Which 5 Traits Make an Employee Culturally Competent?

The idea of cultural competency has taken increased importance as the world’s Cultural skills that were once needed only by a company’s “road warrior” executives are now needed by the rank-and-file.economies become ever more intermingled. What were once just the skills needed by a company’s “road warrior” executives are now needed by the rank-and-file, who might have employees from many cultures just on their own team.

Cultural competency takes many forms, but here are the top 5 traits that you can expect from a culturally competent employee.

1. World-class communication skills

Yes, foreign language proficiency is important to having success in communicating on a multicultural level. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, speaking in your language might go to someone’s head, but speaking in their language goes to their heart. Although fluency is easier to achieve than ever, even just the attempt at another person’s language can build bridges.

Of course, direct, in-person conversation isn’t the only mode of communication. These employees need to also be skilled in electronic communication as well, considering many of their subordinates might only be available through email or videoconferencing.

2. A nuanced world view

Correct or not, Americans have the reputation around the world of not necessarily being interested in how things are done in other places. The culturally competent employee can’t afford to validate that opinion. They need to be well-versed on the customs, politics, and history of many cultures.

3. Broader economic understanding

In other cultures, some economic precedents have been going on for generations. It’s much easier to work around these established practices rather than try to break them down. For example, how do regional politics affect supply chain management in this certain country? A culturally competent employee would know that.

4. A sense of grace

Many are the stories of American businessmen offending their Japanese counterparts by trying to shake hands. For the culturally competent, “When in Rome…” isn’t just a cliche. It’s a way of life.

5. A deep curiosity

Cultural competency isn’t something that is learned overnight. It needs to be continually fed by an ongoing curiosity about the world and its inhabitants. Our employee reads a lot, watches news from unexpected sources, and travels widely for pleasure, not just business.

To start sharpening your employees’ communication skills on the path toward cultural competency, check out our Rosetta Stone for Business solutions page.

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