Cross-Cultural Communication Leads to Workplace Success

Karen Bradford

March 16, 2022

  • Share:    
How To Promote Successful Cross-Cultural Communication In The Workplace

Cultural diversity is one of the biggest work-related buzzwords from the last few years. As the number of people moving across borders continues to rise, diversity is rapidly expanding globally. First world countries in Europe and North America now have particularly high immigration rates. As a result, they're experiencing far more cultural diversity.

The USA recorded nearly 45 million residents in 2018 who were originally born outside of America. These residents have come from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America and other nations. They've brought with them a mix of unique identities, traditions, beliefs, and cultures.

These elements are becoming an integral part of work environments. That's why cross-cultural communication is essential in creating successful workplaces in 2022 and beyond.

Many of the US residents who have immigrated come from countries that are home to a variety of different cultures. Take South Africa, for example. This country is known as the 'rainbow nation' due to its cultural diversity and 11 official languages.

The rising levels of diversity in first world countries is quickly becoming more obvious in workplaces. Data from Glassdoor highlights this, as it found that 76% of employees consider diversity an important factor when considering new job offers.

Finding ways to communicate across languages and cultures creates healthy workplace diversity. Plus, it helps all parties involved to feel heard, included, and respected. It's an essential consideration for organizations that aim to create constructive company cultures and thrive in an increasingly multicultural world.

Communicating Across Cultures Online

The world is experiencing a remote work revolution. Since 2020, millions of people across the globe have started to work remotely part time or full time. Some workers moved back to physical workspaces in 2021. But many are still working from home and using communication platforms like Trello and Zoom to get their work done.

Cultural diversity plays an important role in the remote work movement, too. Clear interpersonal communication is at the heart of most business interactions, be they in person or online. Workers who can communicate across cultures find it easier to work alongside colleagues based in different countries or have different cultures, expressions, and communication preferences.

Poor communication can have a very different effect. A lack of clear cross-cultural communication can lead to more conflicts, misunderstandings, and challenges in any workplace.

Luckily, it's easier than ever to communicate with people of all cultures. Technology like Skype, Zoom, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and other real-time communication services have changed the way we interact.

These platforms allow for instant messaging and video calling to help expose team members to new cultures and expectations. They also help to avoid misunderstandings that may occur with other methods of communication, such as email.

The Foundations of Cross-Cultural Communication

Cross-cultural communication hinges on clear and respectful discussion.

Each member of a diverse team needs to have a clear understanding of their role, responsibilities and tasks to perform their duties well and communicate clearly with others.

Employees should be encouraged to communicate and share information as clearly and concisely as possible. They need to do so without using language that may be difficult for non-native English speakers to understand. They should listen carefully in meetings and take notes when needed, and ask questions to clarify concepts they do not understand.

Managers and supervisors can make communication easier by being transparent about the requirements of their subordinates. They need to encourage them to avoid unverified information and hearsay.

Make it clear that they can approach you at any time to ask questions. You should also offer regular feedback about workplace communication and give your team guidance on how they can improve their current methods of communication.

Improving Communication Skills in Teams

There are thousands of different cultures on Earth, and each of them has its own distinctive social expectations, norms, and practices.

Understanding these interpersonal expectations can help employees to reach new levels of personal and professional growth and authenticity. When people of different cultures work together, there may be people who voice prejudiced or biased views. Addressing this is crucial to creating an inclusive company culture.

Even when this happens, there's still great potential to improve workplace communication.

Cross-cultural communication at work relies on the same basic communication skills that workplaces have used for decades.

Communicating with understanding and respect can benefit entire teams by bringing different perspectives to the table. And it aids in the development of new solutions to challenges that single team members may not otherwise have considered.

Additionally, cross-cultural communication can improve a team's general communication skills.

When people interact with others from different cultures, belief systems and backgrounds, they are extracted from their 'communication comfort zones'. Instead, they're encouraged to use clearer communication, listening skills and questioning to better understand their peers.

Diversity Fuels Creativity

Every person in the world has a unique viewpoint. Different cultural backgrounds can significantly impact these perspectives.

Different cultures also express creativity in different ways.

In a workplace setting, this could translate to people asking questions that their peers may not have considered crucial. This brings different skill sets and knowledge to the team and creates nuanced local marketing strategies that are respectful to a certain area's local populations.

Cultural sensitivity is a huge boon for multinational companies. Without this, they may struggle to break into new international markets with their marketing messages and products. Hiring employees from those regions may enable them to use culturally appropriate messaging, humor, and advertising techniques to engage specific target audiences more effectively.

The Importance of Cultural Intelligence

Cultural Intelligence, also known as CQ or Cultural Quotient, is a team's ability to work efficiently within the context of cultural diversity, while at the same time extending their insights and understanding into interactions with clients. Teams that can communicate effectively with customers from other cultures are a huge asset to businesses that have expanded into international territories.

A team's ability to communicate across cultures at work is a core component of cultivating cultural intelligence. It's also an essential part of any business's success in the 21st century.

Studies have shown that businesses with a high degree of CQ enjoy more customer loyalty, financial success, and employee satisfaction in the long run.

Promoting cross-cultural communication takes time, effort, and practice. It doesn't happen overnight, but in a world where respect for diversity is finally on the rise, it's well worth making it an integral focus in every business.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

Become a WITI Member!

Are you interested in boosting your career, personal development, networking, and giving back? If so, WITI is the place for you! Become a WITI Member and receive exclusive access to attend our WITI members-only events, webinars, online coaching circles, find mentorship opportunities (become a mentor; find a mentor), and more!

Become a Member

Member Coaching Circles

There are no WITI online coaching circles scheduled at this time. Please check back soon for updates.

More Coaching Circles

Our Story

Founded in 1989, WITI (Women in Technology International) is committed to empowering innovators, inspiring future generations and building inclusive cultures, worldwide. WITI is redefining the way women and men collaborate to drive innovation and business growth and is helping corporate partners create and foster gender inclusive cultures. A leading authority of women in technology and business, WITI has been advocating and recognizing women's contributions in the industry for more than 30 years.

Read More

The organization delivers leading edge programs and platforms for individuals and companies -- designed to empower professionals, boost competitiveness and cultivate partnerships, globally. WITI’s ecosystem includes more than a million professionals, 60 networks and 300 partners, worldwide.

WITI's Mission

Empower Innovators.
Inspire Future Generations.
Build Inclusive Cultures.

As Part of That Mission WITI Is Committed to

Building Your Network.
Building Your Brand.
Advancing Your Career.