Last month we discussed the importance of employee language training. Besides improving employee talent, the benefits also include exponential business growth and a bridge to unify employees across distances and cultures. Yet, language training alone should not be the only part of the puzzle. In order to truly create that unity and compete successfully on the international playing field, employees need cultural awareness and intercultural competence. Rating these skills as optional is, well, not optional. They are essential for employees working across cultures.
‘Why?’ you might ask. Lack of cultural understanding can lead to major miscommunication and even rejection by colleagues of that culture and that can lead to international failure. Giving your employees a “leg up” to avoid culture shock and increase their emotional resilience enables them to perform well and, in turn, acquire – rather than lose – financial gains.
In cases where a common cultural framework is nonexistent, cultural awareness training improves relationships, creates clear lines of communication, increases that important ROI and ultimately, make us all better people in the process. Here are the top 10 benefits of cross cultural training:
Know thy self Through learning about other cultures, employees learn about their OWN culture and its preconceptions, world views, and mentalities – some positive, some less so. These are all exposed when learning about another culture.
Grow in Confidence As with language learning, cross cultural training promotes self-confidence in individuals and teams. When employees know how to interact in other cultures, they act more empowered and confident in their interactions; this is especially important when faced with difficult workplace challenges.
Break Barriers Cross cultural training demystifies other cultures. Employees can see them more objectively and break down any stereotypes, prejudices and preconceptions they may have. This can only help create more open dialogues, minds and relationships.
Build Trust Trust comes from understanding where another is coming from and not hiding behind cultural barriers. And with trust comes more co-operation and a more productive workplace.
Motivate As with confidence, employees who have had cross cultural training begin to see their roles more clearly. They know their own weaknesses and become motivated to do what it takes to turn them into strengths.
See More Options Cultural training forces employees to see things from different angles, which fosters non-traditional methods of problem solving. Plus, using more creative modes can help both professionally and personally.
Develop Sensitivity Learning another culture’s behaviors, beliefs and ways of communicating promotes sensitivity and understanding that may have not existed before.
Listen More Effectively As with language training, cross cultural training requires listening. Understanding comes from learning how to listen, what to listen for and how to interpret what is heard. And understanding leads to more effective communication.
Find Common Ground Learning about another culture forces people to find common ground. It softens the natural tendency to take sides and focus on negativity. Within mutual understanding lies positivity to overcome culturally challenging situations.
Develop Careers Similar to learning another language, cross cultural training enhances employees’ skills, giving them a competitive edge over others, especially when it comes to promotions or positions in international and multi-cultural companies.
To be truly global in the twenty-first century, companies need to move beyond focusing on just their products and services by equipping their employees with the skill of cross-cultural understanding through both language and cultural training. Doing so can only affect businesses—and the world at large—positively.