Cultural Competence in the Workplace: Challenges and Solutions (2022)

May 15, 2012 | by Jane Sherwin

Here’s why education, respect and open communication are the keys to serving and employing a diverse mix of people.

TELACU Residential Management in Los Angeles, CA, with 2,600 residents in more than 2,300 units, has a lot of property to maintain, and residents with a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. But diversity means more than just ethnic differences, and Jasmine Borrego, president of the residences group, tells a story about training maintenance workers sent to fix a faucet in a unit occupied by HIV-positive residents.

(Video) Cultural Competence

“They were wearing protective gear, just to go in and fix a sink,” says Borrego. “Now, it’s true that if they were cleaning up blood stains they would need to protect themselves. But we worked to help them see that in this case they needn’t assume that this unit was any more risky than any other.

“We constantly train our staff to be very sensitive,” Borrego adds. “There are two fair housing sessions a year for our managers, run by a law firm specializing in housing law and a consulting firm with a similar expertise. We also provide staff training four times a year. This is led by our supervisors, and they spend a whole day on policy, procedures, fair housing regulations, and what can lead to a discriminatory lawsuit. For example, so many of our residents are limited English speakers, so staff must make sure they have translators available—this is a HUD requirement, and they mustn’t worry about cost.”

Human relationships being at the heart of residential services, it’s not surprising that cultural differences can play a big part in quality of services. Managers and consultants alike report a growing commitment to understanding and supporting diversity, especially among staff, as they go about their work of caring for senior and disabled clients.

One significant reason for attending to the stresses, and values, of a diverse staff, is to reduce, or hold down, the high turnover that tends to characterize the senior care industry. Five years ago, turnover rates among “frontline” workers in nursing homes averaged 70%; rates in home care were 40% to 60%.

High turnover, in any field, can reflect problems with the quality of human resource management. At the same time, with the increasing age of the baby-boomer population, and a shrinking younger population, immigration is increasingly essential to staffing for the care of seniors. With employees from cultures all over the world, diversity is becoming a central characteristic.

Victoria Parker, an associate professor in health policy management at Boston University, has researched the place of respect in building employee satisfaction and performance. Why respect, rather than education about different cultures?

“Education is too often focused on knowledge, rather than shifts in attitude and behavior,” says Parker. “Respect puts the focus on those other pieces: even if you don’t know a lot about someone else’s culture, when you approach working together with a respectful attitude, this goes farther than knowledge.

(Video) Cultural Competence in the Workplace

“Also, knowledge can give the false sense that you understand something about someone else’s experience. It’s hard to separate facts and stereotypes. These can completely wash over individual differences that exist within groups and sub-groups. For example, in some parts of the country Asian Americans are a big part of the long-term care work force. It’s too easy to group all of them together. The fact is that each group, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Chinese American, have their significant cultural differences, and education can conceal these.”

Parker’s research findings include the discovery that how managers and co-workers respond to a difficult incident is more important than whether the incident actually occurs. Consider a manager who simply says, “That’s your job; it doesn’t matter what they say to you” when an aide reports painful racist words from a resident. The positive alternative is for the manager to say, “I’m sorry you had to hear that,” or for a coworker to offer to take over, or share, the difficult resident’s care for a while.

“There is a lot of denial that these things get said,” says Parker. “We advise training staff to acknowledge and provide tools for working with incidents like these, instead of pretending they don’t happen. We encourage managers to make it clear they want to hear about these incidents. And training should start during orientation.”

Parker describes one organization that designated a regular meeting time as a place for strategizing when staff encountered particular difficulty with a resident’s attitude. This same senior residence also spends a week each year celebrating cultural differences with staff, with themes such as food and music. After a few years they progressed to talking about other topics such as traditions and beliefs around death. They found that staff members from different parts of world, with low-status jobs, became experts, in the eyes of residents as well as staff.

1. Remember that diversity doesn’t just mean ethnic differences. Education, expertise, and even kinds of illness represent differences that can make a difference in employee and resident experience.

2. Education about ethnic diversity can be useful, but the capacity to respect each employee, their strengths, and their needs is equally, if not more, important.

3. Acknowledgment and support for situations where difficult residents use derogatory language is as important as efforts to prevent such behavior.

