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Cultural Competency Training: 6 Keys

By: Erich TollDiversity Blog, diversity calendar
3:000 Comments

What Is Cultural Competency Training?

The United States is called the Great Melting Pot, a nation with incredible cultural diversity. And with such diversity, it’s essential for organizations to foster cultural competence and sensitivity.

It’s essential for workplaces to give employees the cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills to increase cultural knowledge and boost social awareness. Here’s what you need to know about cultural competency training.

What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is the combination of cultural knowledge, awareness, and social skills. It enables people to communicate effectively, and collaborate with individuals of various cultural backgrounds. Here are 5 skills that are obtained through education and experience:

Mindfulness – the ability to be aware of how communication and interaction with others are developed

Cognitive Flexibility – the ability to create new categories of information rather than old categories

Tolerance for Ambiguity – the ability to maintain focus in situations that are not clear, rather than become anxious, and to methodically determine the best approach as the situation moves forward

Behavioral Flexibility – the ability to adapt and accommodate behaviors to a different culture

Cross-Cultural Empathy – the ability to visualize the situation of another person from an intellectual and emotional point of view

Cultural competency training both models and provides educational instruction that outlines positive behaviors, attitudes, and policies.

What Are the Benefits of Cultural Competency Training?

Here are some benefits of cultural competency training at work:

  • Increases cultural understanding and skills
  • Boosts customer satisfaction
  • Improves work outcomes
  • Creates more open-minded employees
  • Encourages active listening, empathy, and overall better communication skills
  • Fosters a variety of diverse perspectives, ideas, and strategies
  • Prompts productivity and cooperation

How Do You Create Cultural Competency Training?

To add or boost cultural training in your workplace, consider these 6 keys as a layout for your program and build from there.

1. Define Diversity

Ground your entire cultural competency program with an initial discussion about diversity. What is it? How has it impacted your organization? How does it impact others with different identities? How do we develop an understanding of ourselves in relation to others? The process of socialization deeply impacts our behaviors, values, and interaction with the world.

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2. Improve Self-Awareness

Spend some time exploring social groups and how they impact the lives of participants. This can be an interesting part of your session as some people deeply identify with their social groups, while others have hardly thought about how they belong to them. Either way, boosting self-awareness will allow your participants to see how they are connected to a greater system.

3. Unpack Cultural Baggage

While most people don’t like to admit it, we all have biases, stereotypes, and prejudices. Discuss your unconscious biases, unpack your cultural bias, and understand the unintended impact that comes with that…especially as it pertains to someone’s individual professional role.

4. Explore “isms”

“Isms” are attitudes, actions, or institutional structures that can oppress certain individuals or groups. What are the most common “isms”? What is the relationship between these systems of oppression and the assumptions people make about others?

Explore more with our training on Microaggressions at the workplace 

5. Understand Privilege

Spend some time unpacking the complex web of privilege. Different types of privilege interconnect, and most have a systemic origin. Start broad with these details, and then get specific about the types of privilege that benefit some – and not others.

6. Create Allies

Cultural competency training seeks to create allies. Spend some time discussing actionable ways that you can address issues when they arise, or if diversity, equity, and inclusion are threatened.

Final Thoughts

Cultural competency training can improve the knowledge, understanding, and skills. These benefits show when working with both customers and coworkers from culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. Take this step to ensure everyone at your organization is protected!

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