Why cultural diversity = High performance

by Contributor28 Apr 2017
As all eyes are currently on gender diversity, other areas – such as cultural diversity – can be neglected. Angela Henderson, HR business partner at CMC Markets, outlines why her company has invested in this area

The world of currency and stock trading never sleeps and it’s an exciting business to be in right now. Factors such as Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, rising inflation and a falling Aussie dollar make 2017 a difficult year to predict.

However, one certainty exists for most Australian organisations – the need for successful business strategies to secure a prosperous future in both the domestic and Asian economies.

Organisational effectiveness
Like those of my counterparts in HR, two of my key focuses are organisation effectiveness and managing talent. In the service era, it has never been more important to put the customer at the heart of your business. Then it’s about ensuring you attract and retain talented staff to provide ongoing value to your customers so they remain satisfied and loyal.

This sounds simplistic but in reality it requires in-depth knowledge of your business, its products and services, your customer needs, market trends, opportunities and threats. Understanding these factors enables you to direct the best use of talent to deliver the best ROI for the business.

In the case of CMC Markets, we clearly identified what the brand should represent and investigated what was important for our Asia-Pacific customers. The process identified that CMC Markets should lead the way through trader education, premium customer service and the best trading platform and tools.

A few years on, it’s clear we have the formula right as the company continues to attract our industry’s biggest number of high value clients.

Put simply, we deliver a better user experience and customer service to this segment.

Cultural diversity enabling business strategy
How do we achieve these results? We embrace cultural diversity, establish a rigorous recruitment criteria and induction program, and then allow talent to thrive in strong teams that are geared to delivering to clients’ needs.

What that means in practice is that alongside departmental managers and team leaders, I have literally hand-picked each member of staff who represents our brand to customers in Australia and across the Asia- Pacific region.

As we have a high proportion of Asian customers in Australia and across the region, we employ Mandarin and Cantonese speakers who are also fluent in English, both verbally and in written form.

These customer-facing staff and managers sit across the business and have enabled us to achieve a core business objective to provide service excellence to a key group of customers, who want to speak to someone in their own language who understands their needs and can resolve issues quickly.

Beyond the language barrier
Our staff come from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds, so they have personal experience of cultural nuances and traditions. Currently, approximately 35% of our staff are of Asia-Pacific descent.

When I see a CV from a candidate who has a university degree, who has worked in one or two service-orientated jobs, and is bilingual, I want to see them, to assess if they are a good fit for openings in our multicultural team.

I know those candidates are more likely to understand our customers and can deliver a personalised service each time they represent our brand over the phone, email, or social media.

Quality assured approach 
One of the key overriding factors we select our people on is their desire to serve others and their ability for conversation.

Our experienced staff understand customers sometimes want a deeper interaction and wish to chat about what’s happening on the markets, or discuss a new product offering. It’s important to have the entire team skilled up to manage these conversations without having to pass enquiries on.

Having a multicultural team that tends to be bilingual means staff can service a wider range of customers, therefore creating greater efficiencies for the business.

Gender diversity
We are all acquainted with the skills mix females can bring to teams. It’s often said that women bring empathy and intuition to the workplace. Add to that an interest in finance and accruing new technology skills and you have a very compelling formula for a global online business like ours.

I believe our company also benefits from a good degree of gender diversity, and we have women in a number of management roles across the business – such as business operations, stockbroking, marketing, communications and customer service.

It’s a source of pride for me as HR business partner that many of these female executives began their careers in our customer service team and have progressed to lead departments they have a passion and aptitude for.
 
REWARDING TALENT
Many of our clients trade currency in the evening when the UK and US markets are open. Managing the nightshift for CMC Markets is Meredith Shen, senior client services executive.

However volatile international currency and stock markets become, Meredith ensures she delivers an unparalleled client service experience to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Meredith began her career with CMC Markets in Singapore in 2013 and relocated to Sydney to join the customer service team in 2015. After a few months, she was talent spotted for advancement and took on the senior client services executive role. Her professional demeanour and encyclopaedic product knowledge enable her to successfully serve even the most demanding of clients.

In line with our business strategy to support key customers, Meredith is fluent in Mandarin and English and her ability to anticipate the current and future needs of her customers ensures the people she interacts with feel valued and satisfied their needs have been met.

Plan to succeed
As 2017 unfolds, I plan to continue my focus on cultural diversity and how to manage it effectively to further improve our workplace performance, productivity, relationships and competitiveness. I invite you all to do the same. Here are some tips on getting started:

• Pledge to increase your understanding of culture diversity.

• Join an online discussion group or sign up to receive information on cultural diversity, so you learn a little each day/week.

• Develop your cross-cultural communication skills and interactions.

• Analyse how your business strategies and operations can benefit from cultural diversity.

• Develop an action plan for managing cultural diversity in your business.

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