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12 tips to improve your intercultural communication

Recently we hosted a webinar called Intercultural competence is an essential skill for the future. During the webinar, three of our intercultural consultants shared an experience that stuck with them. From supporting leaders in cultivating their diverse teams, guiding expats in a new culture, to overcoming miscommunication and frustration within global team, we can learn a lot from their experiences.

With their input, we’ve created a list of 12 tips to improve your intercultural communication.

4 Tips when relocating employees internationally

  1. Increase cultural self-awareness & understanding of new culture.
  2. Support the whole family, including partner and kids.
  3. Seamingly similar cultures also differ and need support.
  4. Take care of repatriating employees – Returning home.

When an organisation hires someone from a different country, the new hire is often not only integrating into a new organisation, but into a new country as well. Compare relocating to jumping from a bridge into water. It’s safe, but it certainly helps to know what you’re doing and what to expect.

Being aware of this is step one. Having a supportive manager that is aware of the unique challenges that an international employee may face, makes a huge difference.  If the new hire has a partner or children, that awareness and support should be extended to them as well.  The willingness for management to be engaged is the consistent action that will make all the difference.

4 Tips when leading culturally diverse teams

  1. Dare to talk about cultural differences.
  2. Demand responsibility from all employees.
  3. Discuss basic communication.
  4. Talk through company values and their interpretation(s).

Sometimes when working with other cultures, little differences can be overlooked. Differences such as how feedback is given, how respect is demonstrated or how hierarchy is viewed might be taken for granted. This can lead to ineffective peer evaluations or expectations for innovation and responsibility aren’t met. Another pain we’ve seen experienced is when there is an attitude that international talent needs to learn ‘our’ way of working. 

4 Tips for international organisations:

  1. Consider culture as much as language.
  2. Get input from local affiliates.
  3. Challenge internal procedures and processes.
  4. Continuously develop (your) intercultural competence and keep learning.

As with the ‘our way of working’ growing pain, HR departments sometimes fail to understand the differences in approach that people from various cultures have towards business. Rather than trying to force people into a particular ‘way of working’, multicultural teams and organisations should prioritise creating and maintaining an inclusive culture in which, amongst other things, psychological safety, trust, and communication can blossom.

Develop your Intercultural Competence

Have any of the pain points we mentioned been something you’ve experienced? Or maybe you’re experiencing something else? Book a free, no-obligation 30-minute talk with one of our experts to explore your experience further. We come well prepared to meet the needs of any multicultural team or organisation.

We strongly believe that when language & communication skills are combined with intercultural competence, the path to a sustainably inclusive organisational culture is opened. Such a culture offers a wide range of benefits for each individual and team, as well as the organisation as a whole. Curious to know more? Click here!

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