Cross-Cultural Competency


What are the work skills of the future?

My last post on Working Globally prompted me to revisit a fascinating report that the Institute For the Future published called Future Work Skills 2020.

It sets forth six change drivers in the world that will reshape how we work:

  1. Extreme longevity. How will you think about living your life that may extend to 120 years . . . or beyond?
  2. Rise of smart machines and systems. How will you effectively interact with machines in the worlds of work and play?
  3. Computational world. How will data drive your life and your decision making?
  4. New media ecology. How will you communicate effectively in a more networked, visual world?
  5. Superstructed organizations. How will you communicate and connect on a massive scale, beyond traditional organizational boundaries?
  6. Globally connected world. How will you increase the diversity of your connections and your adaptability to multiple cultures?

These disruptive changes then pointed to 10 key skills for the future. And while they apply to all workers, it’s interesting how many of them have specific implications for communicators.

That means corporate communications will take on even more significance in the future. Communicators have a key role to play in helping people make sense of complexity and focus on what’s most important to the organization and its stakeholders.

Let’s look at cross-cultural competency. As one of the 10 key skills of the future, it’s defined as the ability to work effectively in different cultural settings.

You could end up working anywhere in the world. Or working with other people around the globe, regardless of your geographic location.

And if you don’t see that opportunity in your current role, it’s something important to seek out where you are or in your next move.

And to work effectively anywhere in the world, you have to be adaptable and flexible. You have to quickly get a read on how people think, how they get things done, and what social and cultural norms they follow. These are great overall change management skills, too, by the way.

Striking the right balance in cultural adaption is also important. As Andy Molinksy of the Brandeis International Business School says, “adapt to a new culture, but don’t go too far.”

Not only should you assess how another culture is different from yours, he says, but you also need to understand the level of difference and adjust your behavior to the right degree.

This is where a focus on diversity and inclusion is invaluable. The Future Skills 2020 report highlights the important role of diversity, in both cross-culture adaptability and in innovation.

This is the ability for diverse teams to come together, identify their points of communality as well as the different perspectives and experiences that enable them to innovate, and created a shared agenda.

In my current role, the markets we serve in the United States and Latin America are diverse and evolving rapidly. Our workforce must fully reflect our customer base, as well as understand the needs of each customer segment.

We also depend on a constant stream of innovation, which is fueled by new ideas and new thinking that come from a diverse workforce. And an inclusive workplace culture is one that fosters collaboration, productivity and engagement.

Want to know more? Check out DIRECTV’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

And speaking of diverse teams, pictured above are just a few of my incredible colleagues. Every day I’m amazed and awed by their ideas, insights and accomplishments, and how they all come together to create a highly engaging work environment and corporate culture.

What other skills help to operative effectively in any environment? One is speaking the language. I’ll explore that in an upcoming post.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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