Fostering cultural competence in the workplace — the ability to communicate and interact effectively with people from different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, worldviews and experiences — is increasingly important. As part of long-term efforts to create a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming workplace, providing staff with cultural competency training helps organizations increase cultural competence and enjoy its many benefits.
Why is cultural competence important at work?
When managers and employees have a deeper understanding of cultural competency, it can lead to improvements in teamwork and performance, productivity, employee engagement and customer satisfaction, among other advantages. When people are not culturally competent, unconscious bias often goes unchecked. This can lead to discriminatory decisions and actions and negative outcomes for some people, including non-US born individuals, racial, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with physical or mental disabilities.
Recognizing what we know and don’t know about different groups and being willing to rethink biases and adapt our behaviors enables individuals and teams to have more effective interactions, resulting in better outcomes for everyone.
What is cultural humility?
Cultural humility involves a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and reflection. It’s recognizing and understanding that one’s point of view and cultural biases may be based on stereotypes or other assumptions that aren’t true. In today’s diverse and dynamic world, developing cultural competence and humility are key to reducing misunderstandings and ensuring respectful and effective interactions, which drive an organization’s success.
How can you demonstrate cultural competence at work?
Here are 7 ways that organizations can demonstrate a commitment to cultural competence in the workplace:
- Provide cultural competency training that includes examples of cultural competence and actions that employees and managers can take to improve their understanding of cultural competence and how it applies in everyday interactions.
- Highlight the importance of pronouncing ethnic/unfamiliar names correctly and addressing individuals by their correct name and pronouns, in accordance with their gender identity.
- Ensure that important workplace statements, notices and other information is available in multiple languages.
- Encourage employees to listen to and respect what each person can bring to projects, meetings or conversations.
- 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.
- Optimize communication channels to engage employees wherever they are located. With many employees working remotely or in a hybrid work environment, it’s important to find different ways to connect, check-in, engage and celebrate cultural diversity.
- Promote a culture of belonging in which individuals from underrepresented groups feel valued and heard. Emphasize this in the company’s mission and values and extend it to policies, processes, training, communication and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
As part of an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, cultural competency training provides insights and practical steps to help employees and managers rise above biases and effectively communicate with people from other cultures, backgrounds and worldviews.
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