Multi ethnic business team at a meetingMost of you are aware of how the ongoing globalization of trade, talent and culture has changedand is continuing to changethe way we do business. It’s clear that: professionals are traveling more internationally, employers are entering new global markets and we are working in an increasingly diverse environment.

This is leading to stark changes in the kind of skills that employers value in employees with a recent research report by Booz Allen Hamilton, Ipsos Public Affairs and the British Council revealing that employers are now beginning to value inter-cultural adaptability as much as experience and technical know-how. The report took into account the views of more than 360 recruitment decision makers at major organizations in 9 countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, the UAE, the UK and the US. As you can see from the chart below, which is an excerpt from the report, 58 percent of US employers see cultural adaptability as very important to their organizations and 70 percent in the UK.

So, what do employer’s mean by inter-cultural adaptability? The research identified many key indicators of inter-cultural skills and the top 6 were:

  1. The ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints
  2. Demonstrating respect for others
  3. Adapting to different cultural settings
  4. Accepting cultural differences
  5. Speaking foreign languages
  6. Being open to new ideas and ways of thinking

What they also outlined in the report was the advantages that inter-cultural adaptability bestowed on an employee and there seemed to be a consensus amongst the respondents on the three main benefits that inter-cultural adaptability brought to an organization. These were that employers with inter-cultural adaptability have a greater capacity to bring in new clients, can work more effectively in diverse teams and help to support a strong brand and reputation. Surely, music to any CEO’s ears. The survey even went on to outline the risks associated with employees that lacked inter-cultural adaptability which were: loss of clients, team conflict and damage to reputation.

As we can see inter-cultural adaptability has taken up a much higher prominence as a key performance indicator, and it is therefore surprising that the survey found that most employers don’t formally screen for inter-cultural adaptability in the hiring process, although some of them do make informal assessments of inter-cultural skills, based on the five following selection criteria.

  1. Strong communication throughout the interview and selection process
  2. The ability to speak foreign languages
  3. Demonstration of cultural sensitivity in the interview
  4. Experience studying overseas
  5. Experience working overseas

It seems to me that there is a mood shift going as employers become more aware of the value of inter-cultural adaptability in new recruits. This should serve as a sign to recruiters and employers that there is huge value in screening more formally for inter-cultural adaptability and the time may be coming to start making more formal assessments of inter-cultural adaptability if you are to build an organization that is well equipped to cope and thrive within our globally integrated business world now and into the future.

In fact, arguably, companies that reflect the highest levels of inter-cultural adaptability may have an advantage on the global stage in terms of their ability to win new clients, expand into new territories and to present a customer focused, culturally sensitive global brand and reputation.



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