Cultural competency in the workplace has become a hot topic, but what does it mean? Why is it important? What are the challenges, and how can organizations and employees benefit from learning about this topic?
Cultural competency is “the ability to effectively interact with people from cultures different from one’s own, especially through knowledge and appreciation of cultural differences.” The term is also becoming more well-known in other contexts, such as in discussions of how to make workplaces more equitable and inclusive.
Since COVID, the workplace has been more flexible than ever. However, with this added flexibility, the corporations’ responsibility has enhanced more to ensure smooth team integration. Misunderstandings happen when employees are not culturally competent, and employees will often fall back on stereotyping to help make sense of other employees’ behaviors and intentions. There are so many challenges today that most employees are unaware.
Examples of a few challenges that employees face are:
Greetings – different cultures have different customs, and understanding these can help avoid showing signs of disrespect.
Personal Space – cultures have different standards for how close is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
Nonverbal Communication – Facial expressions and body language can be interpreted differently across cultures.
Time – Different cultures have different stances regarding punctuality.
When organizations provide opportunities for employees to learn about cultural competency, employees will understand the importance of others’ unique perspectives and attitudes. These employees will take time to listen to their colleagues and begin to foster an atmosphere of enhanced collaboration. They will be empathic and can communicate their understanding and ability to reflect on what it means to experience what the other employee is going through. Understanding cultural competency in the workplace will reduce conflict between employees with different backgrounds and experiences. Cultural competency is required if an organization wants to thrive in this economy.
Interested in deepening your understanding of Cultural Competency and fostering a more inclusive, respectful, and empathic workplace environment? Click here to learn more.
Written by Jeannie Gutridge
Executive Vice President at SHIFT HR Compliance Training