Multi-Cultural Workforce – Is India Ready?

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 2501 , Published on 13 October 2012

Multicultural or Diverse workforce today is no new term for HR professionals. We, as a diverse nation have grown and become well accustomed to it. Dealing with people from different cultures is almost a daily business for us. But soon, the way we have been doing business, in terms of handling the (glued) multicultural workforce in India, is going to change and would be the next big challenge for the HR professionals in India.

Two very important aspects need to be handled then – Change Management and Conflict Management. What is going to happen in the coming years? Are we missing something? Which new challenge is going to pop up ?

To look for the answer we will have to take some cues from some of the tectonic shifts which have happened in the past decade. To start with, a complete new sector of Outsourcing has sprung up which today is rated at $ 60 billion and growing. This sector employs around 2.5 million Indians directly or indirectly and accounts for over 5.19% of the country’s GDP.

Secondly, Indian companies in recent few years have been on a hunting safari. Acquiring companies, setting joint ventures, mergers, expanding into new market, etc. have made headlines. The trend was set by Tata Tea taking over a company twice it’s size, Tetley Tea, in 2000. And soon we witnessed other major acquisitions like Tata – Corus, Hindalco – Novalis, Tata – Jaguar and Land Rover, ONGC – Imperial Energy, Times Group – Virgin Radio, to name a few.

Thirdly, and to which we are giving no space currently is the possibility (and as history has witnessed ) is the reverse brain drain and with it, a small batch but a decisive movement of professionals from American and European nations to India in search of work and better opportunities. Definitely the living conditions in India have improved and today we are no longer a nation of snake charmers or bullock carts, but a green pasture for those whose own fields are turning grey.

The avalanche has been set in motion. Slowly yet forcefully it is going to hit the Indian industries. IT, Automobile, Pharmaceutical, Aviation and other industries are going to be a part of the game, willingly or unwillingly. Can you still not see it? Hell! We are taking foreigners as lead female actors in our very own Bollywood. They definitely are the first to understand and adapt to this. Hope this helps. But they donot have any HR professionals (though it may benefit them) or HR department. They are in the business of enjoyment and pleasure and masalas do relate to the taste buds of Indians. So they have higher chances of success while on the other hand for other businesses we need to think and setup the plan in motion. Today being slow and steady doesn’t win you the race, it kills you. To live, you have to be adapting to changes and being flexible or you will just be another name in the history.

Going back to the challenges and talking about the “New” Diverse workforce, HR professionals will have to be ready and start with and managing the change within the organization. Required training and education needs to be imparted to both the Indian and the foreign professionals so they can develop better understanding of each other’s working culture and respect one’s identity. The change in this case needs and should be managed on and from both the fronts and in a delicate manner. Picking only the Indian workforce for the adaptation training may backfire and also crash their confidence across the verticals which no company today can really burden to handle.The change will definitely have to be structured and customized i.e. different for Indian workforce in terms of what is expected from them and what they should be expecting from their new colleagues and vice-versa.

With this new challenge popping up the Conflict Management may not just be termed as employee-employer conflict, but also include the possible conflicts between the different cultures. The need of conflict management will be all dependent on how seamlessly change management was taken up within the organization and the culture of the organization because it runs deep in the veins of the employees and a simple attempt of white wash can’t hide the colored walls.

The challenge is not just termed for the HR professionals working in India, but also for those who may be sent for foreign postings. How the HR professionals are going to adapt and help organizations realize and adapt to this possible scenario of new face of workforce will be the decisive factor in the growth and integration of the Indian companies.

This article has been authored by Anish Bhardwaj from SIMS Pune.

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renjith krishnan


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