Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

Multicultural cooperation in companies. Why is it important?

Multicultural cooperation in companies. Why is it important?

Written by Artur Yaniuk

In today’s world it’s quite common for us to meet people from different nationalities. We can meet each other in our lecture halls, in a room at our dormitory or on a bus to our hotels. There are a lot of reasons why this happens, but I guess we can agree that most of us live in an international community. In the European Union alone, there are 32,5 million immigrants. So if you are looking for a new job – be ready to became a part of an international team. And as with everything in life, this has some advantages and disadvantages.

So let’s start with one of the most obvious disadvantages – language. We all know it’s very difficult to be part of an international community without knowing at least one foreign language. Have you ever tried using your mother tongue to buy some bread in a foreign country? (bread, bukë, chleb, kruh, brood, Brot, pão, mianbao…the possibilities are endless.) Probably this led you to some silly and potentially embarrassing situations. So not knowing another language will also be a challenge when you’re trying to get a new job in an international team. It will be very difficult to communicate with others, understand what your tasks are or even receive feedback from your boss. Fortunately, while not knowing another language can stop you from speaking with locals, it can motivate you to learn a new skill which can be added to your CV. Knowing 2 or 3 languages can always come in handy in the future.

Another disadvantage about working in an international team are the stereotypes we can have about different cultures. For example, there are still some people who think that Russians have bears as pets and drink vodka every day. So it might be difficult for them to work with a Russian colleague and it can lead to a lot of conflicts. I am Ukrainian, but I’m so close to Russian culture, and I can tell for sure that this stereotype is just a joke. If you don’t trust me, and I can understand why. But I can break this stereotype with some facts. According to the World Health Organization, people in Czech Republic or Estonia drink more alcohol than people in Russia. Also, there are only 143 thousands bears in Russia and, according to Russian law, hunting them could land you in jail for 12 years. So, make sure you check the facts before you start believing in stereotypes about people.

Now, let’s go back to the advantages of working in an international team. The first of many is expanding the horizons of a company’s activity. It’s important to remember that people from different cultures can have different point of views on some situations and that can be an ideal mix. It is like a puzzle. If you have the same pieces you will not get the full picture. But if you connect different pieces you will get the full puzzle in the end. It might take a bit more time to find the right pieces, but the result will be more satisfying. In the case of culture, mixing people with different backgrounds is an unbelievable source of knowledge. And mixing them can provide a company with great power.

There are a plenty of real world examples of it. One of the most biggest ones is the European Union. Currently it includes 28 countries. People of different nationalities cooperate and we can see results of their work every day on the streets. For example, this is the railway station in Poznan before Poland joined the European Union and after:


You can immediately notice that it looks much better now. It is bigger and more comfortable. It can encourage more people to take the train, and bring more money to the city. So our ways of life become better and better. And the mixing of different nationalities is one of the reasons behind this success.

The USA is also result of it. It is a country of immigrants, a lot of geniuses have moved there to create some great achievements. In 1958 John F. Kennedy said that every American who has ever lived, with exception of one group, was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants. Albert Einstein (Inventor and Physicist), Madeleine Albright (the First female Secretary of State), Salma Hayek (Actress), Nicola Tesla (Inventor and Physicist) – have all immigrated to the US and made their contribution to common progress. So the USA owes most of its power and success to its skilled immigrant population.

We can also talk about big companies such as Google, Amazon, or others giants from Silicon Valley. Apple currently employs a multicultural staff of 132 thousand people (more information in the picture). But why is it important for the common employee? Well, there is one story about the Director of Siri Data Science and Engineering, Yael Garten. She creates an open environment that encourages teamwork across cultures, and she makes sure there are tools available for everyone to feel productive, safe, and open. “Having diversity creates more diversity. Not only about what we work on, but how we work together…Siri has to think in different languages and understand cultural nuances, so we need people who can bring voices of different cultures to our team. Diversity is especially important when building machine learning products. If the data isn’t representative of a global population, our products won’t be built for all people. Apple earned 265,6 million dollars last year and having a great multicultural cooperation is a part of their success.

Of course, it is very cool and comfortable to work with your friend from your home town. You may have an interesting conversation about different local events or other people you know. You can make a lot of projects together, and you might be able to work faster and more efficiently because you share a common language. So you’re under the influence of a common culture, and that makes your opinion about some things very similar. I am currently studying International Relations in Poland. And of course my Polish classmates have much more knowledge about their own history. For the past 1000 years our common Ukrainian-Polish history has been very complicated. So it’s not a surprise that we have different points of view on some situations, but this helps us to bring new perspectives and see different sides. So now, together, we are cooperating and it has given us some good results. For example, we made some common projects and got good marks in university. Of course, this international cooperation is just a part of our success. But because of it, our projects are better.

So if you work with people of other nationalities it makes your knowledge more deeper and your opinion becomes more sober. In any case, we will all work with different people in the future. The world is becoming more and more integrated every day. So won’t have much of a choice. But I am sure that both employees and companies can get a lot of benefits from multicultural cooperation. And the results of such cooperation will be much bigger.