Diversity and inclusion are starting to be recognized as some of the most important initiatives in today’s workplaces. Although, before a company can implement these initiatives successfully, it must first develop its cultural competence. While many businesses would like to think that their cultural competence is already strong, making an even deeper investment will help show them how diversity can result in extraordinary growth for their business.
The tricky thing about cultural competence is that there is no clear definition of it. Everyone will see and experience cultural competence differently, but its foundation is rooted in a willingness to understand and respect different cultures from one’s own to embrace diversity.
The role of cultural competence in the workplace
Regardless of how you it may be defined, cultural competence should be a pivotal part of any workplace. Encouraging cultural competence at all levels of an organization will ensure the creation of an environment where people from diverse backgrounds feel completely comfortable working in. Cultural competence has evolved beyond being a mere buzzword into something that can fundamentally affect how a business operates.
Many businesspeople don’t recognize the significant benefits of cultural competence to their company. The apparent effect is that it brings an organization a broader range of skills and perspectives. By creating an environment where people from diverse backgrounds can thrive and feel comfortable, the ideas in the organization are bound to be diversified, but one also can’t ignore its potential benefits regarding expansion, internal communication, and employee satisfaction.
When it comes to service-based businesses, both its employees and customers likely come from a variety of different cultures. Forming relationships is key in this sort of industry, especially when there isn’t a great deal of cultural commonality between the business and its clients. As such, it is essential to find a common understanding through which an effective business relationship can be formed.
Making a continual investment in cultural competence
Cultural competence is not something a company can gain once and simply put aside — it is a perpetual investment in the business itself. Even if one feels that they have a good understanding of other cultures, there will always be more opportunities to gain more insight and knowledge. Only by making this continual investment into cultural competence can business leaders establish a healthy and inclusive work environment.
Nevertheless, regardless of how much effort one puts into improving their cultural competence, there is no way to become an expert on every culture. There is always more to learn. No one should expect another to quickly become an expert on a culture that is not native to them — much less every culture — but they should expect others to at least be willing and open-minded.
How to develop cultural competence
The most important thing that one can do to increase their cultural competence is to simply listen. Competence is gained through learning and understanding, not through making assumptions. Allowing room for and having open dialogues with individuals from other cultures provides best opportunity to directly learn about what is important to them and how their needs can best be accommodated.
Another crucial aspect of cultural competence is the ability to self-critique, which is where many people tend to struggle. Learning about and understanding someone else’s perspective is necessary, regardless of one’s business or industry, but otherizing another identity can cause just as much harm as if there had been no atmosphere of understanding to begin with.
Indeed, many people tend to ignore their privilege — if they even recognize it in the first place. But recognizing one’s own privilege is the first step in understanding others’ plight. To make a workplace more inclusive and understanding towards members of diverse cultures, one must first understand how their privilege has given them an inherent advantage. Equalizing the workplace means addressing not only the disadvantages experienced by underrepresented groups, but also the advantages and privileges of those in power.
By recognizing biases, people can become more empathetic and compassionate towards others. It is crucial to remember that everyone experiences the world differently based on their unique perspectives. Going about life looking through a narrow lens will only lead to an environment of exclusion, bring further harm to the workplace as a result.
Developing cultural competence can bring about a significant improvement in the efficiency of a workplace. By making employees and clients more comfortable through a greater understanding of their unique experiences and perspectives, the company’s culture will benefit overall, and pass those benefits along to its employees, leaders, and other stakeholders. Cultural competence is a constant investment, but its returns for businesses will pay off in droves.
About the Author: Shiela-Mie Empleo Legaspi is the President of Cyberbacker, the leading provider of world-class administrative support and virtual assistant services from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world. Empleo-Legaspi empowers growth-minded business owners with world-class, economic leverage to fulfill their greatest purpose. She is an expert in career coaching and teaches others how to lead with integrity, purpose, and passion.