My consulting conversations normally begin in this manner:
Client: “Glen, we want you to come in and do workplace diversity and inclusion training.”
Me: “What are your diversity and inclusion goals?”
Client: “We simply want training. We have to have it.”
And that is why many organizations fail at diversity and inclusion training or experience a negative backlash from employees. With any training program you seek to implement in your workplace, leadership needs to think with the end in mind. To be a culturally competent workplace, you must understand your #DiversityGoals.
As workplace diversity and inclusion trainer, my goal is to move people from a monocultural mindset to a multicultural mindset. A multicultural mindset is one that can understand and see culture not only from its own perspective but from others’ as well. Helping an organization move to a multicultural mindset requires an understanding of the levels of cultural competency. Knowing the levels of cultural competency helps us understand culture, which I define as the way we do things around here. It helps us determine what to want and expect from our workplace diversity and inclusion training.
culture – noun – cul·ture – \ˈkəl-chər \
the way we do things around here
Levels of Cultural Competency
- “Cultural knowledge” means that you know about some cultural characteristics, history, values, beliefs, and behaviors of another ethnic or cultural group.
- “Cultural awareness” is the next stage of understanding other groups — being open to the idea of changing cultural attitudes.
- “Cultural sensitivity” is knowing that differences exist between cultures, but not assigning values to the differences (better or worse, right or wrong). Clashes on this point can easily occur, especially if a custom or belief in question goes against the idea of multiculturalism. Internal conflict (intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational) is likely to occur at times over this issue. Conflict won’t always be easy to manage, but it can be made easier if everyone is mindful of the organizational goals.
- “Cultural competence” brings together the previous stages — and adds operational effectiveness. A culturally competent organization has the capacity to bring into its system many different behaviors, attitudes, and policies and work effectively in cross-cultural settings to produce better outcomes.
Definitions sourced from Cultural Competence in Community Building
Hopefully, your training progresses you through each level. You want diversity and inclusion training that goes beyond cultural sensitivity and awareness, but to a culturally competent level of understanding where the ways our difference can enhance creativity, productivity, and collaboration can be appreciated. Who doesn’t want a collaborative work environment or to learn strategies that increase workplace productivity?
Cultural competency is a deep dive for organizations. It is being committed to best practices, not just awareness. Cultural awareness is a big step, but organizations have to keep moving forward and measuring their progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. As our workplaces become more culturally diverse, organizations understand the need to collaborate internally and externally. It is essential to good customer service that the people we serve feel heard and that they are engaged in meaningful, culturally competent ways. Our workers and our individuals and institutions can no longer deny the sometimes-uncomfortable realities of cultural diversity. Organizations have to understand the role that identity plays in the customer experience. One bad interaction, post, or advertisement can do lasting damage to our brand. Our employees, customers, and clients want us to know that we “see” them. Beyond the superficial, they want to know that they matter.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Decades of research show that diverse organizations are more engaged, creative, and financially successful.” What are your #DiversityGoals?
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Glen is a qualified administrator (QA) of the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®). The Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®) is the premier cross-cultural assessment of intercultural competence that is used by thousands of individuals and organizations to build intercultural competence to achieve international and domestic diversity and inclusion goals and outcomes. IDI research in organizations and educational institutions confirms two central findings when using the IDI:
- Interculturally competent behavior occurs at a level supported by the individual’s or group’s underlying orientation as assessed by the IDI.
- Training and leadership development efforts at building intercultural competence are more successful when they are based on the individual’s or group’s underlying developmental orientation as assessed by the IDI.
* Cross-cultural code-switching is the act of purposefully modifying one’s behavior in an interaction in a foreign setting in order to accommodate different cultural norms for appropriate behavior.