Thursday, October 5, 2017

How do you support people to build their cultural understandings?

Coaching, with its focus on listening, questioning, and exploration of self, especially values and beliefs, can be a highly effective way to develop understanding of a range of cultures. Such understandings have a positive impact on a person’s own - and where coaching is used throughout a business - all employees’ ability, to comprehend differences in communication and how professional relationships are formed, as well as alternative relationships with different concepts of ‘time’, rules, hierarchy, negotiations, humour, and so on.
The supportive environment that is developed by coaching provides a safe space for employees to grow their skills and build strategies for working together. In turn, this can help with short- and long-term business development, especially around decision-making, planning and operations. Some of the benefits include the:
  • Enhanced ability to meet the needs of a culturally diverse range of clients through employee cultural knowledge  (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010), and an associated reduction in complaints / grievances.
  • Improved knowledge, understanding and relationships with culturally diverse market segments (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010).
  • Reduction in employee turnover.
  • Enhanced sense of inclusion, cohesion and productivity amongst employees.
  • Enhanced reputation as a business, and as an employer, with culturally diverse communities (domestic and international) (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010).
  • Increased customer satisfaction and number of referrals  (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010).
  • Lower costs and higher profitability.
  • More effective communications and marketing (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010).

Reference

Australian Multicultural Foundation. (2010). Managing Cultural Diversity  Training Program Resource Manual. Retrieved from http://amf.net.au/library/uploads/files/MCD_Training_Program_Resource_Manual.pdf

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Challenging Stereotypes. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by Jake Brewer: https://flic.kr/p/8usR2

Friday, September 29, 2017

How to make your online course sticky: Top ten tips

With online courses how do you make them 'sticky'? How do you help participants, after they have started your course, remain engaged and motivated?

Good questions, and ones I was asked a short while ago by some clients. So, I thought I would post some of the ideas I shared with them.

With all of the following ideas, I have either worked with clients to add them to their course design, or have experienced them in action in other courses.

The ideas are based on the assumption that your course is going to be for adults (or learners who are used to using what are considered adult learning strategies), and is totally online, with rolling sign ups (i.e. no participant groups, which means that approaches such as, for example, responding to online forums, are likely to be less effective):

1) Sharing is a big key to ongoing engagement and motivation. Two things you could consider in your course design are:
  • Encouraging participants to find a 'buddy', who is not doing the course but who is interested in how the participant is doing. This buddy might be a trusted friend, or family member (or even a journal...and you could frame up as something like "share your progress with your journal"). As long as the buddy is genuinely interested, it can be hugely motivational for the participant to share the big challenges, as well as the big steps forward. So, you can invite your participants to share regularly, although being careful that you don't do it to the point of overload. For instance, you might want to include one invitation per learning segment. Also, at the beginning of the following learning segment (or if you have a video in the segments), you could ask something like "we invite you to reflect for a moment - Who did you share with? How did that go?"...or something similar :)
  • You can also consider setting up a private group (maybe Facebook or similar) where people can share: their learnings, their experiences, and maybe resources that they have found useful. One aspect to be aware of if you do go down this track though, are providing 'guidelines for positive interactions / what's appropriate to post'. You might also want to consider if you, as facilitator(s) would also respond to postings, and how you would moderate the group to make sure things remain civil.
2) Participants are likely to find different approaches to learning resonate with them. Therefore, when you encourage your participants to think about various concepts, you could use language that encourages them to
  • use their senses,
  • or bring their prior knowledge to a situation, 
  • or imagine (in words, sounds, and/or images).
3) When you suggest that participants consider themselves in a particular context, you could also ask them to think about their 'future story'. For example, if they are working toward skills that will help them start a, or transition to another, career, they could imagine themselves at a table, where they imagine the other characters who are there to support, advise and guide them. This approach, as well as being a powerful personalised 'tool', can help people visualise their own inner strengths, and resources on which they can draw. Imagining the 'conversation' between the characters can also help identify possible challenges, and ways continuing with your course might help address them.

