Significant Need to Strengthen Intercultural Skills of Global Workforce

Nita Korsten

There is an increasing amount of competitiveness and interdependency in the world economy. The world of business is becoming thoroughly international as technology enables people to communicate instantly from wherever they are. However, not all employees within an organization have the awareness and readiness to work with people from other cultures.

50% of executives admit to significant losses in cross-border transactions

Important research by The Economist Intelligence Unit: “Competing Across Cultures; how cultural and communication barriers affect business” shows that almost nine in ten respondents in the survey for this report think their company’s number of overseas clients will increase in the next three years, while 77% believe that their company will have an operational presence in more countries than it does now. As a consequence, companies are moving away from traditional organizational structures, with 78% saying that in the next three years they will establish more cross-border teams, comprising people who are physically located in different countries.

Next to that, the research shows that when important cross-border relationships break down, the cost to a business in financial, operational or reputational terms can hurt. Around 50% of respondents admit that communication misunderstandings have stood in the way of a major cross-border transaction, incurring significant losses for their company An overwhelming majority of executives surveyed believe that an improvement in cross-border communications with customers and colleagues will have a beneficial impact on financial indicators, such as profit, revenue and market share.

Real business value in equipping staff with intercultural skills

More recent research, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs and Booz Allen Hamilton and entitled Culture at Work; The value of intercultural skills in the workplace, shows clearly that there is real business value in employing staff that have the ability to work effectively with individuals and organizations from cultural backgrounds different from their own. Employees who lack these skills leave their organizations susceptible to risks including:

• Loss of clients
• Damage to reputation
• Conflict within teams

Improving intercultural skills of employees

Combining these research reports shows that while cross-border activities of companies are only growing, there is significant need and opportunity for employers, policy makers and education providers to work together to strengthen the development of intercultural skills to meet the needs of an increasingly global workforce.

Crust Young Consultants uses tested and effective assessment tools like the Intercultural Awareness Profile and the Intercultural Readiness Check that help in improving the intercultural awareness and skills of employees, thus giving organizations the competitive edge in their workforce. Organizations benefit through:

• Bringing in new clients
• Establishing a good brand and reputation
• Working effectively within diverse teams.