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Employee Rewards and Recognition for A Multi-cultural Workforce

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Employee Rewards and Recognition for A Multi-cultural Workforce

Many organizations face challenges while implementing employee rewards and recognition for a multicultural workforce. This is primarily because these organizations fail to take into consideration the cultural sensitivities of employees while designing such programs.

While most organizations focus on having an innovative and diverse rewards program, but they fail to factor in the cultural nuances to make it truly effective and satisfactory for their employees from different countries and cultures across the globe.

What are the Challenges of Employee Recognition for a Multi-cultural Workforce?


It is a well-known fact that different things might hold completely different meanings in various cultures.

A lack of understanding of the cultural values and nuances of different groups within the organization can fail even well-intentioned rewards and recognition, as they can be hurtful and insulting to the recipients.

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This can impact the overall motivation and engagement levels of employees and even force them to seek other employment options.

In comparison, organizations that consider the cultural differences between members of their multicultural workforce in their employee recognition programs enjoy better retention rates as well as higher employee performance and efficiency.

How to Create a Multi-cultural Employee Recognition Program?

An employee recognition program suited for a multicultural workforce requires the organization to focus on several important points:

Employee Rewards and Recognition for Multi-cultural Workforce

1. Understand the Recipients and their Cultures

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Before creating a recognition program, the organization should invest time and effort to understand the cultural backgrounds of its employees.

The organization should especially focus on learning about how sensitive certain employees are about their culture and its nuances.

Certain cultural groups might find a specific action or communication attractive, while other groups might find it offensive.

Understanding cross-cultural sensitivities can help design the employee rewards and recognition program in a more balanced way.

2. Learn about Overlapping Cultural Aspects

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Organizations should also learn about major cultural aspects, especially those that might overlap with other cultures but have entirely different meanings.

This is especially true in the case of employees belonging to Asian, African, or even Middle Eastern communities.

This will help organizations avoid making serious mistakes in rewarding their multicultural workforce due to misinterpretation of cultural nuances.

Even a single oversight may lead to the alienation of an entire section of the workforce belonging to a specific culture.

3. Verify the Truth of Cultural Stereotypes

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Cultural stereotypes can lead to unconscious bias and impact decisions related to the design of the rewards programs.

As such it is important that organizations validate these cultural stereotypes and their relevance for employees being rewarded and recognized.

This applies to both positive and negative stereotypes, although following the latter blindly is likely to cause greater damage.

If the stereotype is verified as true and is likely to have an adverse impact, then alternatives should be considered.

4. Establish Clear Lines of Communication

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Most organizations communicate with their top-performing employees through indirect channels. This can give rise to a lot of assumptions and confusion, especially concerning cultural nitty-gritty. 

Hence, organizations with a multicultural workforce must establish clear and direct lines of communication between employees and managers.

This proves beneficial as managers can get a first-hand understanding of the culture and ethnic beliefs of their team members.

5. Focus on Building a Unique Organization Culture

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An effective way to make rewards and recognition programs work for a multicultural workforce is to focus on building a unique company culture.

It can integrate positive aspects of different cultures to develop a homogenous culture that seems familiar yet distinct to every individual employee.

The rewards and recognition program should be developed in alignment with the workplace culture rather than the different cultural backgrounds of employees.

This is also an effective way to instill a deep sense of camaraderie and teamwork between the members of the workforce.

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The rapid globalization of businesses has necessitated the growth of a multi-cultural workforce even for small and mid-sized organizations. They can keep their workforce happy and motivated by implementing effective employee rewards and recognition policies.

Sagar Chaudhuri

Lead author: Sagar Chaudhuri, the Co-Founder and CEO of HiFives. He is an HR Tech Evangelist with over 25 years of experience in the corporate world and entrepreneurship. In the past, Sagar has worked with companies such as Genpact, Infosys, and ICICI Bank, in leadership roles. He has an engineering degree from IIT Kharagpur and an MBA from IIM Lucknow. Connect on LinkedIn

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HiFives is a global employee rewards, recognition and engagement SaaS platform that enables organizations to digitize, automate and transform their employee experience. It is used by 100+ large enterprises, small businesses and startups in manufacturing, retail, technology, financial services and media, across 25+ countries.