How to Instruct Staff in Cultural Competency - dummies

How to Instruct Staff in Cultural Competency

By Michael Soon Lee, Ralph R. Roberts

Doing business with sensitivity to cultural differences may require staff training and education. Employees who interact with publics from a variety of cultures should be competent in their cultural awareness, along with their other business skills.

Here are some key areas in which business people should be in touch for cultural competency:

  • Development of culture: How cultures develop and their impact on the workplace, including relationships with customers and other businesspeople.

  • How cultures think and act differently: If your employees come from a uniquely Anglo American background and experiences, they think and act differently from those outside their own culture. The same holds true, regardless of what culture your employees belong to.

  • The cultural lens: Americans tend to look at the world through their own lenses and, as a result, tend to believe that what others think and do differently from them is wrong. Everyone on staff needs to realize that differences are merely differences.

  • The cross-cultural opportunity: By becoming culturally competent, staff members can more effectively serve customers and boost sales and profits. By presenting facts and figures about the multicultural market potential in your area, you can get staff members to buy into your plan to expand into this market and contribute to the business’s success.

  • The cross-cultural challenge: By developing an understanding of other cultures, staff members are less likely to insult or disrespect customers or visiting businesspeople by mistake.

  • Time differences: How different people view time and the importance of being on time for scheduled meetings and events can seriously affect business relationships:

    • Polychronics: Hispanics, Asians, and Middle Easterners are among those who are group oriented and future oriented. They tend to view deadlines as suggestions rather than as impenetrable barriers, so they may not show up for appointments on time. They often view monochronics as aggressive and pushy when it comes to time.

    • Monochronics: Americans, the Swiss, and Germans are individualistic and present focused. Deadlines are hard and fast. They tend to view polychronics as passive, disorganized, and perhaps even unreliable and disrespectful of their time.

  • Competitiveness versus cooperation: Some cultures, such as Americans and Brits, tend to be competitive, while Hispanics and Asians are cooperative. Cooperative cultures usually make business decisions as a group, whereas competitive cultures are more likely to make decisions as individuals.

  • Individualist versus collectivist: In individualistic cultures, such as those in the U.S., Australia, and England, you’re expected to look after yourself and your family. These cultures value directness and freely speak their minds. In collectivist cultures, such as Asia and Latin America, people are integrated into strong, cohesive groups that protect everyone in the group in exchange for unquestioned loyalty.

  • High-context versus low-context cultures: High-context cultures, including the Japanese, Chinese, Arabs, and Greeks, rely more on context and subtle cues for communications. More is implied than overtly stated, and words are secondary to context. Low-context cultures, including Americans, Scandinavians, Germans, and the Swiss, tend to be more obvious in their communications. Words are explicit and are crucial to understanding.

  • Meeting and greeting: People don’t all meet and greet in the same way. Your employees must know how to properly welcome customers or businesspeople. This important ritual sets the tone for a successful business relationship.

  • Proxemics: The science of personal space, which affects how close you stand to another person while conversing. Proxemics may be culturally determined. Let customers and businesspeople set their own comfort zones.

  • Physical contact: People around the world differ in the amount of physical contact they make during a business interaction. Staff must adjust to the level of physical contact that the customer or businessperson sets.

  • Negotiating versus non-negotiating cultures: One big challenge that staff must be trained to overcome is the constant negotiating of some cultures. They must understand that haggling is a way of life in many parts of the world, and they need to be prepared to handle it.