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“The world is getting smaller every day”. Has anybody ever

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heard this said? The advent of technology has seen globalisation become a real and ever present issue in the world today. People can be contacted instantly in most parts of the globe with little effort. Social media has meant that people can access information in “real time” and people from all nationalities. The effect of this is generally positive; it opens our minds to new cultures and interpretations and allows us to look at issues through a variety of different windows. However, there can be complications along the way.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to a birthday party of a young South American boy. He and his family moved over from Venezuela about a year ago and we met through my children. My team in Brisbane helped his father secure a job in the gas sector and our families have become firm friends. I turned up at the party expecting it to be like most birthday parties for five year old boys but this one was different. Firstly, my family was the only family who weren’t bi-lingual. Everyone else spoke at least two languages and my wife and I felt quite silly. We struggled to converse and felt on the outer. Secondly, we witnessed a great number of birthday traditions including songs, foods and drinks that we never expected at a birthday party. As my family and I left the party, my wife and I spoke with each other and spoke about how difficult it must be for people to assimilate with our culture – and how short sighted we have been in the past. By the way, I have to say that we loved the Venezuelan birthday party – the food was spectacular and my sons loved it!

On a more professional note, our business learnt a lesson on cultural sensitivity this week. Let me be the first to say that this was an innocent mistake on our behalf, but a mistake none the less. It caused offence to an applicant and also exposed an issue that I had not done enough work with my team on cultural sensitivity. Actually, it exposed my own ignorance and lack of sensitivity to cultural diversity. This week, Optimum advertised a role based in Malaysia. This was a great coup to our team and we were excited to take the assignment. Unfortunately the position description had been drafted in Malaysia and we took information directly from it and put it in our advertisement. Sadly, one phrase in the position description related to the fact that a certain sect was preferred and we included it in our advertisement. We didn’t understand the full meaning and we had no knowledge of the impact. It was a mistake and caused offence. Our lack of knowledge and ignorance led to an applicant being seriously offended and upset. Sadly, we had no idea of the impact and it will be a lesson for the entire company.

Labour mobility is a real issue in the world today. Today, over 35% of our workforce at Optimum was born overseas. Over 25% of our applicants are from countries other than Australia. Australia is a country steeped in tradition of migrant labour. We are going to need to import labour to support the major infrastructure projects over the next decade. To facilitate this, the Optimum Recruitment Group has to open our eyes and respect cultural differences. We cannot be ignorant to laws and customs otherwise we will be left behind. I challenge you to think of your own businesses and own behaviours and implore you not to make the same mistakes we have.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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