Importance of Cultural Awareness Skills for an International Workforce

Matthew MacLachlan

2 Mar 2010

The truly global dimension of the twenty-first century’s economy has redefined the playing field on which international companies compete. The ability to offer the right products and services in the right markets at the right prices is no longer the sole factor of success.

Having the right people with a high level of cultural awareness and intercultural competence is now key when working across borders and cultures. Rating cultural awareness as an optional skill can come at a cost for a company working globally. Cultural awareness is essential for all employees working across cultures.

Cultural awareness is a skill that can be developed at both professional and social levels, and can make an overseas assignment, an international business meeting or cross-cultural negotiation a successful one. On the other hand, a lack of cultural awareness can lead to major miscommunication, and, ultimately, rejection by host-culture colleagues, clients, acquaintances and neighbours.

Arguably an asset for any major international employee, cultural awareness is particularly important for employees being sent abroad to live and work, organisations planning to merge with or acquire another company or individuals who work with counterparts and clients around the world.

Intercultural training programmes can ensure your employees are equipped with a set of skills and strategies to be successful when working across cultures. International assignees moving to another country might benefit from a “Living and Working in” cross-cultural relocation programme, whereas someone Doing business in another culture could benefit from a country-specific cross-cultural training programme for Business and Management.

By providing your employees with opportunities to participate in a cross-cultural training programme, you will increase their cultural awareness which will help them avoid the risk of major miscommunication or international failure.