Intercultural Competence ~ A Business Imperative

ERIEC and our corporate participants know that you can’t throw a loonie in the business world without hitting a multicultural team! Cultural diversity is a business imperative in this economy, with demographics as they are, especially in Alberta. It is possible that Alberta could be facing a shortage of 114 000 workers in the next decade, especially in the oil and gas sector. Employers know that immigrants are an educated and skilled source of labour. When you have such diversity in your organization, it makes good sense (or cents!) to know how to manage a multicultural team; leadership is the factor that makes or breaks such a team. One expert in the field gives this example:

A British boss asked a new, young American employee if he would like to have an early lunch at 11 A.M. each day. The employee answered, “Yeah, that would be great!” The boss, hearing the word yeah instead of the word yes, assumed that the employee was rude, ill-mannered, and disrespectful. The boss responded with a curt, “With that kind of attitude, you may as well forget about lunch!” The employee was bewildered. What had gone wrong? The boss received an entirely different message than the employee had meant to send.

Here we see how the smallest of interactions can be rife with intercultural misunderstanding. So what can one do to become more interculturally competent?  One solution is in Oregon: every July something special happens in Portland. People from all over the world convene to live, learn and teach interculturally at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication (SIIC). SIIC is held at Reed College, the one from which Steve Jobs dropped out. So why is it relevant to Edmonton, you ask? Well, many who work or train interculturally in Edmonton head down to Portland for some of the best training/education you’ll find in North America.

I’m one of those people. This July was my 5th year at the summer institute; I co-coordinate the Fellows Programat SIIC. The Fellows Program is an opportunity for people who work interculturally or study in the field to explore and experience multicultural teamwork, all while supporting the staff and faculty behind the scenes of SIIC. There, I have had the opportunity to network with participants and faculty from Austria to Dubai, Ghana to Morocco, New Zealand to the Philippines. SIIC is THE place to meet, learn, get educated and networked with people from around the globe who understand that the norm in global business and education is multicultural. If you work with diverse populations, you might want to consider SIIC as an option to enhance your intercultural competence and understanding of diversity.

Here I am with the Fellows Team, 2012

However, if preference or resources keep you closer to home, there are other options for building skills interculturally. The following are a few organizations in Edmonton who provide training in the field:

And, of course, our Career Mentorship Program is an excellent way for both skilled immigrants and established professionals in Edmonton to network and build intercultural competence. Stay tuned for more about the program…

Join our Mentorship Program

Build the careers of skilled immigrants and promote a global perspective in Edmonton's business community.