even those born in the United States. Many women still believe they are supposed to be reserved and even downplay their intelligence or experience.
The danger for companies who don’t support or train this group is two-fold:
First, they could be overlooking talented individuals who can make a difference as leaders — because foreign-born employees, first-generation Americans and women are not communicating in ways that put them in line for promotions.
Second, companies might be promoting these individuals, but they aren’t prepared to communicate their business message effectively to customers and strategic partners.
The problem to solve is teaching this group the necessary communication and presentation skills to appear confident, informed and persuasive. This group can then effectively, and thus successfully, communicate with other corporate leaders and clients.
Here are some quick tips we offer companies on how this group can develop the necessary communication skills to be successful.
Share Relevant Challenges and Setbacks
People from different cultures and women are often reluctant or refuse to share their personal background and journey.
The perspective that people from different cultures need to understand is sharing the right experience — such as a lesson learned — benefits their clients. There’s no better way to build trust, to understand your challenge, or to form a long lasting, strategic alliance.
Americans love storytelling and targeted stories that are relatable.
People should aim for one key message in each story. Choose a message that describes how you solved a problem. This could mean the team you assembled, the resources you leveraged, or the personal relationships you developed with your client.
Powerful stories for immigrants and women revolve around their differentiators.
For example, when immigrants share how they came to the United States without support, and graduated from an American university while learning a second language, it says a lot about their tenacity, commitment and character.
Practice with Mentors
People from other cultures and women can benefit from having a mentor steeped in American cultural norms within their company. This way, they can rehearse with their mentor and share their fears or reservations.
Because cultural habits are so deeply ingrained in each environment, it takes a mentor to give them the perspective that what they’re saying is valuable. A mentor or a trainer can say `you don’t need to share all of that,’ or `definitely use that story.
People from other cultures often don’t realize why their journey and what they’ve accomplished is so remarkable. But it is, for themselves and their companies.
Put yourself in the perspective of delivering an important presentation in a foreign country.
If you want to succeed in doing business overseas, you must understand that country’s culture to make sure your message is well received. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure your immigrant and first-generation American employees have the same advantages when presenting to an American audience.
Effective communication and presentation skills for women and immigrants are a must for success in today’s ever more diverse population.
Experts predict Caucasians will no longer be a majority in the United States by the year 2045, so the trend we are seeing will only increase in the workforce. The time for your company to learn and adapt is now. Training the fastest growing segment of our business makes sense for your business, too.
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