How can you improve cultural sensitivity in your organisation?

Organisations need to take steps to re-align the way that they address cultural sensitivity to place the needs and beliefs of their employees at the core of their business. It’s important to be culturally sensitive to ensure everyone feels equal, included and valued within the business and can operate at their very best. Ensuring that your workforce recognises the importance of being aware of the diverse range of cultures in modern society, is imperative for forward-thinking businesses as we continue to move into a highly digital and globalised world.

There is no place for ethnocentric views in business today. This concept focuses on individuals judging different cultures against the standards of their own. For modern businesses, quashing these attitudes is central to improving cultural sensitivity. Instead, there needs to be a shift and an appreciation of ethnorelativism to ensure that individuals are culturally sensitive and are open to the rich tapestry of cultures, views and values that make up our society. To promote this approach, there are a number of options to help organisations improve cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity within their workforce.

Be open to listening, learning and education

With all the different technologies at our fingertips, business today can be extremely fast paced. However, it is valuable that employees can take time to consider the thoughts and views of their colleagues and wider team. It is this notion of consideration that often instils the greatest amount of respect and understanding for different cultures within a business – especially if this is a growing or large multi-national corporation. Individuals working within an organisation need to feel as though they can trust the team and workforce around them to progress, develop and thrive through their professional career, regardless of their personal views and beliefs.

Establishing relationships is a central role played by any business – whether this is internal relationships with employees, or external partnerships with clients. These relationships are often formed on an international basis, and corporations can experience business with multicultural candidates, clients and partners, as well as a talent economy that is made up of an array of different backgrounds and cultures.

Creating a working environment where employees feel comfortable talking about their culture is essential for modern businesses, including acknowledging cultural days and holidays within the team. This transparency is important as there is a need to recognise and support the cultural differences of the team and to promote cross-cultural understanding. Senior members of the team can support this by taking the time to actively listen to their team and to be open to listen about their backgrounds and cultures.

Cultural sensitivity training

Before cultural sensitivity training is implemented within a business, senior figures within human resources and management should look to thoroughly assess the needs and requirements of their workforce. Once more, pausing and considering the diverse range of cultures that make up the team is incredibly important in doing this.

Introducing a cultural ambassador, who is a dedicated person to direct all queries and concerns to is a good way to start the process. This is a proactive solution to reassure and guide employees, especially in large businesses where it may become easy for individuals to become lost in the day-to-day cycle of work. There is also the option of seeking external support – an external specialist can help businesses to re-orientate their approach to workplace culture, instilling an awareness of the different viewpoints that employees have.

One of the most integral parts of cultural sensitivity training is education. A workplace culture is the product of the behaviours displayed within a business. Having an informed workforce will ensure that this awareness is implemented throughout the business and ensures that individuals are held to account. Education can take the form of a wide variety of initiatives, from workshops and programmes to events and diversity training. An important part of awareness and training is also recognising the value of ‘authentic voices’ to the conversation around cultural sensitivity. This encourages individuals, either from within the business, or externally, to speak about their own cultures and experiences, opening up dialogue and ensuring all voices are heard. Furthermore, each business should tailor its training to meet its own needs and should be revised regularly, to make sure that individuals align their thoughts with the people around them.

Why is being culturally sensitivity important – does this enhance business?

84 per cent of individuals believe that the workforce experience needs to be rethought to improve productivity, with this including focusing attention on improving cultural awareness across businesses. Deloitte has recognised in its latest research that we can utilise benchmarks for reinvention that include purpose and meaning, ethics and fairness, growth and passion, collaboration and personal relationships and transparency and openness. In order to create an environment that is sensitive to different cultures, taking these benchmarks into account is an important step.

Creating a team that is culturally aware, sensitive and literate, will enhance communication. Indeed, levels of productivity should be increased too as there is the opportunity to reduce mistakes and misunderstanding between members of the team and between colleagues. In promoting a collaborative working environment, all thoughts are considered, no matter what the background of the individual is or their viewpoints. Equally here, tensions and misinterpretations between the team are more likely to be avoided as the workforce becomes better educated and culturally aware. New perspectives and diverse backgrounds mean that the business can benefit from a wider range of views, ideas and thoughts, which can, in turn, be used as an opportunity to inform the company culture and the employee brand.

Businesses must step up and address the way that they navigate cultural sensitivity within the workplace. With today’s society encompassing a range of cultures, on an international scale, working together to ensure that all individuals are respected, understood and their voices heard within the team is as important as ever.