Cultural awareness at work in 6 steps

Why do you need cultural awareness in the workplace if you already have skilled workers? Well, by promoting cultural awareness and improving your teams cultural literacy skills, your team will overcome cultural differences. Employees that can overcome these differences will act as a team with a common goal and common goals build team spirit and better performing teams. How to start? I will explain in the six steps below:

Step 1: Communication is key
Communication is key in any workplace, but when you are dealing with different cultures you need a developed set of communication skills. Verbal skills & non verbal skills. Understanding the local culture is key as well, more important even than understanding the language. Anything to avoid miscommunication and misinterpretation, which can only be avoided by knowing how to communicate with each other.

Step 2: Becoming a cosmopolitan
A cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, is basically trained for global citizenship. A large part of this is personal motivation, but when you are in charge of building a team, you should first be building the cultural knowledge of your employees. This can be training based on how to work in a team, how to work with a specific culture, and how to know your own boundaries.

Step 3: Celebrate diversity
Celebrate Eid, Divali, Easter and other traditional holidays and festivals, and also celebrate traditional food for example by organising a potluck where everyone brings food from their home country. Celebrating diversity is good for increasing cultural literacy, awareness and acceptance. If your employees feel recognised and accepted culturally they will increase their sensitivity to other cultural differences.

Step 4: Say ‘please’ & ‘thank you
In other words, politeness gets you further, regardless of the situation. Being polite, respectful and caring is a crucial part in business conversation in many countries (and less in others). To be on the safe side, practice good manners wherever you are in the world.

Step 5: Listen better
In addition to step 4, observe and listen to your colleagues. We often enough sabotage ourselves by not listening well, too bad, because listening is key in becoming culturally aware. Look around, see how others interact, and follow their habits. Don’t just pay attention to the verbal part, the non verbal part is equally as important, if not more important. Observe attitudes and behaviours of your colleagues, even if what you see seems odd, remain calm and talk (see step 1). By doing so you prevent a possible intercultural conflict.

Step 6: Know local customs and etiquettes
Working with Dutchies? Make sure you know at least the basics of your host country. Working with Indians, Turkish, Swedish, American or any other nationality? Do the same! Help your employees develop their cultural sensitivity by telling them to pay attention to differences. This way they, for example, won’t bother customers or team members in other countries on their national or religious holidays. Also inform your team about for example sensitive local politics that are better to be avoided in conversation. To sum up, doing some research on local customs and etiquette before working with someone will break the ice and will make you more aware of differences and how to anticipate them.

What does following these steps bring you?
Why is it, that culturally literate employees are better team members? First, lets start with the corporate motivation of diverse teams: Diverse teams are know to be more productive when they are culturally literate and aware of their surroundings. When you follow these six steps miscommunication and mistakes will be avoided, allowing them to create better work. Second, the personal motivation of employees. When feeling understood, appreciated and included people are more willing to put an effort plus they are more open to change and adjustment.

If after reading these six steps you want to explore the options for your team? Feel free to schedule a free of charge discovery call.

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