The Benefits of Cultural Competence in the Workplace

Cultural competence can help you better interact and communicate with people from other cultures who may have varying beliefs, values and attitudes that can be quite different from your own. Practicing cultural competence in the workplace can boost your own and your co-workers efficiency and performance; however, it requires a commitment to educate yourself about different cultures.

In this post we’ll discuss the benefits of cultural competence and give some tips on how to be culturally competent in the work environment. If you’re not sure why cultural awareness is important, be sure to check out the article we’ve linked here.

If you’d like to learn more about our cultural awareness training in the workplace, you can find out more details at the link above.

A Detailed Definition Of Cultural Competence

Cultural competence in the workplace refers to an organisation’s overall respect for and acknowledgement of various cultures, as defined by ethnicities, nationalities, languages, and religions. It’s displayed in the way employees and managers communicate and collaborate within the company, and with external stakeholders, partners, and consumers. It’s a mindset that can be developed by strengthening specific skills and knowledge among business leaders and employees.

To foster cultural competence, company leaders must prioritise these seven crucial components:

  • Diverse worldviews and beliefs: This refers to how people from different backgrounds and cultures view the world and their place in it.
  • Communication methods: This entails how people communicate information and feedback; directly or indirectly, based on their cultural backgrounds.
  • Hierarchy: It refers to how different cultures structure professional and social leadership.
  • Formality: It includes the etiquette and manners people use when communicating and interacting with people of different classes or professional standing, and how they show respect.
  • Priorities and values: These include the varying concepts and principles that different cultures value, such as teamwork, loyalty, and work/life balance. 
  • Individuality and uniqueness: This refers to acknowledging that everyone is unique and might not adhere to predetermined guidelines, so employees must be perceived as unique individuals. 
  • Perceptions of time: It refers to how we discern deadlines on a fixed or flexible basis and how people approach both short and long-term goals.

These seven elements are crucial in helping professionals find their identity within a global workplace and better understand how people from different cultures approach their professional life.

Why Cultural Competence Matters In The Work Environment

Building a culturally competent workforce provides many benefits to companies. Some of the most fundamental advantages of cultural competence include:

Broader Range Of Perspectives And Skills

Adding a broader range of skills, knowledge, and perspectives into the work environment can enhance problem-solving skills while driving creativity. For instance, in a conference meeting with employees from different backgrounds and cultures, people may propose unexpected and new ideas, pushing the company forward. For example, The PWC Annual 2021 Corporate Directors Survey found that 93% of executives believe that diversity results in unique perspectives in the boardroom, and 85% feel that it improves performance. 

Greater Ability To Venture Into New Markets

With a better understanding of different cultures, businesses are in a place to venture into global markets. Culturally competent organisations know how to communicate effectively, and can better plan their marketing initiatives by learning from people of different geographies and backgrounds, be they consumers, partners, or colleagues. 

Better Collaboration And Communication

Cultural competence in the work environment can help managers and employees communicate effectively and coordinate better with colleagues and customers. It can also enhance engagement with other team members and customers, along with increasing overall team performance. For example, a study from Cloverpop shows homogeneous teams deliver 60% better outcomes and make decisions two times faster, while having fewer meetings. 

Improved Employee Satisfaction

When people feel heard, seen, and understood, they’re likely to feel satisfied in their roles in the workplace. Focusing on cultural competence can also help employees strengthen their self-awareness as individuals in diverse teams. Harvard Business Review reports that improved self-awareness results in greater confidence, communication, and innovation among both individuals and the teams they were a part of. This can help both employees and managers make better decisions and build lasting relationships. 

How Can You Create A Culturally Competent Workplace?

Organisation leaders, such as human resource managers, must take actionable steps to improve cultural competence in their companies by:

Reviewing Cultural Competence

Human resource managers and other workplace leaders must conduct surveys and collect feedback to assess how employees feel about their roles within the office and what they think about the cultural competence of their colleagues and managers. Collecting data about the cultural dynamics of your office is crucial to developing policies that enhance cultural competence and diversity. 

Running Training Programs And Workshops

Conduct training programs and workshops to address gaps in cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence. Training employees and other managers on the best ways to learn how to communicate with co-workers from different cultures and backgrounds can also improve cultural competence in the workplace. 

Account For Diversity In Schedules

When scheduling events, meetings, and projects, you must consider different holidays and time zones to incorporate global and culturally diverse team members. This conveys respect for and awareness of other customs and multicultural values, which can go a long way in maintaining employee happiness, job satisfaction, and long term retention.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to building a culturally competent workplace, it’s not enough to go through the motions and only make the minimum required efforts to comply with the law. Every Australian employer who is serious about their organisation’s success must genuinely understand the importance of cultural competence. The focus should be on enhancing employee satisfaction and making a consistent commitment to offering their employees the best cultural inclusion through competence training and workshops.

Talk to us about creating a culturally competent workplace.

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