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This fascinating new research study reveals that increasingly, employers are recognising the importance of this aptitude, and are looking for ways to screen candidates and also to develop employees in inter-cultural communication after they join the workforce. Funded by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton, and IPSOS, the study covered 367 large employers in nine countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).

 The study finds that international communication is a central function of today’s marketplace. There are number of reasons why inter-cultural skills are valued today:

  • Help with international business transactions
  • Long-term relationships with customers and suppliers
  • Team-working, creativity, improving communication and reducing conflict.

Employers realise that they need to recognise, nurture and value these skills. In recruitment, increasingly they are looking for communications skills, foreign languages and cultural sensitivity, although the report admits that the screening of inter-cultural skills could be improved.

In an inter-dependent global world, the frequency and regularity of international communication has increased significantly, and this requires special skills and capabilities. Jordan, Indonesia and India give the highest importance to inter-cultural skills (ICS) and surprisingly, the US and UK come lower down the list, with less frequent international communication. It seems that some of the dynamic Eastern countries are much more culturally astute than the western nations.

In an interesting part of the survey, employers were asked to explain what they understand by ICS:

The following words and phrases were used: Respectful; Multilingual; Flexible; Accepts Cultural Differences; Adjusts communication; Adapts to Different Cultures; Listens and Observes;

These imply a need for cultural agility among employees is vital in the global marketplace. Surprisingly, the survey found that employers rate soft skills such as respect, openness to new ideas, building trust and cultural intelligence higher than qualifications or technical abilities or even analysis or leadership skills.

The report identified risks of not having ICS as loss of global reputation and brand value; loss of clients; Cultural Insensitivity; Conflict within teams.

So there seems to be a growing realisation of the risks of cultural illiteracy and insensitivity.

For us this research is informative and supports our emphasis on the importance of cultural intelligence in the workplace. The report did not look at business leaders and the levels of intelligence and flexibility they have, which is critical in shaping the culture of organisations. It seems that some countries are more culturally agile than others. Could it be that previously rich and successful nations like the UK and the US have been spoiled by their familiarity with the English Language and their wealth, such that they feel comfortable within and among themselves than dealing with a diverse and perhaps more ‘complicated’ world? It appears that if the vernacular language is other than English, there is a better ICS in the country. If so, Britan and the USA are clearly paying the price in terms of growth and prosperity.

At Diverse Ethics, we work with leaders to improve their cultural intelligence, and help them see the implications of this for their own organisational culture and strategy. For case studies of some of the work we have done, please see the articles below. We would be very happy to help your organisation embrace this vital skill for a changing global landscape. Contact us here

 For the full report, click here.

Article added on 8th March 2013 at 3:04pm
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