4) Having a storyline running throughout your course can also be really powerful. Participants can 'get to know' characters, and get involved with the challenges they face, and how they work through them. In some cases this approach can help participants 'recognise' themselves, while also bringing complex concepts to life. 

5) A model I have seen work really well is, for an additional fee, people can choose to have a regular - or one off - virtual session(s) with the facilitator(s). This option enables people to share their learning in a much deeper way, and request things they would like to specifically focus on. To make these sessions effective though, you are likely to find that setting clear expectations is useful. For instance, clearly stating that these are additional formal learning sessions, but are fluid and based on a specific request from the participant, and it is up to the participant to identify their focus. These sessions can be recorded and shared back with the participant for their ongoing access.

6) If you are recording videos for your course you can include hooks such as "watch the next video for...", or "next time you will have the opportunity to learn / try / experience...". This 'in the next episode' approach', if done well, can help excite or intrigue participants enough to tune in next time.

7) Measurable progress can be important for some people, which is why journaling and sharing with a buddy can be so useful. However, other people like to measure themselves more concretely. So, you could consider having a short benchmark questionnaire at the beginning of the course, and then make the same questionnaire available at a key point further through the course. Participants can then compare the two, and see how their perceptions around their progress have shifted, if at all. The comparison would be a good point for participants to choose to have a virtual session with a facilitator, if they wanted to.

8) Regularly inviting your participants to make specific commitments to themselves about what they are going to do, how often, and how they will motivate themselves to do it (e.g. telling a friend that they are going to do something on such day or putting a reminder into their phone), can help some people remain engaged and active in your course.

9) You could also have a 'badge', or some sort of image...or whakatauki (proverb / saying), that a participant is (automatically) sent when they complete each part of the course - in other words, they receive positive reinforcement that recognises their progress.

10) Polls, where other people's responses are aggregated and shown (after the participant has responded) can be a way of indicating that there are other people doing the course, along with an indication of of their opinions.

I hope that you find these ideas useful. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Also, please add any of the approaches you use, or have experienced, in the comments below - and say if they were effective or not ... and what you might do to improve on them.

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Glue-goo. CC ( BY ND ) licensed Flickr image by Sam-cat: https://flic.kr/p/64Z871

Friday, September 15, 2017

The person behind the label: Having those uncomfortable conversations

Diversity management is the deliberate, unwavering pursuit, when managing employees and working with clients, to ‘make visible’ “all of the significant differences between people, including perceptions of differences ... such as our thinking styles or beliefs and values (Australian Multicultural Foundation, 2010, p. 8).
At TEDx Auckland 2012, Philip Patston gave a presentation entitled: The Label Libel, A New Look at Diversity. In his presentation Patston explores notions of diversity. He initially describes his own experience of the labels he gave himself, and the labels (with underpinning assumptions) that other people gave him, which created feelings of confusion and frustration. He identifies that labels are sometimes useful because they can create awareness. However, if they are unquestioned, they frequently lead to judgements, inequality, and separation by creating ‘us and them’ situations.
By questioning and unpacking our use of labels, we can uncover the textures and appreciate the gradations of meaning that diversity offers. However, this can be uncomfortable, as it will require delving into our own values, beliefs, and biases - some of which we may not be aware of. However, “discomfort brings engagement and change …. [and] actions lead to success” (Godin, 2010, p, 204), which in the case of diversity management is enabling the people working with an organisation to take away labels and ‘see’ the person behind the label. In turn, this enables appreciation of each other as unique  individuals with hopes, dreams, strengths and skills.
Patston highlights that common language helps create communities. For example, as part of the New Zealand cultural/national identity there is a notion of  “#8 wire and innovativeness …  characterized as ‘being able to think outside the box’ and ‘make something out of nothing’” (Rinne, & Fairweather, 2011, p. vii). This shared language and the layers that lie beneath it have spawned everything from art to advertisements, and is a source of pride for many Kiwis. So, one key to diversity management in organisations is to provide support (coaching, training, and safe forums for discussion) that encourage people to deconstruct the common language of the organisation - to pull it apart in a way that allows for non-conformity, and embraces paradoxes.
As indicated by Patston, this is hard, difficult work, and may result in two steps forwards and one step backwards; but where an organisation has true diversity, this process is essential. Organisations with a well-developed coaching culture may find that their employees’ communication skills are honed, and they are more able to set aside their own views to explore other perspectives. These types of conversation can lead to positive yet challenging conversations that can, over time, foster true diversity.
Money is often seen as the measure of value. Patston sees this as stifling technology innovation, and causing 98% of social issues. Alongside this, a need for definitive ‘answers’ (again the dichotomy of what is correct and what isn’t), at which point, Patston posits, we stop asking questions about who, what, why, where and when - the questions that enable us to see both commonalities and differences in a wide range of contexts, and to notice that we are unique and always changing.
Diversity management can provide opportunities for other values to come to the fore, and to encourage curiosity and questions. Opportunities might include formal and informal activities that provide a chance for employees to get to know each other, perhaps around a common interest or shared activity, as well as a buddy system for new employees (HCS, n.d.). Employee networks can offer opportunities for mentoring, or to seek advice, as well as a chance for (facilitated) candid discussions. Workplaces can also be designed to recognise diversity by providing a choice of different types of spaces (HCS, n.d.).