(Video) Managing diversity and cultural differences at workplace - how to get along with others

4. Support for professional advancement of employees, a form of respect in itself, also helps to build a diverse staff and may reduce turnover.

5. Diversity is not going away! The growing senior population, and the smaller, younger workforce, means that immigration is essential to staffing residential and home care.

Cedar Sinai Park, in Portland, OR, founded 91 years ago, serves 600 residents on and off-campus, with a staff of 250. About 50 percent of clients are Jewish.

“Our philosophy is derived from our faith,” says David Fuks, chief executive officer. “We remember that we were strangers once, in a strange land, and we seek to be good to the stranger in return. Some of our residents are Holocaust survivors, or refugees from the Soviet Union, and we help our staff understand and be sensitive to their outlook.”

At the same time, Cedar Sinai puts considerable work into supporting staff, who come from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.

“We probably employ as many Muslims as Jews,” said Fuks. “Our nursing home receptionist is Muslim and wears a head scarf, and we serve one meal a day which is both kosher and halal [suitable for Muslim dietary requirements].”

Fuks said that the most important thing Cedar Sinai is doing for its staff is to provide scholarships and tuition reimbursement.

(Video) Business Speaker Erin Meyer: How Cultural Differences Affect Business

“We have 20 staff at a time pursuing degrees in higher education. Our policy is to pay for any class relevant to the staffer’s career goals—as long as these pertain to their work with us. And we prepay because that may be the only way they can afford the tuition. The result is that we can promote staff within the organization. At this point our business office has Anglo, Filipino, and Vietnamese workers. We have an African accountant.” Staff are able to move up, and to move around, on a career lattice that gives them considerable choice.

MariaElena Del Valle is an organizational change consultant with PHI National, a firm focused on strengthening working experience in home and residential care. One of her current clients is Independence Care Systems in New York, which recently decided to extend its services to include seniors as well as the disabled.

“As ICS grows,” said Del Valle, “so does the diversity of its population. There are Russians, Chinese, and Koreans, and the staff needs to be culturally competent, so the organization will seek to use existing staff personal networks to reach out to new employees that understand the language and the culture.”

Del Valle is a strong advocate of inviting sustained dialogue among staff.

“We need to explore together what’s happening, to ask, ‘What am I doing to create a respectful environment, and what do people need from leadership?” The clients I have seen, in the past 25 years, are beginning to understand the need for a culture of responsibility and dialogue, and the importance of being able to respond to any situation with curiosity. It’s a beautiful thing, curiosity, it stops you and you just look, you gain emotional control in the middle of differences.”

No one is yet talking about the end of difficulties with diversity and cultural competence. Cedar Sinai’s Fuks said that, while their goal is a grade of A, they “are only at B.” Their turnover rate of 17 percent, compared to much higher averages elsewhere in the field, does suggest that they are taking the right steps.

“Workforce diversity needs to be made a priority,” says Del Valle. “We have to acknowledge that the world has changed. In any given organization there’s a high probability that 15 to 20 different languages are being spoken. Some days I think we’ve fallen back to square one, but other days I do feel that we are beginning to understand the situation. Diversity involves a personal journey: How are you holding yourself accountable?”

(Video) Cultural Competence

FAQs

What are the challenges of becoming culturally competent? ›

Multiculturalism. Diversity. Inclusion.

How do you solve cultural issues in the workplace? ›

Here are 5 ways to overcome cultural barriers and embrace cultural difference:
  1. Ensure clear and polite communication.
  2. Learn about different cultures.
  3. Work towards accommodating cultural difference.
  4. Share knowledge.
  5. Employ diversity training.
2 Jan 2018

What are 5 barriers to cultural competence? ›

This is a result of the fact that people from different cultural groups approach challenges and problems in different ways.
...
Five causes of cultural barriers
  • Language. ...
  • Stereotypes and prejudices. ...
  • Signs and symbols. ...
  • Behaviors and belief. ...
  • “Us” versus “them” (ethnocentrism)

What are the barriers to culturally competent care? ›

BARRIERS TO CULTURALLY COMPETENT CARE

Lack of diversity in health care's leadership and workforce. Systems of care poorly designed to meet the needs of diverse patient populations.

