Cultural Competencies and Intercultural Training

Feb 22, 2016

Cultural competencies that stress cultural awareness, the ability to engage in cultural dialogs to elicit information and to adjust one’s behaviors appropriately, should be included in the professional development of domestic diversity professionals, as they are for global HR professionals. To be a business change partner in global developments takes the ability to help navigate the organization globally. It takes insight into the perspective of others to anticipate problems or differences of opinions and customs. How can one have a discussion about inclusion with people from countries that may have histories of not being receptive to diversity or that may be defined as monocultures? If a company decides to off-shore its payroll to Bangalore, it needs to have internal HR professionals capable of addressing differences in management styles between U.S.-Americans, or headquarters employees, and the Indian staff in India, so that differences can be managed before problems arise.

While human resources has always had a role in getting the basics right in terms of internal processes and operational administration for people for an organization, it also needs to expand its responsibility in the direction of building capacity for the organization to be competitive and more profitable. Intercultural training and education programs can support building that capacity in addition to achieving diversity and inclusion objectives. Such training will also expand human resources’ role in helping the organization tackle the challenge of balancing standardization with localization as the organization grows internationally.

The context of the expansion of HR roles in today’s marketplace also represents an opportunity for self-development by HR professionals. A strategic commitment to transforming diversity in the direction of intercultural integration represents a learning and growth opportunity that is no longer a luxury in today’s environment.

Excerpted from Fiona Citkin and Lynda Spielman, Transformational Diversity: Why and How Intercultural Competencies Can Help Organizations to Survive and Thrive (SHRM, 2011).


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