How to Improve Your Firm’s Intercultural Competence

The importance of intercultural competence has become a popular conversation in architecture and design as firms strive to reinforce values of equality and justice and to eliminate unconscious bias from the workplace. Below we’ll cover some ways to improve your firm’s intercultural competence.

What Is Intercultural Competence?

When a company has intercultural competence, their procedures, values, behaviors, policies, and views reflect the cultural diversity of the organization in a way that understand and respects the cultural differences of employees without treating any culture better than another. Intercultural competence is important because it helps ensure all employees feel safe and valued, while allowing teams to work better together.

Unconscious Bias

Most people try to be respectful of diversity. The major problem is that everybody has biases that they are not aware of. Biases infiltrate our subconscious over time and can affect our attitudes and decision making. Most people tend to gravitate towards other people who are similar to them, whether in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or age. Organizations need to make themselves aware of the biases that they have because unconscious bias can create unfairness in the hiring process and in the way employees are treated at work.

How to Eliminate Bias

One way to work on eliminating bias is to reflect on the language used in job descriptions, mission statements, company polices, etc. Does any of the language hint at stereotypes associated with gender, race, orientation, ethnicity, ability, or age? Work on making the language you use more neutral.

It is also important to learn about the different cultures of the employees at your firm and help to educate your team about cultural diversity. Take the time to get to know your team members and go out of your way to validate their experiences. To do this, you have to understand the challenges people of diverse backgrounds have faced in their professional lives, acknowledge these challenges, and actively work to eliminate setbacks for them. You want to think about inclusivity in every interaction you have with employees, whether you’re talking to them face-to-face or sending them an email.

Now is the time to create an organizational culture that achieves intercultural competence. Your team not only needs to represent diversity, it needs to respect and celebrate diversity. The first step is to eliminate unconscious and systemic biases from your organization. When you have a diverse team that feels safe and heard, the whole team will be able achieve greatness.


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