Practice Makes Proficient: The Worldwide Connection Is a Big Concept

Get your arms around it by mastering the Global & Cultural Effectiveness competency

By Phyllis G. Hartman, SHRM-SCP April 11, 2019

​The idea that all organizations are connected in some way is a big concept, but today's HR professionals get it. The world is a big place and includes many cultural differences, which may cause workplace problems.

Here's a recent example. I observed a manager at a client site, standing over and yelling at an employee. She was berating him over a complimentary e-mail he received (and she was copied on) from a U.S. client. Investigation revealed the basis for the manager's ire. She was from China and held a culturally biased view of loyalty and individuality in the organization. The individual never deserves praise, she believed, even if he had done the work; only the team should get any and all credit.

This incident is not so different from other types of cultural differences we experience in the workplace. They don't all have to originate with international workers. Most of us work with others of diverse ages, races, social backgrounds and more. These differences must be respected and understood; not to do so can lead to failures—in employees and in the bottom line.

To be effective in the global community, we need the knowledge, skills and abilities to value and consider the perspectives and backgrounds of all parties, to interact with others in a global context, and to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace. That's what the SHRM-defined competency of Global & Cultural Effectiveness is all about. By doing the hard work of growing our proficiency in this area, we can do better HR.

So where to start in developing this competency? Is your organization an international business? Does it include employees from different countries? If your work is more domestically focused, what is your organization's experience with diversity related to race, age, etc.?

Approaches to Developing Proficiency in Global & Cultural Effectiveness

On the job:

  • Ask for feedback on your work from people you do not work with directly, particularly those who you know think differently from you.
  • Participate in a cross-functional group that reviews your organization's policies and practices related to diversity and inclusiveness.
  • When you make decisions about hiring, promotion and termination, examine the data to ensure an unbiased approach.
  • Do research into organizations that can provide you with resources and networks in diverse communities in your field (e.g., National Society of Black Engineers, Association of Latino Professionals for America).
  • For a list of organizations serving women, check out the Diversity Best Practices website.
  • Consider using crowd-sourced solutions, such as HR professional networks, for issues related to diversity at work (e.g., SHRM's Member2Member Solutions).

Coaching and mentoring:

  • Find a coach or mentor who has a different background from you.
  • Be a coach or mentor to someone from a different age group.
  • Work with a business professional of a different gender, to gain perspectives on how to deal with employees of that gender.
  • Join an organization dedicated to mentoring (e.g., National Mentoring Partnership, Harvard Mentoring Project).

Classes and conferences:

Professional and community activities:

  • Join a social organization focused on an ethnic group you do not know much about.
  • Volunteer for a nonprofit organization that assists immigrants.
  • Get involved with organizations that focus on inclusion and diversity (e.g., National Diversity Council).
  • Join the board of a nonprofit that assists racial, social, ethnic or gender groups you do not know much about, but which can benefit from your HR knowledge.

On your own:

  • Research other cultures by reading online news reports and article from different parts of the world.
  • Research other cultures by using dedicated online resources (e.g., The Culturosity Group).
  • Establish a social media connection with someone in a country where your organization does business or might do business in the future.
  • To determine your own unconscious biases, participate in Project Implicit, an international research collaborative seeking practical applications to address diversity and improve decision-making.
  • Utilize SHRM resources and tools, including those on diversity and inclusion.


Phyllis Hartman, SHRM-SCP, is an HR consultant in Freedom, Pa. She is the author of several books for the profession, including A Manager's Guide to Developing Competencies in HR Staff (SHRM, 2017).



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