When I went to college, it was the first time I really interacted with a group of people completely different from me.

I grew up in Orange County, an almost unmatched, homogeneous place.

During my studies I was able to broaden my horizons and quickly realized how important diversity is for every area of ​​life, be it for education or even for companies.

Did you know that companies in the top quarter of ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to generate higher financial returns than their industry standard?

Additionally, the results show that different teams make better business decisions 87% of the time.

As a business leader, it is impossible to ignore these statistics.

However, if you have a similar background (or lack of diversity) in terms of diversity as I do, you may not know how to develop cultural literacy and build a diverse team.

To help, I spoke to a variety of diversity, inclusion, and belonging experts, from internal HubSpot employees to external thought leaders.

In this post, you will learn what cultural competence is, why it is important and how you can develop it in your company.

What is cultural competence in business?

Cultural literacy in business means that your company understands and values ​​cultural differences. This means approaching your business strategy through a lens of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, so that people from different backgrounds feel included, either working for your company or being customers.

It is important to discuss that cultural competence is not about achieving a diversity quota. It's about creating an environment for open and honest communication in a diverse environment. If you are not culturally proficient, you may not be attracting the best talent to your workforce.

On the consumer side, cultural literacy is important as customers may not support your business if they don't believe you are inclusive.

What does cultural competence really mean?

Martin Tettey, Co-Chair, Diversity and Inclusion, PRSA-NY, stated, "To be culturally proficient in business, an organization must be fully aware of its environment to ensure that the contributions shared are from a diverse group of people Differences in race, gender, or sexual identity. "

Mita Mallick, Head of Diversity and Intercultural Marketing at Unilever, says: "While companies focus on diversity of representation and who is allowed to sit at the table, they can no longer ignore how their products, services and content resonate with consumers from their wallets and want to shop at inclusive companies and brands. "

Being a culturally competent company means that your organization is actively and vocal investing in continuous learning, listening, and change (if necessary).

Your business should benefit all of your customers and employees so that people of different backgrounds and experience can thrive.

Additionally, Melissa Obleada, a former Diversity, Inclusion and Affiliation team at HubSpot, said, "Cultural literacy is a great part of your corporate culture, which we know has a multitude of benefits for your people and your bottom line."

When you are aware of the space that you occupy and exist in, you can overcome these differences with empathy and understanding.

Cultural literacy should impact every area of ​​your business, from hiring practices to corporate culture to marketing.

Lucy Alexander, coordinator of a HubSpot discussion group focused on diversity and inclusion, says, "Allow you to talk about questions like," How will this approach to selling fit in with this country's cultural norms? "or & # 39; How could this marketing campaign be perceived by this group of people?" "

She continued, "It's about developing truly inclusive strategies from the ground up. The bottom line is that if you want to use that lens consistently, you need staff of all races, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, representing different genders and sexualities – otherwise you . " I'll cut it off as spurious and you won't go the way. "

This is how you develop cultural competence in your company

  1. Offer bias training in the workplace.
  2. Have an ethical hiring process that ensures opportunities are available to everyone.
  3. Fair compensation based on experience.
  4. Invest in meaningful cross-cultural relationships.
  5. Prioritize learning cultural competence and work on your leadership team.
  6. Be ready to listen.
  7. Evaluate where you stand.
  8. Create a psychologically safe environment.

1. Offer bias training in the workplace.

To develop cultural competence, Tettey suggests offering bias training in the workplace.

You can create a more inclusive workplace with bias training that focuses on empathy through academic and experiential learning.

The training strategy should help start the conversation about implicit bias and minimize workplace bias through education and discussion.

Remember, this shouldn't be the only thing your company is doing to get culturally proficient. Rather, it is a good first step in laying the groundwork.

Additionally, it's important to remember that implicit bias training should include conversations about systemic and structural issues in your company. This means you may discuss company practices and hold the leadership team accountable for implementing changes at the structural level.

Says Tettey, "Businesses shouldn't just do these things to avoid litigation or meet a quota, they should make them part of the backbone that drives the company and keeps it going."

2. Conduct an ethical hiring process that ensures opportunities are available to all.

Another suggestion from Tettey is to implement an ethical hiring process that ensures opportunities are available to all.

Think of it this way – how can you become culturally competent if your own workforce isn't very diverse?

To attract a diverse pool of candidates, you should advertise jobs through different channels, such as different job boards. Also, your recruiters should be proactive in recruiting from a diverse talent pool.

Alexander says, "Unless your workforce base is very diverse (and the vast majority of businesses in America could do better), you need to combine efforts to make tangible changes in the makeup of your organization with internal training efforts."

For example, "This means that while you are improving your hiring process to attract more diverse talent and setting up your underrepresented backgrounds for success and promotion, you are also running in-house educational initiatives such as content discussion clubs or anti-bias training. Don't give up when you run into roadblocks. The work takes time, and consistent effort is key. "

3. Reasonable compensation based on experience.

Another way to develop cultural literacy is to evaluate your compensation packages. You should ensure that people with the same experience and professional background receive the same compensation.

That way, you can attract the best talent, increase employee retention, and improve job satisfaction.

