Bicultural employees – your secret to success in business
A bicultural individual is a person who identifies with more than one culture, for example, a Malaysian-German or Samoan-Chinese. As a multi-cultural country, Australian companies employ numerous bicultural employees. However, many of these organisations have no idea how to harness the unique character traits and skills of bicultural employees.
Bicultural employees offer many cross-cultural skills. One distinct skill they may possess is bilingual language skills, which may be helpful when dealing with foreign stakeholders. Furthermore, bicultural employees typically have better intercultural skills that allow them to adapt to cross-cultural situations. These skills develop because they understand the values, norms and appropriate behaviour for more than one culture. Moreover, bicultural people often use more than one cultural lens at a time. This way of seeing means they can analyse international issues at a deeper level than monocultural individuals with access to only one cultural framework.
Multicultural social networks
When individuals belong to multiple cultural groups, they naturally have more diverse social networks. A monocultural Australian is likely to develop most of their close social ties with other monocultural Australians. Conversely, an Australian-Indian is more likely to consider both cultures as their own. Subsequently, they will have a social network that includes people from both of these cultures. By connecting individuals across cultural groups, bicultural employees can connect stakeholders who would not otherwise be connected.
While there are advantages of being bicultural, there are also challenges. It is often hard for bicultural employees to reconcile conflicting cultural demands. For example, different sets of values, norms, assumptions and expected behaviours. However, in thinking deeply about how to reconcile their cultures internally, they can better integrate multiple perspectives regarding international problems. Bicultural individuals also develop more complex thinking about issues by considering different perspectives. This skill helps them develop more alternative strategies to resolve global issues.
Companies and leaders need to recognise that both their labour force and customer base are becoming more and more culturally diverse. Working effectively across cultures is now a fundamental requirement for today’s modern organisations. Therefore, to succeed in the current environment, leaders need to recognise bicultural individuals as a valuable asset. Moreover, they need to find ways to support these employees in achieving their potential contributions. Engaging and motivating bicultural individuals is the latest challenge in managing people in organisations. However, it is a challenge that promises significant rewards.