3 Ways to Boost Intercultural Competence

Here’s what we know (and have known for a long, long time): a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce drives exponential business growth, organizational development, and continuous improvement. Intercultural competence can serve as both a critical performance management dimension for employees and a meaningful competitive advantage for the organization. 

What we don’t always know is how to act on this understanding. In 2021, our team has locked in on the mantra, “Be impatient for action and patient for outcomes”. Here are 3 actions we’ve taken that you can take today to boost your intercultural competence: 

  1. Understand yourself and your organization first. Consider these questions: 
    1. What is our preference for problem-solving, delegating, motivating, or managing time?
    2. How do we view relationships, laws, and leisure time?

  2. Learn from others whose preferences and perspectives are different from yours. Interact “… with people who are different from yourself, who do not share your interests, or who think differently than you do. …Find out more about them. … Concentrate on appreciating and showing respect for others…” (Cultural Competency Doesn’t Happen Overnight)

  3. Search for and acknowledge shared values and respect and acknowledge differences. A boost in intercultural sensitivity and competence can only happen with authentic engagement, learning, and understanding of commonalities and differences. 

The Society for Human Resource Management provides an important distinction between intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence: 

Intercultural sensitivity is about appreciating the deeper impact of cultural differences on how we interact with other people and the effect this has on one’s own perceptions of other people. Intercultural competence is a measure of one’s effectiveness in such interactions with other people.

These concepts apply equally to individuals, teams, and entire organizations.

The relevance of intercultural sensitivity to interactions with people from different parts of the world tends to be clear to many people. The relevance to working effectively with people down the hall from your office may be less clear.

What actions are you taking today to boost intercultural sensitivity and competence for yourself and your organization? 


Looking for more content related to intercultural sensitivity and competence? 

Join Horizon Point and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Alabama at Huntsville on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, for a virtual workshop on Intercultural Competence: Creating a Culture of Awareness, Acceptance, and Respect. Learn more and register here


Jillian Miles Massey