Cultural Capability and Inclusion: How do you make it work?

Diversity and inclusion strategies in many organisations have a very strong gender focus. Many of our clients are currently broadening this approach to also involve cultural capability. As a starting point, it’s good to have a framework for development.   The following action list is one we’ve developed to assist with this process.

1.  Make it about ALL of us

We ALL have a complex cultural identity, and we all need to participate fully, contribute our skills and leverage our diverse world views, life-experience and understanding. Members of cultural minority groups have experienced marginalization and bias, and it’s important these patterns aren’t exacerbated through stereotyping.   A key element of capability is the capacity to be self-aware, engage and work collaboratively and respectfully with people from a broad range of backgrounds.

2.  Get expert advice

 You wouldn’t expect a single Australian to be able to clearly articulate Australian culture on behalf of all of us! Be careful of assuming people from diverse cultural backgrounds are representatives for all members of their culture or any of the cultures they identify with. Employee engagement and diversity networks are powerful and can advocate for key issues and provide a valuable voice to management and leadership. Be careful however of relying on volunteers to design cultural transformation and inclusion initiatives. These initiatives must be nuanced appropriately – poorly designed ‘cultural awareness’ programs are worse than nothing at all and can exacerbate stereotyping.

3.  Measure performance and benchmark

Actively research cultural capability and inclusion within your organization. Include cultural inclusion in employee engagement surveys.   Provide anonymous channels for feedback regarding employee engagement and sentiments regarding cultural inclusion. Beware of using US models for defining cultural identity- they are designed for a different demographic and cultural categorisations which don’t apply in Australia.

4.  Make it strategic

Ensure senior people in the business are engaged with the business case. Get clear on why you are addressing this issue, what are the performance and business outcomes?

If this really matters, work out the value to your business of achieving goals or the risk if you don’t and allocate a budget to address the issues.   Develop a plan of action, allocate resources and key performance indicators for results, define accountability and track performance.

5.  Focus on capability, not just awareness

Awareness is a first step, but it’s not the end point! Our APKC® ‘Awareness, Perspective, Knowledge, Capability’ model emphasises the APKC Model
importance of a holistic approach to develop capability and achieve results. Apply the 70:20:10 rule and best practice adult learning principles to ensure learning makes a difference to performance!

Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you’d like to discuss how we can assist with developing cultural capability in your organisation.

About the Author:

Tamerlaine Beasley is an expert who enables effective collaboration and communication in diverse and global workplaces.She is a member of the Board of the Australia-ASEAN Council for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and founder and Managing Director of Beasley Intercultural, Australia’s premier cross-cultural training and consultancy company.Tamerlaine’s keynote presentations, advisory services and training programs are described by clients as ‘transformational’ and ‘game changing’. Examples of her work include: coaching and advising business leaders in Australia and Asia; working with global teams to optimise performance; developing a framework for training and capability building through international partnerships for APEC; building local staff capacity at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; leading the development of diversity and inclusion programs for the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of Defence.