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References

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cultural competence...what it might look like in reality

Given the opening up of the world and a shift to globalisation, it is important, especially in business contexts to be culturally competent - to be sensitive to differences and know how to work within a multicultural context.
The following is a brief vignette (based on experience, but using fictional characters) of how the Geert Hofstede’s 6D model is one of the many tools that can help raise awareness, and start discussions.

The vignette
Together, Shuyi who was born and raised in Beijing in China, and with whom I work closely in New Zealand, have found Hofstede’s model a useful way to open conversations about how we can best work together that respects both of our cultural preferences.
With China, according to Hofstede’s model:
  • Power distance (attitudes of culture towards inequalities): China comes in at 80 (NZ is 22), signalling a society “that believes that inequalities amongst people are acceptable” (Hofstede, n.d.). In a workplace this means that the relationships tend to be polarised between managers and their team members, formal authority has great influence, and there is optimism about employees’ capacity to use their initiative and lead - but to also not have “aspirations beyond their rank” (Hofstede, n.d.).
  • Individualism (the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members): With a score of 20 (NZ is 79) China is a strongly collectivist culture. In the workplace this means that there is an expectation that “hiring and promotions with closer in-groups (such as family) … [get] preferential treatment” (Hofstede, n.d.). People do not tend to be committed to a company, although there is a tendency to form close cooperative groups with possible hostility shown to other groups.
  • Masculinity (levels of competitiveness, achievement and success vs liking what you do): At 66 (NZ is 58) China is a Masculine society, which means in a work context that there is a drive to succeed, often meaning long hours and little focus on breaks or leisure time.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (how cultures feel about ambiguity and the unknown): China, at 30 (NZ is 49), scores low on Uncertainty Avoidance. In a business setting, Chinese employees are usually comfortable with ambiguity, and tend to be “adaptable and entrepreneurial” (Hofstede, n.d.).
  • Long Term Orientation (attitudes to the past, present and future): With a score of 87 (NZ is 33), China has a very pragmatic culture, where traditions can easily adapt to changes in context. In the workplace, Long Term Orientation translates to perseverance to achieve results over time, as well as a focus on saving.
  • Indulgence (control of desires and impulses): At 24 (NZ is 75), China is a restrained society. In the workplace this may be expressed as cynicism or pessimism, and employees may see that indulgence is not a positive behaviour.
Looking at the scores, while Long Term Orientation shows the biggest numerical distance (meaning that there may be misunderstandings around the Kiwi focus on ‘quick results’ and short-term gains), the most useful for Shuyi and I was Power Distance. I had noticed Shuyi rarely said much in meetings, and hardly ever contributed ideas or suggestions in the shared Google Docs - and yet I knew from our discussions, she had a lot to offer!  After I shared the results of Hofstede’s model with her, we talked about some of our assumptions. Shuyi felt it was rude for her to jump in with ideas (particularly alternative perspectives) during meetings, especially if the team leader or one of the really experienced team members was speaking. On the flip side, I had assumed that she just wasn’t keen to share - and I knew that other people in the team felt that she wasn’t really interested in being active on our projects. However, we were able to talk things through and discuss strategies such as me asking for her ideas directly during team meetings or in the Google Docs (but not all the time or too obviously), or providing signals such as a direct request for input. We both hope to continue the conversation!
In conclusion...
While these solutions are relatively surface and may not work for everyone, the key here was the fact that awareness can support folks to ‘have the conversation’ - and Hofstede’s model (or similar tools) can offer a ‘safe’ way to recognise differences.
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Empathy, CC ( BY, NC, SA ) licensed Flickr image by James Box: https://flic.kr/p/4ZJwhw

