Intercultural Competency – A Leadership Requirement

 In Leadership Articles

In today’s global and urban business environment, diversity in the workforce is continually increasing and as a result, so is the need for culturally sensitive skills. A diverse workforce fosters innovation and maximizes profitability, talent and creativity, it is a win-win for both the employer and employee. But the key to success is in the training. For a culturally diverse workplace to function appropriately, it is important that everyone, at all levels of the organization develops and embodies intercultural competency.

Canada is a very multicultural country with over 21.9% of the population coming from other countries. In recent years, Canadian businesses have faced strong competition in the global market, and as a result, have developed operations worldwide, and further have developed and sought joint ventures with foreign partners.

What is the need?

Now more than ever, both employees and employers need to be more respectful, receptive and adaptable to working with people from other cultures. A leader who develops cultural competence will more readily accomplish the goals for their organization with fewer barriers.

Canada – one of the most multicultural countries in the world – is internationally recognized for its ability to welcome people from around the globe and to leverage mutual opportunities.

Research and evidence however indicates that additional supports are required for successful and meaningful integration into workplaces.

Both new Canadians and Canadian citizens need to understand cultural differences and how to work harmoniously within the diverse Canadian workforce. Multiculturalism will remain a key element of Canadian life and so there is a necessity to educate our staff, our colleagues, our leaders and ourselves.

Recently, I had the opportunity to become certified in Intercultural Competency and to provide training and more importantly raise awareness on this important topic.

What is the approach?

The approach includes recognizing that cultural diversity is an asset for productiveness and effectiveness in the workplace. This learning pushes you to develop an understanding and the skills that support a balanced, successful, culturally diverse workplace.

Often times locally developed approaches and solutions are needed. The strength of the program comes from using evidenced based tools and strategies in collaboration with the center for Research, Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western University.

What results can you expect?

Based on my personal experience we all need additional learning to build a more broad cultural understanding that will allow us to work more effectively and respectfully in a culturally diverse workplace and overall the Canadian workplace.

Participants who have experienced this learning have reported that the workplace experienced a decrease in conflict, enhanced communication and increased productivity and effectiveness. Positive change comes through increased awareness.

Learning examples, at a glance:

  • Assumptions, Generalizations, and Stereotypes;
  • Unconscious Biases;
  • Definition of Intercultural Competency
  • How to Develop your Competency
  • Slang or Jargon? Unconscious Assumptions During Communication;
  • Assigning Meaning within Multicultural Environments;
  • What’s your Communication Style?
  • Best Practices for Managing Intercultural Diversity at the Workplace.

While there is a wide array of topics to cover, this learning can and should be customized to meet your organizations priorities and align to your strategic objectives.

As an experienced senior leader and consultant, I believe it is necessary that our countries leaders develop their intercultural competency skills to better understand and leverage our differences rather than resisting them. This is one of the ways to unlock the potential in your organization with the reality of an increasingly multi-cultural workforce.

Visionary and self-aware leaders recognize this learning is a requirement not only in our workplaces but also in our day-to-day lives.


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