It may be difficult to evaluate your own compensation packages, but it is important to recognize that implied biases may have affected the compensation offering. If so, you need to correct it.

4. Invest in meaningful cross-cultural relationships.

Cultural literacy is really about knowing your customer.

Mallick: "My job as a marketer is this: To surprise and delight a consumer with a product or service they never expected. To do that, I have to know the consumer very well. But I know their story. And the bigger question is how as a marketer in today's environment, can I afford not to know all of this? "

The answer is that cultural literacy development begins outside of work. That means your leadership team should invest in cultivating meaningful cross-cultural relationships.

You should also encourage your employees to do so.

Mallick says, "How can we expect to show ourselves and be culturally competent in our workplaces when we live most of our lives in communities surrounded by people who just look like us?"

5. Prioritize learning cultural competence and work on your leadership team.

To truly develop cultural literacy, ongoing training on diversity, inclusion and belonging is essential.

Obleada says, "Your organization – leadership in particular – needs to make it clear to everyone internally that you prioritize this kind of learning and working. Check out resources – blogs, podcasts, consultants, workshops, etc – that focus on this and make sure you allow your colleagues to share their positive and constructive feedback with those who lead these initiatives. "

In essence, this means that you should incorporate cultural learning into the structure of your corporate culture. You could invest in resources to foster culturally literate teams and practices.

"Rome wasn't built in a day, so you can't flip a switch (or attend a training session) and be magically culturally competent," says Obleada. "It is a process where we as individuals are more open and bring our learning and empathy into every interaction in the workplace. Be patient with yourself and with one another as you work on developing your cultural competence."

6. Be ready to listen.

An essential part of learning cultural competence is listening. In fact, most cultural literacy training is about listening to other people about their experiences.

Gabrielle Thomas, program manager for the Diversity, Inclusion and Affiliation team at HubSpot, says, "Listen to those inside and outside your company and make sure those voices form a diverse group. You can't build that awareness if you do they are not. " I am not ready to listen. It means that you really need to agree to hearing feedback, which may not always be positive, and to make progress, you need to agree to do things differently. "

7. Evaluate where you stand.

Just like with your compensation packages, take a look at where your company currently stands in terms of cultural literacy.

Alexander says: "Take a critical look at who has the opportunity to lead in your company (not only in official management positions, but also to lead projects? Lead meetings? Own initiatives?). Interview your employees anonymously and get them Get regular feedback and produce concrete results. Action plans to address inequalities. Review these plans to create accountability and ask where you could have done better and what needs to be changed. "

You can only get better if you know where to start and what to do. It's time to make room for this type of work in your business strategies.

8. Create a psychologically safe environment.

Psychological safety is essential in the workplace. This means that employees have the opportunity to get involved and feel safe to have conversations with their employees or managers when they don't feel included.

Richard Ng, coordinator of a HubSpot discussion group focused on diversity and inclusion, says, "To become culturally proficient, you need to invest in psychological safety to enable day-to-day communication between employees."

Creating psychological security can help build a real bond between your employees. With Allyship, the burden of speaking is shared fairly among everyone on your team.

To create a psychologically safe environment, it is important to have solid guidelines and training on conflict and de-escalation.

You may be wondering, "Why are we talking about this?" In the following, let's examine why cultural literacy is important.

Why is cultural competence important?

Cultural literacy is important to both your bottom line and creating a workplace culture that employees are proud of.

Mallick says, "It is not your workforce's job to lead diversity and inclusion efforts in addition to their daily jobs. You need a diversity and inclusion strategy that outlines the structure you need to make your vision a reality. You need a commitment to invest with manpower / resources, budget and time. If you fail to see the benefits of having a diversity and inclusion team, your organization will be left in the market. "

Tettey would agree. He says, "Businesses are nothing without a team to strategically help with D&I efforts."

With that in mind, Obleada says that leadership companies that do not advocate diversity, equity and inclusion are in the minority.

"A 2017 Deloitte study showed that over 75% of employees at all levels would consider leaving their current organization for a bigger one," added Obleada. "Exclusive and rigid corporate environments, in which only certain people are granted access and set up for success, harm everyone involved – your employees, your company and your customers."

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, you essentially get what you give.

Thomas says, "We invest in what we value. If you don’t invest energy, money, or both in D&I, your team and clients will understand that you don’t value an inclusive foundation. ""

This work is important because it is important that your company and your employees grow and thrive.

Alexander adds: "In a fair working environment with diverse backgrounds and thoughts, employees are more likely to share ideas, stay longer and feel involved in the company's mission and work. Most importantly, they are more likely to feel valued as people , which is vital for personal happiness and professional fulfillment. "

In addition, cultural literacy is important as it takes into account that minorities find it harder to make a living.

Says Ng, "We should also recognize that the value of people does not come from their ability to generate revenue for your business, but from the fact that they are human. What if they don't improve the company's numbers? Then they are Not important? Like everyone else, deserve the chance to work and grow in a company that recognizes and supports minorities as they make a living. "

Ultimately, cultural literacy can benefit your company in many ways. They have better employee retention, customer satisfaction and attract the best talent and customers. Cultural diversity affects every area of ​​your business and you should give it the attention it deserves as you develop your overall business strategy.

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