Cultural Agility: The Next Step in Cross-Cultural Training

It used to be that cross-cultural training in the business world often meant simply teaching international assignees about the business practices of another culture. Employees working with more than one culture were either business travelers or assignees. A German person heading to the United States would be coached in American management methods, or a Brazilian bound for Europe would familiarize themselves with communication styles there.

Today, there are still many business travelers and international assignees in the corporate world. However, there are also now many employees who live and work in their home country, but must think and communicate globally.

Multinational company managers are in charge of global teams. These teams collaborate across many borders and cultures.  Managers, who have perhaps never been globally mobile themselves, guide these teams to achieve results. These managers may also have colleagues in other cultures with whom they regularly negotiate, or do business.  

While globalization has brought a great deal of business opportunity, it has also presented new challenges in cross-cultural communication. For example: How can the manager of a global team more fully understand the cultural context behind coworker or colleague interaction, without having had direct experiences of visual cues and nuances in that culture?  

Today’s best cross-cultural training in the business world serves employees who are globally mobile, and globally interactive. Exploring and encouraging cultural agility is crucial to developing deeper awareness and stronger communication skills for all employees.

The following steps help teams become more culturally agile:

1.    Develop self-awareness of your cultural biases.
2.    Become attuned to cultural differences.
3.    Exercise flexibility during team meetings.
4.    Learn about visible and invisible aspects of other cultures.
5.    Encourage curiosity and, especially, understanding.

There are many cross-cultural training tools, a number of which are designed specifically to assist employees in many locations, or who have specific needs. Taking advantage of one or more of today’s cross-cultural training tools can yield benefits for your company that will last far beyond one assignment abroad.


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