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An example of multiculturalism in the workplace

Aotearoa New Zealand is a bicultural nation, with a growing multicultural population. It is essential that business owners and managers actively use the principles of cultural diversity as a basis for decision making and growing company culture in a way that affirms employees’ cultural identities.
That is not to say that a person who identifies as an ethnic minority should be seen as “needy, vulnerable and victimised” (Singham, 2006, p. 36). Singham states strongly “I do not want people to be nice to me, help me settle better and retain my mother tongue... Rather, I want to be valued and included because my contributions … are recognised and respected” (2006, p. 36).
Take for example, UTech, a (not real) company in Wellington that has recently employed several Filipinos, who are new to Aotearoa NZ. The manager, Maureen, uses Hofstede’s Dimensions in Cross Cultural Management to help her consider how to ensure all employees feel recognised and respected. It is immediately apparent that, according to the Hofstede dimensions of Power Distance and Individualism, Filipinos appear high in Power Distance (Aotearoa NZ appears low). Therefore, the new Filipino employees could find the accessibility to managers, and expectations around the sharing of expertise, quite challenging. In turn, the Kiwi employees may be frustrated by the Filipinos’ more formal, less direct or passive approach, to communication. When it comes to individualism, in the Aotearoa NZ context, the Filipinos may struggle with a business community that appears to be less close-knit, and that expects a high level of self-reliance. On the other hand, the Kiwis could find it challenging when their new Filipino colleagues appear to require more direction.
Maureen uses this information to work with all her employees to help raise their awareness, and hone their communication skills. Quite quickly, a wide range of previously unnoticed talents becomes obvious, with the additional benefit that the diversity of viewpoints is recognised, and there is a lot more creative problem-solving. While there are a few speed-bumps along the way, the team is focussed on developing their communication skills and works through the challenges to build synergy. Employees report feeling happier, more engaged, and the number of new projects underway increases.
This example illustrates that business owners and managers in Aotearoa NZ, who acknowledge cultural diversity, will be able to provide support for employees so that they become aware of the differences between specific characteristics. Such support will help ensure that employees value the strengths, motives, viewpoints, and life experiences that cultural diversity brings.
References
Hofstede,G. (1980) Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hills CA: Sage Publications.
Singham, M. (2006). Multiculturalism in New Zealand – the need for a  new paradigm. Aotearoa Ethnic Network Journal 1(1). 33-37.
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Circle of feet. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by Adam Connolly: https://flic.kr/p/3QR3y

