Today’s workplace is much different than prior generations. It’s filled with people of different ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities and abilities. Because of this, company leaders worldwide are making diversity and inclusion a priority as they form their workforces.
Diverse and inclusive workforces bring a host of benefits that boost productivity and profitability. However, they also present their share of challenges, like recurring miscommunications or insensitivity that results in employees feeling unsupported. Still, with experimentation, openness and a genuine intention, you can achieve connection and communication across different cultures.
Before we dive into tips for effective intercultural communication, let’s first explore just how crucial intercultural communication is in today’s workplace.
The Importance of Intercultural Communication
First, intercultural communication is so crucial because each employee’s unique background, life experiences and skillsets influence their work performance. Inclusive companies have been proven to be nearly two times more innovative than other companies thanks to the multiple perspectives of their employees.
Without a company culture that welcomes people of all backgrounds and fosters positive communication across cultures, you’ll be less likely to form a diverse and inclusive workplace. Additionally, the performance of the company overall could suffer. Statistics show that companies with highly gender-diverse C-suite teams are more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts.
Diverse teams help you better communicate and connect with a diverse consumer base. This results in stronger customer relationships and a better brand reputation among the public.
Intercultural communication is, therefore, essential in a global workforce. More and more businesses are implementing a remote work model that allows them to invite top talent to work for them from around the globe. When you create a team of employees located in various places worldwide, you must be familiar with and respectful of their cultural and social norms.
In other words, each of your team members is unique. Their differences should be acknowledged, appreciated and understood to ensure they receive the level and kind of support they need to succeed in their role.
With a little more understanding of the importance of intercultural communication in today’s workplace, executives and company leaders can achieve effective communication on a global scale.
How to Achieve Effective Intercultural Communication
Understanding the importance of intercultural communication is one thing. Practicing it is another. Patience, observation and cooperation are required for effective intercultural communication. Here are four ways to achieve accessible communication across different cultures.
Adopt an Adaptive Leadership Style
If you want intercultural communication to be a permanent part of your company culture, it’s got to start from the top down. You must practice intercultural communication daily and guide your team on how to do the same. Adopting the right leadership style encourages strong team relationships, and that, in turn, makes it easier to introduce concepts like intercultural communication.
For diverse and inclusive teams, one of the best styles is the adaptive leadership style. This style helps you anticipate the challenges of intercultural communication, identify their root causes and find ways to mitigate them. Adaptive leaders are prepared for adversity, want feedback from the team and are ready and able to pivot when necessary—all of which is needed in intercultural communication.
Ultimately, solid leadership ensures intercultural communication is used and respected by each person on your team. When you can adapt your leadership style to your team, your communication becomes that much more effective and empathetic.
If you want to take your intercultural communication skills to the next level, you should absolutely do some self-education. You want to have a firm understanding of how culture can affect communication. Additionally, you want to know how your own values and beliefs differ from others and study how to celebrate those differences rather than condemn them.
Take your self-education a step further and learn about different cultures. Learn about the following in each:
- Social norms
- Ways of living
- Community behaviors
Next, practice active listening to ensure your intercultural communication is effective.
Practice Active Listening
Active listeners focus entirely on the speaker and respond thoughtfully when in conversation. When engaged in intercultural communication, ensure you’re practicing active listening. Then you’ll be able to learn as much as you can from the other person about how their culture influences their work and life. Plus, active listening helps others feel like you care, and that, in turn, builds trust and encourages authentic connection. Your intercultural communication skills will develop over time, so enjoy the journey.
Solid intercultural communication isn’t going to happen overnight. Patience is key. Take your time learning best practices and making them a part of your everyday. Take even more time educating your team and ensuring each employee feels valued and heard.
Ultimately, you want to give yourself and your team time to grow their intercultural communication skills. Just ensure your efforts are consistent and that you remain focused on creating a workplace that welcomes diversity and inclusion.
Intercultural communication is vital in today’s workplace because more and more company leaders prioritize diversity and inclusion in their workforces. Diverse and inclusive workforces are wonderful for any company, but they won’t last without effective intercultural communication. Implement the tips above to ensure your company culture supports individuals from all backgrounds.