Cultural Competence in the Workplace: What Employees Need to Know

Cultural competence in the workplace is the willingness and ability to embrace diversity and appreciate the differences in people.

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Cultural Competence in the Workplace: What Employees Need to Know

Cultural competence in the workplace is the willingness and ability to embrace diversity and appreciate the differences in people. Organizations achieving cultural competency better position themselves as great places to work, setting the table for success.

If you want to cultivate cultural competence in the workplace, there are several initiatives you can take to bolster your team’s knowledge, social skills, and awareness. Collectively, your initiatives will help create cultural awareness, a stronger understanding of different backgrounds, and, ultimately, significantly contribute to your company’s success.

In this article, we’ll discuss why workplace diversity is important and how you can encourage employees to embrace differences and celebrate one another.

Benefits of strong cultural competence

some statistics suggest companies with diverse workforces are 35% “more likely” to see higher financial returns and 70% more likely to capture markets compared to their non-diverse counterparts.

Competence initiatives result in a culturally diverse workforce where team members interact effectively and genuinely value the differences in one another. Studies have shown diverse workforces tend to be more productive and innovative, leading to higher profitability and stronger competitive advantages.

In fact, some statistics suggest companies with diverse workforces are 35% “more likely” to see higher financial returns and 70% more likely to capture markets compared to their non-diverse counterparts.

Culturally competent companies enjoy many additional benefits.

  • Better communication. The culturally competent workplace inherently understands how to effectively communicate, since the environment will encourage discussion and be welcoming to holding conversations.
  • Stronger problem-solving abilities. Blending in a variety of experiences and perspectives leads to better approaches to problem-solving. Also, diverse cultures have proven effective in evading the detrimental effects of group-think.
  • Broader ranges of skills. People with diverse backgrounds and experiences tend to possess different skill sets, which can strengthen a team’s capabilities.
  • Better creativity and innovation. Diverse team members are more likely to offer outside-the-box thinking, resulting in new ideas to propel products and services to new heights.

While the benefits of a culturally competent workplace are clear, Fundera reports approximately 57% of employees feel their organizations still can be doing more. Furthermore, 41% of managers admit to being “too busy” to work on implementing diversity inclusion initiatives.

The downside of ignoring cultural competency

Companies failing to recognize and act upon the importance of cultural competency will suffer from negative effects like lowered productivity, high employee turnover, and an inability to attract top talent.

  • Decreased productivity. People who can’t effectively communicate with each other have difficulty maintaining strong productivity rates. Over time, people who feel that discussions of their ideas or contributions are not encouraged or acknowledged tend to result in lower morale, naturally decreasing productivity.
  • Low retention rates. Employees feeling alienated or working within a hostile work environment tend to feel disengaged, eventually seeking workplaces that are more inclusive. High turnover is costly and leads to remaining team members suffering from low morale.
  • Inability to attract talent. In time, people notice how companies with cultural incompetence suffer due to their inability to celebrate cultural differences. Brand reputation matters a lot when it comes to attracting top talent, especially from a diverse cultures perspective. People want to know they’ll feel welcomed.

In essence, businesses that aren’t culturally competent might struggle to stay well-staffed, make poor decisions, and experience a downgrade in innovative ideas and creativity. On the other hand, recognizing a problem is the first step. Then a company must follow up with cultural training and integrating cross-cultural knowledge to improve the situation.

businesses that aren’t culturally competent might struggle to stay well-staffed, make poor decisions, and experience a downgrade in innovative ideas and creativity.

Tips to improve cultural competence

If you want to create a workplace environment rooted in cultural competency, start by identifying systemic and structural issues. Once problems are brought to the surface, you can take proactive steps to improve the cultural competence of your employees and your company as a whole. Steps to develop a culturally competent workforce include:

  • Assessing cultural competence. Give surveys to employees and assemble the feedback to get a better grasp on how they feel about the work atmosphere, along with their views on the cross cultural knowledge of their managers and colleagues.
  • Providing cultural education. Based on survey results, leaders can run workshops and cultural training programs to fill in any noticeable gaps. Education offers employees understanding and growth in their awareness of cultural identity and cultural practices, along with learning how the value of people with ethnic background differences working together become cohesive and highly productive teams.
  • Offer cultural competence training. Providing teams with training about other cultures will broaden their cultural knowledge and help understand different cultural backgrounds, along with taking a step further to learn cultural humility, cultural sensitivity, and the value of diversity.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration. Offer team building exercises to encourage interactions and improve cultural competence; these can help employees from different cultures form strong bonds.
  • Account for diversity in scheduling. Lead by example! Always be certain to respect time zones, holidays, values, and other cultural differences to raise awareness and tolerances of differences.

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Additional culture competence initiatives

Other cultural competence initiatives you can take include training programs for global citizenship, practicing communication skills, practicing good manners, encouraging discussion, practicing listening, and building teamwork. These all can go a long way toward building cross-cultural understanding.

Additionally, if you keep the topic of culturally competent companies on the forefront, it’ll be an easier topic to discuss openly, encouraging people to share feelings or ask questions. Plan to hold regular meetings or offer other avenues of feedback for employees to interact with.

Research indicates cultural diversity in the workplace results in teams making better decisions 87% of the time. This benefits everyone in an organization, further illustrating that diversity training is a worthwhile investment.

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