Recently, I had the pleasure to represent Future Centre Training Corporation on a panel at SWPS University to discuss HR’s role in promoting cultural diversity.

As an Australian who has worked in Poland for the last 3 years, and previously in China, India, Qatar and the UK for more than 10 years, the topic is highly interesting for me. Furthermore, having studied HR management and worked closely with HR professionals, the topic is highly relevant for me.

The benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace are well documented: wider candidate pools, broader business perspectives, better employee morale, bigger sales networks, higher profits, and more.

However, in Poland and around the world, people from minority cultures typically experience difficulties being employed and engaged by organisations to work in their preferred field. The reasons for this are numerous: personal prejudices, poor recruiting practices, language barriers, and more.

The specific question posed by SWPS University at their International Day event last month was: What can a Human Resources manager do better in terms of cultural diversity? Addressing this question on the panel, besides me, was a representative from Accenture and a moderator from the University.

From my perspective, I suggested there are at least three things HR can do better. In short, I mentioned:

  1. Showing more leadership. Making the case to higher management and all employees about the benefits of cultural diversity. Additionally, putting policies, systems and practices in place to support greater diversity.
  2. Being more creative. Finding different ways to recruit people – not just the same types from the same sources. And, finding different ways to make all employees feel comfortable at work – not just those native to Poland.
  3. Being braver. Taking risks to recruit people who do not necessarily ‘tick all the boxes’ but who have the potential, attitude and interest to prosper. Questioning whether it is crucial for someone to speak perfect Polish to be good at their job.

The university students in attendance, mainly from psychology, seemed more interested in discussing my cross-cultural experiences from working around the world and particularly in Poland, rather than the specific topic at hand.

Whereas, the university staff in attendance seemed more interested in discussing how best to overcome the challenges of creating a culturally diverse workforce.

Overall, there were plenty of great discussions, passionate and diverse people in attendance, and positive feedback. I thought it was a good initiative and I wish more similar events would appear in the future.

Marko Soltys – teacher, trainer and coach from Australia who has lived in Poland for 2.5 years.  Specialises in executive development of English and soft skills.  Career spans more than 20 years in various roles, organisations and countries.  Previously worked as a General Manager of Intrepid Travel in China and India, and a Planning and Performance Analysis Manager of ExxonMobil in Australia.  Studied law and commerce at the University of Melbourne, and human resource management at the University of Edinburgh.  Loves travelling, learning, cycling, nature and cafes.