A Business Case for Inter-Cultural Awareness

Recent events around the country, and close to home, for and against white nationalism have brought the issue of cultural awareness front and center in our communities, at our dinner tables and in our workplaces. People have had different reactions and we have all been challenged to think about our feelings around very sensitive issues.

In the workplace, there are important reasons to take a closer look at the conversations generated by the more recent discord and confrontation.

Some workers espouse the belief that their culture is “better” or, that “American culture” should only be represented by one particular group of people at the exclusion of others. The United States of America is, as John F. Kennedy called it, “a nation of immigrants.” This is especially true here in our region where the roots of immigrant labor have shaped our industries and grown our economy over the centuries. This tradition continues and Fall River is recognized as one of our Commonwealth’s Gateway cities for new immigrant families.

The rationale for increased awareness and cultural competence within organizations and the business benefits are clear:

  • Incorporates different perspectives, ideas and strategies into the decision-making process
  • Decreases barriers that slow progress
  • Moves toward meeting legal and regulatory guidelines
  • Improves efficiency of delivery of services
  • Increases the market share of the organization

Robert Vitello, Director of Corporate Services at the Center says, “In 2017, just about every business has international dealings: either selling their products around the world or competing for new customers and new markets. Our region is made up of many cultures that bring different skills and new perspectives to the workplace. Beginning to understand and learn how to interact with co-workers or customers from various cultures other than their own is an important skill.”

This business case for inter-cultural awareness holds true as companies in multiple industries are finding a growing need to improve services and production, expand strategic planning and increase market share. Bristol has developed training solutions that help address these challenges.

Inter-cultural awareness can also extend broadly to a range of situations involving co-workers and customers. For example, Steppingstone Inc., a local leader in behavioral health and homeless services, is charged by its funding agencies with providing cultural and linguistically appropriate services to its clients. They offer continuous in-service training for executive, clinical and support staff. They decided to work with Bristol to develop a more in-depth training focused on “Cultural Competency for Improved Client Care,” in the two-year Workforce Training Fund Program grant they received.

This 28-hour training challenged participants to explore their own bias around culture, race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and think about the connections to health inequality and ensuing health outcomes.

“Cultural competence in health care describes the ability to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors, including tailoring health care delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural and linguistic needs,” says Bristol Instructor Mikkie Harvey, who leads conversations on Cultural Competence, Diversity and Inclusion.

The training is very powerful as people begin to consider the influence of one’s own biases and beliefs and the potential impact on service delivery.

In the end, participants build trust and rapport and have a greater appreciation for each other as co-workers.”

Other industries in our community are moving to address inter-cultural awareness and cultural competency. Organizations, businesses, and agencies are recognizing that capturing greater market share in the rapidly diversifying communities of this country requires that they respond better to the unique needs of their clients and the communities they seek to serve.

Join the Bristol Community College Center for Workforce and Community Education at our next Power Hour on Tuesday, November 14 as we discuss how cultural competence can drive business. Hear from experts, ask questions and learn from your peers.