March 25, 2021

As the business environment becomes more global  — and the workplace more multicultural — the ability to interact effectively with people who have different backgrounds, values and experiences is fundamental to creating an inclusive workplace. Like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), achieving cultural competence is a long-term process of learning, listening, understanding and adapting. Providing employees and managers with cultural competence training is one of the ways that organizations can foster cultural awareness and enjoy its many benefits.

What is cultural competence?

The concept of cultural competence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with people from other cultures. This encompasses individuals having a basic awareness and understanding of their own culture and how it affects their perceptions and attitudes toward others from different cultures.

What is cultural humility?

Cultural humility involves a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and reflection; to recognize and understand that one’s point of view and cultural biases may be based on stereotypes or other assumptions that aren’t true.

How can organizations benefit from cultural competence?

Improvements in employee engagement, teamwork, decision-making, innovation and customer satisfaction are some of the benefits of a culturally aware workforce. Conversely, a lack of cultural competence can have very negative outcomes. For example, the wave of anti-Asian violence since COVID-19 amplifies the need to address harassment, discrimination, bias and microaggressions toward people based on their ethnicity, race or other characteristics. The pandemic has also underscored bias in patient care. Currently, there are several states that require cultural competence training for healthcare professionals.

As part of an ongoing commitment to building a diverse, inclusive and culturally aware organization, here are 6 ways to improve cultural competence:

  1. Communicate a culture of belonging in which individuals from underrepresented groups feel valued and heard. Emphasizing this in the company’s mission and values statement and extending it to policies, processes, training and DEI initiatives is a good way to start.
  2. Highlight the importance of pronouncing ethnic/unfamiliar names correctly and addressing individuals by their correct name and pronouns, in accordance with their gender identity.
  3. Provide important statements, notices and other information in multiple languages.
  4. Encourage employees to listen to and respect what each person can bring to projects, meetings or conversations.
  5. Create employee resource groups (ERGs) that provide a platform for employees to share their unique experiences, cultivate mentoring and allyship, and have opportunities for cross-functional and cross-cultural interactions.
  6. Provide multiple channels for communications and feedback. With many employees working remotely, it’s important to find different ways to connect, check-in, engage and celebrate cultural diversity.

Traliant Insight

In today’s multicultural world, organizations can enjoy many benefits from a workforce that can interact effectively across cultures and rise above biases. Training employees and managers on cultural competence and cultural humility provides a framework and motivation to learn about their own background and how it relates to others, and how to communicate with empathy, inside and outside of the workplace.