The 21st century will bring greater appreciation of the need to address cross-cultural differences and diversity and ethnic issues that can undermine societal and organizational survival. The training areas of diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural competence are well-positioned to help bridge misunderstandings and overcome past inequities and cultural differences.
In recent years there has been a narrowing of the gap between cross-cultural competency training and diversity and inclusion training. These two areas have been separated in the United States like this: Cross-cultural competence training focused primarily on national cultural differences, global teams, expatriate training, and the like, while diversity and inclusion focused on compliance, legal issues, and reducing inequities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of diversity.
Trainers have tended to focus on one area or the other. Recently, the Diversity and Inclusion Office of the Society for Human Resource Management asked me to serve as a thought leader in cultural competence for the diversity and inclusion practice area. When I addressed this issue at a SHRM Diversity Conference, the room was packed. ASTD also has addressed this issue at its International Conference and Exposition.
Those trainers with a background in the social sciences have long known that there is common ground research in areas such as attitude formation, identity development, bias, prejudice, group dynamics, marginality, discrimination, and cultural norms. Similar social psychological factors are responsible for one’s attitudes toward strangers regardless of whether the stranger is a neighbor or lives thousands of miles away. Training on how to work or live more successfully with a person or group different from you should be based on similar understandings of how attitudes and behaviors are formed and can be changed.
It appears that diversity and inclusion trainers are viewing cross-cultural competence as a way to expand their strategic mission, and those in the cross-cultural competence area should be equally open to expanding their scope to include diversity and inclusion. Training areas of mutual interest include hidden biases, micro-inequities, how culture is defined and practiced, cultural norms, stereotyping, ethnic behavior and marketing, gender and other diversity dimensions across cultures, global diversity, and culturally competent healthcare.
Look at your training organization and examine who is responsible for diversity and inclusion training and who is responsible for cross-cultural competence training. If the two areas are reporting to different leaders there may be a great opportunity for synergy and cooperation.
If you or your organization has any cases or best practices that combine diversity and inclusion training and cross-cultural competence training please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in future articles.
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