The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace

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The value of intercultural communication skills is compounding in our globalized and competitive workplaces. Communicating with customers and colleagues across international borders is an everyday occurrence for many workers around the world that is forcing employers to seek job candidates who are not only technically proficient, but also culturally astute and globally competent.

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 recently conducted a survey of human resources managers at 367 large employers in nine countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The research shows that employees in most of the companies surveyed engage in extensive interaction across international borders. When asked how important intercultural skills are to their organization, 88 percent of U.S. employers responded they were very or fairly important. HR managers associated intercultural skills with significant business benefits, including an ability to keep teams running efficiently, to build trust with clients, and to develop relationship with new clients.

The study also noted employers see international experiences such as study abroad, internships abroad, or international work experience as indicators of intercultural skills.

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This article was originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of International Educator, the magazine of NAFSA: Association of International Educators (