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Cross-Cultural Competence

How do modern companies survive? Is it possible to have a workspace without cultural competence? Get some insight on one of the trending topics of today

What’s cross-cultural competence?

Before getting into what cross-cultural competence is all about, one needs to know what cultural competence is. Cultural competence refers to the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. It is having an awareness of one’s own culture and attitude towards cultural differences and obtaining knowledge and sensitivity to different cultural practices. Cross-cultural competence is also the knowledge, skills, and motivation that enable individuals around the world to effectively adapt to multi-cultural environments.

Is cross-cultural competence a skill?

Yes, it’s a skill just like any other social skill that people can develop. It means increasing one’s self-awareness about different cultures around the world and gaining an ability to empathize with and stand for cultural differences. It is an important tool necessary for the multicultural lifestyle and work-life that many people have today. Without this requirement, it’s difficult to be a manager leading a team of 20 people who are from 20 different nations. Cross-cultural effectiveness, hence, is the need of the hour and the solution to this problem. Along with the other soft skills necessary to survive in a multinational company, cross-cultural competence is definitely one that has been added to the list for some time now.

Why is cultural-competence necessary for organizations today?

Many international business failures have been ascribed to a lack of cross-cultural competence within their organizations. Theoretically, cross-cultural competence exists, but what about its practicality among the multitudes of workspace across the world? Without an inherent understanding of the differences that come with the cultural divide that is present in the world, it becomes next to impossible for corporate executives, managers, and CEOs to manoeuvre smoothly in an organization. Employees that are culturally diverse help companies expand their business in worldwide markets. Cross-cultural competence in companies creates rapport, improves efficiency, makes employees feel valued, and builds their loyalty and trust in the organization. Without this skill, it’s difficult for companies to find their footing in the global marketplace. Cross-cultural competence has the capacity to merge markets and businesses successfully and lead to an increase in the economic rise of nations. These days, having a high degree of empathy and cross-cultural competence is an invaluable asset not just for the potential employees but also for the employers. ‘Guanxi’, which literally translates to ‘connection’ in Mandarin, is a concept originated from China that has recently gained momentum. Guanxi suggests developing businesses and institutions by relying on interpersonal relationships. Networks built through guanxi are imperative in forming and sustaining businesses.

What are the top companies that give importance to cultural competence training?

IBM, Accenture, and Coca Cola are some of the top multinational enterprises giving utmost importance to intercultural awareness and training. These companies have started programs to train their employees in building intercultural skills. Their programs allow employees to attend meetings, hold conferences, be in the decision-making panels, negotiate deals, make presentations, and close successful bids in business with people from different cultures.

What do experts say on cross-cultural competence?

Cross-cultural experts are aware of the fact that people see the world in a different way because of their background, personal history, and culture.  ‘Thoughtfulness’ is one quality that the experts speak widely of with respect to this subject. Louise J. Rasmussen, a senior scientist at Global Cognition, a research and training development organization from the US, conducted several studies. Consequently, a consistent and thoughtful approach among people about other cultures and cultural sensitivities are quite important for a workplace that’s becoming multicultural. “Traditional models of training don’t focus very much on learning how to adapt one’s skills to different populations,” reflects Janet E. Helms, PhD and director of the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture at Boston College. “People still have a tendency to make cultural competence the topic they cover at the end of the semester, so they really don’t cover it very well,” she says. Dr Richard Nongrad, who is an entrepreneur, author, and PhD in Transformational Leadership from the US says that cross-cultural competencies lead to higher profit, innovative teams, and outcomes that benefit everyone. “There are no downsides to paying attention to cultural competencies – only positives for every leader, in every organization, and in every place.”

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