What can help to overcome cultural barriers? ›

Top Ten Tips for... Effective Cross-Cultural Communication
  1. Maintain etiquette. Many cultures have specific etiquette around the way they communicate. ...
  2. Avoid slang. ...
  3. Speak slowly. ...
  4. Keep it simple. ...
  5. Practice active listening. ...
  6. Take turns to talk. ...
  7. Write things down. ...
  8. Avoid closed questions.

How do you deal with cultural problems? ›

5 Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers at Work
  1. Learn a few key phrases. ...
  2. Learn your client's culture. ...
  3. Promote appreciation of cultural differences. ...
  4. Be open to trying new things. ...
  5. Be accommodating.
8 Jun 2016

How do you overcome diversity challenges in the workplace? ›

Here are some ways that will help overcome diversity challenges:
  1. Take a look at your recruiting and hiring practices. ...
  2. Establish mentoring opportunities. ...
  3. Promote team work. ...
  4. Make inclusion a priority. ...
  5. Provide Diversity Training.

What is an example of cultural competence? ›

For example, educators who respect diversity and are culturally competent: have an understanding of, and honour, the histories, cultures, languages, traditions, child rearing practices. value children's different capacities and abilities. respect differences in families' home lives.

What are strategies of cultural competence? ›

Embrace Diversity
  • Value Diversity. Respect all cultures. ...
  • Self-Awareness. Recognize any personal biases against people of different cultures and work to eliminate them.
  • Awareness and Acceptance of Differences. ...
  • Dynamics of Differences. ...
  • Accept Responsibility. ...
  • Knowledge of Patient's Culture. ...
  • Adaptation.

How do you adapt to cultural differences in the workplace? ›

Best Practices for Working with Different Cultures in the...
  1. An Example of Working with Colleagues from Multiple Cultures. ...
  2. Promote Understanding to Fight Stereotypes. ...
  3. Be Flexible with Employee Schedules. ...
  4. Host Team-Building Activities. ...
  5. Be an Empathetic Leader. ...
  6. Connect Diversity to Your Brand.
15 Nov 2018

What are some examples of cultural barriers? ›

Every country has numerous religions practised by its people. so the differences in their values and beliefs are also an example of cultural barriers. Body language and gestures: Body language and gestures are another elements of the cultural barrier. It is impossible to communicate without body language and gestures.

What hinders cultural competence? ›

There are additional barriers to cultural competence including a lack of training, a lack of guidance given by employers or agencies, prejudice on the part of employers who might block social workers from gaining more knowledge and practice experience with diverse clients.

What can lack of cultural competence lead to? ›

Failure to be culturally competent can lead to patient dissatisfaction. According to Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is it important for people with chronic conditions?, by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, one source of dissatisfaction relates to language.

How can you provide culturally competent care to others? ›

7 Steps Nurses Can Take to Provide Culturally Sensitive Care
  1. Awareness. As with any social issue, the first step is awareness. ...
  2. Avoid Making Assumptions. ...
  3. Learn About Other Cultures. ...
  4. Build Trust and Rapport. ...
  5. Overcome Language Barriers. ...
  6. Educate Patients About Medical Practices. ...
  7. Practice Active Listening.
15 Jan 2022

How can cultural sensitivity be improved? ›

Use these tips from the American Psychological Association to be more culturally aware:
  1. Think beyond race and ethnicity. A person's culture is shaped by more than the color of their skin or the way that they dress. ...
  2. Learn by asking. ...
  3. Make local connections. ...
  4. Pay attention to non-verbal behaviors. ...
  5. Exchange stories.
22 Jul 2019

Why is it important to have cultural competence? ›

Cultural competence is important because without it, our opportunity to build those relationships is impossible. Instead, we'll co-exist with people we don't understand, thereby creating a higher risk for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and bias—things that can all be avoided.

What are the 5 cross-cultural communication strategies? ›

The five fundamentals of effective cross-cultural communication
  • Awareness. It all starts with this: being aware that different countries have different ways and times of doing things. ...
  • Preparation. ...
  • Language. ...
  • Humour. ...
  • Openness.

