Intercultural competencies and their effect on your business- Ken’s Business Report


By Ken Ingram MQA

President TAC Montreal

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In Canada, during the past few months, cultural diversity again was making headlines.  The reason for this issue to resurface is quite simple: while most immigrants want to be Canadian, it is my observation that they do not identify themselves as being Canadian. They tend to identify more with the country where they were born first and invest themselves wholly to retain their connection to their culture and country of origin. Most cities have identifiable clusters of different nationalities for them to gravitate towards that enable them to surround themselves with people who are like them, with whom they can easily identify. Canada prides itself on being multiculturally diverse, open and accepting, it tries to ensure that each person that comes to this great county has something to offer.  Nevertheless, too many find that fitting in and building relationships are not that simple. I find that most businesses are not prepared to face these workplace challenges, and need to start taking initiatives in that regard. More and more people are immigrating to Canada from other countries for whatever their reasons and it is imperative that we take the time to understand each other’s differences.

In a recent study of the Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs), it was found that 34% responded that their employers do not have the resources to address cultural and new Canadian issues in the workplace. Yet many Canadian companies are promoting and using diversity as an advantage to meet their corporate goals. The many benefits of this relate back to the war on talent and the recruitment and retention of a highly skilled workforce. Companies are looking to better position themselves within global markets by tapping into cultural differences as a way to increased creativity and innovation to drive business results. While they are busy developing intercultural competencies they are failing at addressing individuals’ attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors.

It is clear that we need to start training our staff by focusing on understanding accommodation, and what we can do to accommodate one another’s culture in a more holistic sensitive way. Correct me if you see things differently, but Canadians are probably not willing to change, and if the past is representative then it is just as unlikely that new immigrants to Canada will change as well. What is really important is that from an employer’s point of view you require resources, while from a sustainable business point of view you need clients. Permit me to suggest that in your workplace you take the time to develop intercultural knowledge and the skills to evaluate plus eliminate biases. Learn as much as you can about social, historical, economic, geographic and cultural issues.  These are key factors that influence relationships among coworkers and clients. Drivers that create a cultural blindness that can affect your business performance and job performance.

Next steps

Evaluate your own biases; analyze a situation and use an alternative viewpoint.

Identify the culture and values of your place of business, then evaluate how you can leverage and influence intercultural competency to stand out.  Consider how you could make use of intercultural competency tools when interacting with others in the workplace and beyond.

Why should any of this matter? Well if you intend to stay small and not grow, then from an employer’s point of view there is no impact.  Yet one must ask: what about from a client’s point of view and the ability to address their cultural needs? Perhaps learning something about the 25,000 additional immigrants coming to Canada this year could be beneficial to your business next year and the following years. Regardless of your company’s objectives, you must ascertain that Canada is a multicultural country of close to 36 Million people. Immigration to Canada will continue to contribute to our growth and consequently things will change and evolve. So forget about standing still or even trying to avoid being part of the trend.  In today’s economy it is essential that you work at building new skills and learn more than just techniques within your industry. Building capacity and tapping into any underused potential need to be handled strategically.

If you are growing your business, expect that some of the new Canadians will be looking for employment. They may act as a catalyst and could be beneficial to you in several ways. As an example what if some of these new employees were like a magnet and attracted more of their countrymen and women? Try to imagine for a moment that the result was a Gold Medal financial year. Just because you may feel at this point intercultural competencies would have no impact or consequence,  does not mean that the possibilities should be ignored.

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Good luck with your many projects and business travels in 2016.  As always, expect the best!