Human Resources

What Is Cultural Training in the Workplace?

Oct 15, 2021

With modern teams dispersed across the world and collaboration tools breaking down geographical boundaries, cultural training in the workplace is a necessity. Learn how to get it right with this explainer.

Andrew ConradSr Content Writer
What Is Cultural Training in the Workplace?

In the modern workplace, diversity is reality, especially with remote work on the rise. Remote work has made almost every team global, and teams can just as easily work on a project with a teammate from across the hallway as they can with a colleague from another continent.

With the proliferation of global teams and the technology that enables them, there’s no doubt that this diverse workforce has made teams more powerful than ever before.

In fact, according to Gartner research (full report available to clients), “organizations in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to have financial returns above their respective industry median.”

diversity

But with this diversity comes the need for education and cultural training in the workplace. To work together, teammates must understand each other, not just in terms of a common language but also in terms of cultural norms. If these needs aren’t addressed, businesses risk the erosion of their teams due to misunderstanding, poor communication, and lack of trust. 

In this article, we’ll look at three strategies that leaders of diverse and distributed teams can use for effective cultural training in the workplace.

What is cultural training?

Cultural training—which may also go by cultural awareness training, cultural sensitivity training, or cultural competency training—is a type of organizational training that helps members of an organization (for example, students or employees) learn about cultural differences to help them work more effectively with teammates from different cultural backgrounds.

Typical cultural awareness training topics include communicating across language barriers, managing culturally diverse teams, and sensitivity training.

1. Drive process-based cultural change through strategic planning

As a business leader, you already know that just talking about change is never enough to actually drive progress. You need to develop a plan for change, implement those strategies, and track the progress. This is especially true for cultural training.

To do this, try a three-pronged approach using commitment, strategy, and accountability:

  • Commitment: Ask yourself, “Why is cultural understanding important for the strength of our organization?” This information will be crucial in communicating the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout your business.

  • Strategy: Ask yourself, “What is our plan for improving cultural competence throughout our organization?” Consult with leaders from across your organization to get an honest assessment of where you’ve succeeded in the past on improving cultural understanding and where you’ve fallen short. This will help inform your cultural training strategy.

  • Accountability: Ask yourself, “How can we ensure that we follow through on our plan for improving cultural awareness throughout our business?” This will be an ongoing process, as you review, measure, and modify your cultural training plan as needed.

Articulating and then communicating your motivation and plan in this way is important because, according to a Gartner survey (full report available to clients), stakeholders are 11 times more likely to respond positively through employee engagement to messages when they believe the company has stayed true to its values.

Accountability is equally as important when you consider that, while 90% of organizations report having a diversity and inclusion strategy in place, only 27% of employees indicate that their leadership has informed them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their daily work. 

The disconnect falls on the shoulders of management: a majority of DEI leaders (65%) say that management’s unwillingness to own responsibility for implementing a DEI strategy is a top barrier to executing their DEI strategy.

The takeaway?

Your employees are ready and willing to embrace an inclusive culture, but management must lead the way through consistent messaging and laying out roles and responsibilities.

2. Standardize cultural training with a learning management system

When the daily demands of work are calling, with emails piling up and deadlines looming, it is easy for cultural training to get swept to the side, along with things like data security and ethical standards training. But all of these trainings are vital to the health and success of your business.

An LMS, or learning management system, can ensure that these trainings do not get overlooked. With features like automated reminders, assessment management, and course tracking, this tool can help standardize your training workflow.

Not sure where to begin?

You may be wondering where to find course material diversity training. If you have someone on your HR staff who is proficient in cultural awareness, you can task them with authoring a course. If not, most learning management systems have a built-in course library in case you’d rather use an inclusion training course that is ready to go.

GoSkills

The course library in GoSkills learning management system (Source)

By making cultural training a part of your employee orientation program with annual refresher courses, you can ensure that all of your employers are prepared to embrace diversity and foster an inclusive workplace.

3. Celebrate cultural differences through recognition and action

Once you have a cultural inclusion strategy in place, it’s important to follow through with some visible actions that show employees throughout your organization that you take diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) seriously and are actively working to improve it.

Here are a few ideas to set this plan into motion:

  1. Send out a cultural inclusion survey to every member of your staff to gauge the current level of DEI in your organization. You can start with a question as simple as, “How do you feel about DEI awareness in our company and where can we improve?”

  2. Hold a virtual town hall to discuss DEI in your organization. This can start with an outline of your current efforts to improve cultural understanding across the business, followed by an open forum to discuss any issues.

  3. Recruit representatives of all levels from across physical locations to participate in focus groups about DEI issues. Here’s a selection of sample questions you can use to kick off discussion during these focus groups.

  4. Ensure that your internal and external facing company websites recognize holidays celebrated by employees from every region where your company does business. Here is a calendar of multicultural holidays and heritage months to use as a resource.

Use collaboration software to break down barriers and promote cultural inclusion

Physical distance can present a huge impediment to promoting cultural diversity and inclusion. But collaboration software is a great tool for bridging those gaps.

Check out our Category Leaders for collaboration software to find the perfect tool to bring your team closer together, regardless of background or physical location.

GetApp Category Leaders collaboration

GetApp’s Category Leaders in collaboration (Source)

Note:

The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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About the author

Andrew Conrad

Sr Content Writer
Hey there, I’m Andrew. I’m a Senior Content Writer at GetApp. I bring you insights about retail, eCommerce, and marketing. I studied at Loyola University Maryland and have more than a decade of professional writing experience. Home base: Austin. 2 things about me: I am a lifetime Baltimore Orioles fan, and I love walks in the woods. The tech trend I think you should keep an eye on: Mixed reality in retail. Trying on clothes will never be the same.
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