How can cultural conflict be resolved if not avoided? ›

THE BEST WAY TO RESOLVE OR HANDLE CULTURAL CONFLICTS IS BY LEARNING ABOUT OTHER CULTURES. Conflict can be found all around us. In most cases, it occurs due to our differences. Everyone is raised differently and adapts to the culture around them.

Which is the best strategy for overcoming language barriers at work? ›

Use words in the right context, avoid jargon, slang and words which have a double meaning and repeat anything that's causing confusion. “It doesn't matter whether you're speaking to native speakers or non-native speakers in the workplace, it's always a good idea to use plain English,” advises Melamed.

What causes cultural conflict in the workplace? ›

Cross cultural conflict in the workplace can arise when different perceptions around power, resources, and compatibility create competition between individuals or groups.

How do you rebuild a company's culture? ›

5 ways to rebuild company culture
  1. Manage employee expectations. ...
  2. Facilitate a culture of flexibility. ...
  3. Strive for transparency and open communication. ...
  4. Support mental health and wellbeing. ...
  5. Take this opportunity to do things differently.

What is the most challenging aspect of a diverse working environment? ›

The most challenging aspect of a diverse working environment is accepting and embracing differences. The modern working environment still in many cases has dominant cultures where the outcome is a lot different in junior levels and homogeneity in senior levels.

How do you manage diversity issues positively? ›

Here are five tips to help you manage a diverse workforce for the best results:
  1. Start with Hiring. ...
  2. Create inclusive policies and practices. ...
  3. Provide diversity training. ...
  4. Facilitate effective communication. ...
  5. Encourage interaction.
12 Jan 2018

What are the strategies to manage diversity? ›

Diversity Management Strategies: How To Implement Diversity and Inclusion
  • Identify Resources for Diversity and Inclusion Programs. ...
  • Be Intentional: Set Diversity Goals and Accountability for Change. ...
  • Seek Out Different Mindsets – Recruit Diverse Talent. ...
  • Set up Inclusion and Diversity Training. ...
  • Build a Diverse Leadership Team.

What are the 4 elements of cultural competence? ›

Cultural competence is comprised of four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and; (d) Cross cultural Skills.

What are the 6 stages of cultural competence? ›

The Cross framework emphasizes that the process of achieving cultural competency occurs along a continuum and sets forth six stages including: 1) cultural destructiveness, 2) cultural incapacity, 3) cultural blindness, 4) cultural pre-competence, 5) cultural competency and 6) cultural proficiency.

How do you create a culturally competent organization? ›

Building a Culturally Competent Organization
  1. Collect race, ethnicity and language preference (REAL) data.
  2. Identify and report disparities.
  3. Provide culturally and linguistically competent care.
  4. Develop culturally competent disease management programs.
  5. Increase diversity and minority workforce pipelines.

How will you avoid in conflict with other people of different cultural backgrounds? ›

Ask about cross-cultural experiences they have had and learn from them. One way to deal with conflict management is to understand your own cultural values and how they differ from the values of others. Awareness of cultural difference is the first step in conflict resolution that arise from cultural disputes.

What can you try to prevent misunderstandings due to cross-cultural differences? ›

Clarification. Clarifying what you think you may understand is critical for good cross-cultural communication. Paraphrase what you understood and ask for confirmation. Confirm when you have understood.

What are some challenges to developing and applying cultural competency? ›

Challenges and Strategies in Achieving Cultural Competence in Child Welfare Driven Systems of Care
  • Limited baseline knowledge of agency performance on cultural and linguistic competence. ...
  • Difficulty defining and operationalizing the cultural and linguistic competence principle.

How do you contribute to and encourage a culturally safe work environment? ›

Strategies that enhance the ability to be culturally safe include:
  • reflecting on one's own culture, attitudes and beliefs about 'others'
  • clear, value free, open and respectful communication.
  • developing trust.
  • recognising and avoiding stereotypical barriers.

Which is one of the most important element in regards to cultural competence? ›

Overall, cultural competence has three important components: active listening, demonstrating empathy, and effective engagement.

How can cultural competence be improved in the workplace? ›

Encourage Feedback and Transparency

Make sure people feel safe and comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences in the workplace. Set up regular meetings or feedback channels for learning about any issues with discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice that can be addressed through cultural competence training.

