What are the Benefits of Intercultural Training?
Today’s world is characterised by economic and social globalisation, ever-improving information and transportation systems, changes in political systems and population density, as well as multicultural communities and workplaces. The number of intercultural interactions steadily grows in frequency and intensity. Contemporary societies are marked by higher social mobility which above all includes mobility of ideas, languages and cultures. The increased contacts between cultures brought about the necessity to facilitate intercultural encounters which are loaded with potential difficulties rooted in cultural differences of the involved parties.
Companies are operating across national borders and cultures. The process of globalisation facilitates operations across cultures but also creates new obstacles international companies have to deal with in order to be successful, thus profitable. People from a variety of cultural backgrounds and nationalities interact on a daily basis in the workplace, at school, and in everyday life. The increasing need for in-depth understanding of and clear communication with people from differing cultures due to economic and social globalisation and its impact on the workforce, demographics, and society as a whole, makes it essential to study and learn how to maximise positive outcomes of intercultural interactions and reduce potential cultural faux-pas. Verbal and nonverbal communication can cause misunderstandings and frustrations that can potentially hurt work relationships and cause a decrease in productivity due to the lack of knowledge or appreciation of cultural differences. Therefore, potential problems may arise from the more obvious linguistic differences, but also from the often more hidden, less apparent differences in cultural values. Value systems are embedded in people’s behaviour often unconsciously. Nevertheless, people’s actions are, in general, reflecting their cultural values. Being aware of such differences and being able to deal with them is a new necessary and often required quality of employees of international companies. Intercultural awareness is a relatively new concept in the business world but should be part of the strategy of any company that is operating internationally. People and therefore companies tend to be ethnocentric. It could be said that this behaviour is human nature. However, understanding one’s own values and other culture’s values, in fact being able to put oneself out of the restrictions of one’s own culture is important in order to conduct successful intercultural operations. There are various theories that attempt to explain cultural differences and categorise the complexity of cultural particularities. These theories can be, along with training regarding the specific culture and cultural values, facilitate successful operations across cultural borders.