Adding cultural competency skills can recession proof your career

Cultural competency is the ability to acknowledge, respect and understand individuals and groups from different cultures and with different perspectives.

By Sharon Raz and Amy Morrison

Special to the Reporter

In today’s globally connected world, it’s important that our workforce reflects the diversity of our communities. For employees, having a cultural competency skill set is not only the right skill to have, but essential for career success and longevity. It’s also paramount to the success of companies and the strength of the economy when we move into a recession.

Cultural competency skills refer to our ability to acknowledge, respect and understand individuals and groups from different cultures and with different perspectives. Today’s companies are interested in creating a diverse workforce. They are hiring employees and serving customers from multiple cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds. These organizations are aware of the many advantages of having a diverse workforce, such as increased productivity, increased retention and overall better products that fit the customers’ needs. Companies are looking to hire and keep employees who better fit our diverse workforce.

As part of their hiring processes, many organizations use interview questions that are designed to gauge a candidate’s ability to apply culturally competent practices. Candidates who demonstrate cultural awareness, tolerance and empathetic communication skills have a better chance to be hired for the job and to keep their job.

During a recession, when positions are reevaluated and budgets are cut, having cultural competency skills helps employees stand out and show their unique contribution to the workplace. This shows that they’ve consistently demonstrated effective and inclusive communications and teamwork and cultural awareness. These employees typically show a deep self-awareness of their cultural biases, are committed to fight these biases on an everyday basis and are focused on building strong relationships with their diverse team members.

For employers, this means their employees are invested in their work and care about each other. That translates to them caring about the success of the organization. Adding cultural competency skills will not only help in career sustainability, it’s the right thing to do.

There are a variety of resources available online where you can evaluate your own cultural competence. The Cultural Competence Self-Assessment Checklist of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society is one that that is helpful. Once you’ve assessed your cultural competence, there are a range of classes that are available that will help fill any gaps identified in the assessment.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech) offers a variety of classes that teach cultural competency awareness and skills. Most of the social science classes include an emphasis on cultural awareness. Classes like Introduction to Sociology, General Psychology and Psychology of Organizations are few examples for social science relevant classes. Communication classes teach interpersonal and intercultural communication skills that are essential in the workplace, and humanities classes focuses on diversity and social justice.

Adding cultural competency skills now, before the next recession, will set you apart from other employees, and show your dedication to an inclusive workplace.

Dr. Amy Morrison is the president of LWTech and Dr. Sharon Raz is an associate professor and department chair of social science at LWTech.