Cultural Diversity - Where to Look?

Posted on October 11, 2019

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The importance of managing cultural diversity has never been more relevant than it is today. Cultures are interconnecting faster than ever before. Organisations, miniatures of wider society, are operating in an increasingly globalised network.  Cultural diversity needs to be examined in more detail and appropriately addressed, especially in culturally diverse organisations. 

Dr Richard T Alpert, president of Diversity Resources Massachusetts argues “that from our increasingly diverse domestic workforce to the globalisation of business, cultural competence is arguably the most important skill for effective work performance in the 21st century[1].

Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures. This ability depends on awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, knowledge of other cultural practices and world views, tolerant attitudes towards cultural differences and cross-cultural skills.  Alpert highlights four principles to managing cultural diversity: Communication; Team Building; Time; and Schedules.  For example, differences in cultural background are evident in approaches to team building, some focus more on the individual in the team while other cultures focus on the cooperative approach.  Organisations have a unique cultural diversity, so it is important to that they take the time to recognise and identify what works. He argues that there are Here are the 7 essentials for cultural competence:

1. Beliefs and Worldview – people have fundamentally different ways of seeing the world, and their role in it;

2. Communication Styles - different people have wildly different ways of communication, especially regarding context and directness;

3. Formality – cultures differ greatly in greetings, manners and etiquette;

4. Hierarchy – cultures differ in whether their societies are horizontal or vertical;

5. Perceptions of Time – people differ greatly in their perceptions of time; 

6. Values and Priorities –emphasis on the individual and career, and loyalty between employer and employee; and 

7. Everyone is Unique – it’s important to remember that cultural guidelines are only guidelines and that every person is as unique.

The real challenge is designing assessment processes that will help people in organisations to recognise and identify what works, and meaningfully design activities to engage staff in developing their cultural competence. 



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