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Workplace diversity: Gender

There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace can be beneficial. However, it is important to avoid generalisations, especially when referring to gender (Medland, 2012). Lynda Gratton (director of the Centre for Women in Business at London Business School), for example, observes that “there is no substantive difference between men and women at work. Some people are highly caring and intuitive and others are not” (in Medland, 2012, Para 8).
It is also essential to recognise that gender diversity includes people who may or may not identify as male, female, transgender, androgynous, or bigender, and that in the workplace behaviour can be “influenced by issues as far-ranging as self-esteem, opportunities, and society’s expectations” (Medland, 2012, Para 24).
Some of the current research indicates that a workplace with gender diversity can:
  • Bring varied perspectives, ideas and experiences to teams, and add to collective knowledge.
  • Help people feel happier, more resilient in the face of challenges / change, and be more cooperative.
  • Provide a range of approaches to problem solving, team building, and analysis of issues, and lead to improved decision-making.
  • Foster a range of communication styles.
  • Enhance productivity and economic growth (World Economic Forum, 2012).
  • Broaden notions of ‘success’, and what the associated attributes ‘look like’.
  • Provide a variety of support when a company is working with challenges or turbulent governance.
Within workplaces where gender diversity is actively sought, roles within the organisation, including leadership roles, are often reimagined to be more collaborative and supportive. In turn, this reframing of roles can make the company more appealing and accessible to a much more diverse pool of talent” (Berhane, 2015, n.p.).

References
Berhane, S. (2015). How To Make Gender Equality At Work Matter To Everyone. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3052401/strong-female-lead/how-to-make-gender-equality-at-work-everyones-problem.
World Economic Forum. (2012). The global gender gap report 2012. Retrieved from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2012.pdf.
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Identity finders. CC ( BY ND ND ) licensed Flickr image by James Box: https://flic.kr/p/4ZJvm1

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Four generations in the workforce - who are they?

Before describing the four generations that may be present in today’s workplace, it is important to identify a couple of caveats around generational cohort research. Parry and Urwin (2011) indicate that there is a tendency toward ‘snapshot’ research rather than longitudinal studies of individuals or cohorts. Also, the research design often does not account for differences such as gender and ethnicity. Therefore the broad-brush statements about the impact of common experiences that shape generational cohorts tend to be flawed because it is unlikely that people of the same generation will experience things similarly when their contexts, social and cultural backgrounds differ.
 With these caveats in mind, the generalisations can be useful for coaching as they may indicate possible motivations, values, and ideas, as well as the types of support that might be most effective.

The Silent Generation / Traditionalists (born before 1946)
As employees this generation tend to be loyal to their employers and will stick at a job no matter what. In return, they expect their employers to be loyal to them, which includes providing a tenured career path with associated promotions and raises. They are often accepting of organisational hierarchy, like a degree of autonomy and flexibility, and frequently have well-developed interpersonal skills. Work ethic is measured by timeliness, productivity, and by not standing out.

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
This generation have experienced downsizings and associated career challenges, tend to compete for positions, and be individualistic. At work, relationship building and teamwork are seen as crucial, and they expect loyalty from those with whom they work. During their career they may have had a range of jobs, where they place less importance on productivity and more on the hours worked. As such, they often work long hours, and place their career before personal relationships.

Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980)
With a distrust of large organisations, and having seen the layoffs of the '70s, '80s and '90s this generation see every role as temporary. They seek casual, friendly work environments, where they can get involved, and that are places to learn, which provide them with flexibility and freedom. Regardless of another employee’s position, title, or tenure, this generation want open communication (although this is often via email), and are not afraid to disagree with managers. They tend to invest loyalty in a person rather than a company. With a preference for short work days achieved by working smarter rather than harder, they value control of their time.

Millennials / Gen Y / Generation Next (born after 1981)
Keen for job security, this generation looks for (and often competes for) jobs that provide personal satisfaction. They look for individuals who will help them with their goals, and are thirsty for leadership, as well as open, frequent communication and feedback from their manager(s). They may try to avoid conflict in the workplace, and want to be close to their peers. With their eyes peeled for opportunities to learn, they are at home in a fast-paced technological environment that often demands their attention across tasks.

Reference:
Parry, E., & Urwin, P. (2011). Generational differences in work values: A review of theory and evidence. International Journal of Management Reviews. 13(1). 79-96.
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Identity hand clone. CC ( BY ND SA ) licensed Flickr image by Tillie Ariantho: https://flic.kr/p/4Qk9c8