Culture at work: The value of intercultural skills in the workplace

As a result of global economic realities, which are driving continuous change in the workplace, employers’ needs and expectations are constantly shifting. This means that employers increasingly look for job candidates with skills that go beyond the traditionally defined technical skills and knowledge necessary for a given role.

While formal qualifications and traditional skills remain important, employers say that they are looking for candidates who can navigate a workplace that transcends national and cultural borders, particularly for positions that require interaction with individuals and organisations from nationalities and cultural backgrounds different from their own.

What is perhaps less understood – and the impetus for this research – is the question of why employers value these skills. Which specific skills are they seeking? What do employers define as intercultural skills? What is the business benefit of having employees with intercultural skills, and what are the risks of not having them? Which skills are most valued? How are these skills weighed against the necessary technical skills and formal qualifications?

To answer these questions, and to better understand how intercultural skills are considered, assessed and developed in the modern workplace, the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a survey of HR managers at 367 large employers in nine countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).

– March 2013


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