The business landscape is increasingly becoming globalized. Diversity in business has become integral to growing industries, and with that diversity comes a need for better intercultural communication.
Tapping into the potential that embracing diversity can bring requires a reframing of our previously held notions of how to conduct business around the globe. It requires us to recognize the benefits of technology that allows better communication, and do away with antiquated biases and ethnocentrism.
Dr. Laurie Moroco, a certified business coach who also serves as Assistant Dean of Instruction at Colorado Mountain College and Adjunct Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, sees culture as one lens through which to view the world — but not the only lens. “Business leaders should recognize, respect, and embrace the differences each person brings to the table,” she says.
Dr. Moroco has dedicated her coaching and keynote speaking to helping people better communicate and navigate tricky situations within business relationships. “We often worry about offending other people and not knowing what to say or what words to use, which is understandable,” she explains. “When this happens, leaders should be honest by respecting cultural differences and becoming cognizant of their own personal biases.”
There are several key factors to consider when approaching intercultural communication. These factors can help leaders and entire organizations embrace the concept of diversity and better communication all around.
Hyper-Connectivity and Cultural Intelligence
“We are now more connected than ever thanks to the internet, video conferencing, and the rise of remote work,” says Dr. Moroco. “With limited face-to-face interaction, we forget that people have perceptions and perspectives different from our own.”
Technology has done a good job of making the world smaller and allowing us to communicate with one another more freely, but it also homogenized society to a certain extent. “How many times have you assumed everyone on a message board was from the United States?” Dr. Moroco asks. “How many of us use American slang or terminology and expect other people to understand? When the entire world has access to a communication tool, we may incorrectly assume the entire world communicates just as we do.”
It can be easy to forget that our co-workers or clients who live in different parts of the world have different lifestyles, upbringings, and cultural norms than what we may have. Dr. Moroco stresses the importance of having a strong cultural intelligence, or “CQ,” which is especially significant in organizations with widespread global teams or clientele. A focus on cultural intelligence can not only help people develop tactics to work better with those who are culturally different, but can also help them relate more to those from different countries, races, age groups, or genders.
The Rise of Remote Work
Both during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in remote work has skyrocketed. However, this rise in remote teams and remote work days may not help the diversity and intercultural communication cause.
“I see many remote workers who don’t even turn on their cameras. It has become a norm in many organizations, but to me, it seems counterintuitive to diversity efforts if we can’t even see each other,” says Dr. Moroco. “Communication goes beyond words and voices. There is so much communication held in body language, such as facial cues or hand gestures. Having cameras turned on seems like a simple step, but it could be significant in helping build better relationships and stronger intercultural teams.”
Inclusive Work Environments
All over the globe, the cause of DEI initiatives in the workplace has had an impact. Leaders are starting to see the wealth of benefits in promoting inclusive and diverse workspaces.
“Creating an inclusive work environment where people feel free to express their thoughts and ideas without punitive repercussions will go a long way for retention and happy employees,” says Dr. Moroco. Championing inclusiveness on a global scale within intercultural organizations has the potential to enhance the overall business landscape. This initiative yields widespread advantages, positively impacting not only the organizations themselves, but also their key stakeholders.
Dr. Moroco has observed that there seem to be improvements in how businesses around the world are embracing the positive possibilities of diversity. “I do think we are getting better at embracing diversity because of awareness,” she explains. “When leaders implement and embrace initiatives around social equity, cross-cultural training, and intersectionality, the whole team can learn positive approaches for interaction with those with different perspectives and opinions.”
For Dr. Moroco, open dialogue and respectful civil discourse can make all the difference. “We need to remember to engage differences constructively through effective communication and best practices. We should not shy away from discussions with people who have different beliefs than us. It all comes down to being open-minded to learning something new,” she says.
Through constructive engagement and a global effort to break myopic views of intercultural communication, the globalization of business can usher in a better future.
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