How do you deal with cultural problems? ›

5 Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers at Work
  1. Learn a few key phrases. ...
  2. Learn your client's culture. ...
  3. Promote appreciation of cultural differences. ...
  4. Be open to trying new things. ...
  5. Be accommodating.
8 Jun 2016

What can lack of cultural competence lead to? ›

Failure to be culturally competent can lead to patient dissatisfaction. According to Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is it important for people with chronic conditions?, by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, one source of dissatisfaction relates to language.

What are cultural challenges in healthcare? ›

“These challenges are diverse and include insecurity to engage with patients, misunderstanding of patients, more directive communication, negative impacts on shared decision making, more time-consuming communication, perceived power distance between patients and physicians, etc.,” the researchers reported.

What are examples of cultural competence? ›

For example, educators who respect diversity and are culturally competent: have an understanding of, and honour, the histories, cultures, languages, traditions, child rearing practices. value children's different capacities and abilities. respect differences in families' home lives.

Why is it important to be culturally competent in nursing? ›

Cultural competence is necessary because it helps the nurse offer the best services to every patient, leading to high satisfaction and care on the side of the patient. Without cultural competence, the health sector will suffer a great loss and ultimately limit the services that it can offer.

What happens if you are not culturally competent? ›

Due to a lack of understanding and cultural bias, minority groups are more likely to be viewed as deficient and are overrepresented in the child welfare, juvenile justice and special education systems. Minority groups are under-represented in mental health systems.

What is an example of cultural incompetence? ›

Examples of mistakes made due to cultural incompetence

* A company advertised eyeglasses in Thailand by featuring a variety of cute animals wearing glasses. The ad was a poor choice since animals are considered to be a form of low life and no self-respecting Thai would wear anything worn by animals.

What hinders cultural competence? ›

There are additional barriers to cultural competence including a lack of training, a lack of guidance given by employers or agencies, prejudice on the part of employers who might block social workers from gaining more knowledge and practice experience with diverse clients.

How do you overcome cultural barriers? ›

Top Ten Tips for... Effective Cross-Cultural Communication
  1. Maintain etiquette. Many cultures have specific etiquette around the way they communicate. ...
  2. Avoid slang. ...
  3. Speak slowly. ...
  4. Keep it simple. ...
  5. Practice active listening. ...
  6. Take turns to talk. ...
  7. Write things down. ...
  8. Avoid closed questions.

How can you overcome cultural barriers in healthcare? ›

They might:
  1. Ask questions that demonstrate respect and concern.
  2. Ask questions that help reveal the patient's understanding of the health issue at hand.
  3. Explain their own perceptions.
  4. Acknowledge differences in perceptions.
  5. Begin to negotiate treatment plans.

What are examples of cultural barriers to communication? ›

Examples of cultural barriers to communication
  • Generation. The internet is overflowing with articles deconstructing the cultural differences between Millenials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. ...
  • Work Experience. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Personal Background. ...
  • Nationality or Ethnicity. ...
  • Language. ...
  • How to approach differences.
10 Feb 2022

How can I improve my cultural competence? ›

How do I become culturally competent?
  1. Learn about yourself. Get started by exploring your own historical roots, beliefs and values, says Robert C. ...
  2. Learn about different cultures. ...
  3. Interact with diverse groups. ...
  4. Attend diversity-focused conferences. ...
  5. Lobby your department.

Why is it important to have cultural competence? ›

Cultural competence is important because without it, our opportunity to build those relationships is impossible. Instead, we'll co-exist with people we don't understand, thereby creating a higher risk for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and bias—things that can all be avoided.

What are the 4 elements of cultural competence? ›

Cultural competence is comprised of four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and; (d) Cross cultural Skills.

Videos

1. Education System v. Cultural Competence | Gracia Bareti | TEDxDirigo
(TEDx Talks)
2. 3 ways to create a work culture that brings out the best in employees | Chris White | TEDxAtlanta
(TEDx Talks)
3. Incompetent vs. Competent Cultural Care
(DiversityNursing)
4. NPTEL Soft Skills Week 10 Quiz Assignment Solutions | July 2022 - IIT Roorkee
(Techies Talk)
5. Cultural Competence
(GreggU)
6. Standards of Cultural Competence
(Ashley Santana)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated: 12/27/2022

Views: 6857

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.