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Cultural Sensitivity Training: the Key to Unlocking Your Team’s Potential

By Bisk
Cultural Sensitivity Training: the Key to Unlocking Your Team’s Potential

Every seasoned manager knows that strong communication skills are essential for long term success in any business setting. In today’s ever changing and increasingly diverse global business settings, an effective manager needs skills that go beyond conveying a message accurately and efficiently. The most highly sought after managers today are ones that can lead teams with knowledge, experience, and a well-developed array of intercultural management tools. Intercultural management tools include the intercultural communication acumen to successfully lead highly diverse groups in complex tasks.

To achieve team potential, managers need to understand individual differences, manage potential conflicts, and actively build a working environment that is conducive to productivity and profitability. While ethnic differences are often the aspect of intercultural communication that comes to mind, managers seeking to stay ahead of the competition are seeking out programs from highly ranked and regionally accredited schools such as Notre Dame Online’s Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management. These programs clarify the nuances of advanced communication and management skills required in today’s highly competitive and increasing heterogeneous working environment.

Here are some of the secrets gleamed from the courses in intercultural management programs that you can apply directly toward increasing intercultural communication awareness for you and your team.

How to Avoid Intergenerational Mayhem

When looking at age span and experience alone, your sensitivity toward each team member’s unique stage of life can be a strong team building component. Because of wild fluctuations in the economy over the last several years, your workplace could include WWII generation employees that may have had to re-enter the work force after an economic hardship. In addition, Baby Boomers are working longer, and Gen-X ers and Gen-Y ers all bring a unique perspective on what it means to work on a team, to achieve success, and to balance self vs. common goals.  Each group will have different expectations about management communication and will derive satisfaction from their jobs in different ways. Taking time to understand the intercultural components of work force age span and related expectations and needs can help you build strong cohesive teams and deliver your communication in ways that are most easily embraced by each group.

Team surveys that distill work-related communication needs, such as the most effective way to receive a review, the most preferred way to accept praise, or the most comfortable way to receive training, all convey to your employees that their individual needs are important and that you want to provide them with the support they need to increase workplace satisfaction. Providing bridge building opportunities for younger workers to receive business culture mentoring from older workers also provides an opportunity for older workers to learn new ideas from recent graduates. Intercultural communication aimed at managing balanced teams that feel comfortable, appreciated, and respected, no matter their age level and experience, can build company profitability.

The Low Man on the Totem Pole and Other Workplace Blunders

Intercultural communication courses teach managers to provide meaningful training to employees and to increase awareness of the inadvertent ways common workplace gestures or phrases can be misunderstood and even offensive to co-workers. One common workplace phrase is “low man on the totem pole” which is typically used to denote a person who gets the grunt work, a beginner, or a lower-ranking employee. In actuality, the figure at the bottom of an American Indian tribal totem pole often holds the most meaning, but is equally valued as the other figures which are usually animals, not men, and are used to collectively symbolize important events of a family’s story. In many Native American, as well as other tribal centered cultures, it is actually seen as disrespectful to look a superior directly in the eyes during one on one communication, or to touch another person casually. Many international groups do not share the custom of a handshake and in some religions it is considered highly intrusive for a male to casually touch a female at all, as in a pat on the back , a “fist bump,” or “high five” most commonly popular among younger employees.

Workplace sensitivity training needs to address the scope of workplace behaviors in a supportive, community-building program that does not single any one person or group out. An effective intercultural manager can recognize specific diversity training needs and use those opportunities to truly connect and motivate the entire team.

On the Job with Gender Equality

Aside from obvious intercultural communication sensitivity that includes professionally acceptable ways to address co-workers, today’s most effective managers know that in traditional male-dominated industries, women need fairness, respect, and understanding just like any other employee. Knowing that each employee needs to sense your commitment to equal “fairness,” “respect,” and “understanding” is an important part of properly managing diverse groups.

Referring to everyone on a team as “guys” is common, but offensive to many women in the workplace. Discussing important business related topics at happy hour without certain employees that don’t drink, or cannot meet after work due to family obligations, conveys a message to all your employees. Enough of these negative actions can add up quicker than many expect, and can result in lower employee morale. Intercultural awareness is important so that the thoughtful positive management choices you make every day to create a more conclusive workplace add up to increase employee satisfaction and productivity.

Consider the Benefits

Because of the fluidity of today’s global marketplace, business managers need to have a highly polished set of intercultural communication skills in order to achieve greatness. Managers who can lead diverse teams, build cultural sensitivity among their employees, and can manage and redirect conflict will continue to be among the most sought-after, as today’s global business world becomes increasingly complex and competitive. Securing your place among the most prepared managers means understanding and responding to current business needs.

Considering a cost-effective addition to your leadership repertoire by including an Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management with coursework in intercultural communications from a U.S. News & World Report-ranked and regionally accredited school as well known as Notre Dame, not only brings clout to your reputation, but also connects you with a network of other professionals and industry leaders addressing and meeting similar challenges with a power and reputation respected world-wide. Knowing how to understand and apply intercultural communication skills effectively can be a vital component of unlocking team potential and offering effective cultural sensitivity training that builds companywide momentum leading to greater employee satisfaction, team synergy, and company profitability. Playing a key role in achieving these goals underscores your commitment to the organization and your commitment to keeping your own management skills current and desirable.

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Category: Intercultural Management