Employees with Intercultural Skills Provide Added Benefits in their Workplace

PRESS RELEASE: Washington, D.C. – March 5, 2013 – Nearly two-thirds (60%) of employers globally say that intercultural skills, or the ability to work effectively with individuals and organizations from cultural backgrounds different from their own, are very important to their organization, according to a new Ipsos Public Affairs poll conducted on behalf of the British Council and Booz Allen Hamilton.

This survey included employers working in public, private, and non-profit organizations in the US, Brazil, UK, South Africa, UAE, Jordan, India, China and Indonesia. Globally, employers primarily understand intercultural skills to be the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints (44%); demonstrating respect for others (35%); and knowledge of a foreign language (28%).The survey found that employers recognize clear business to hiring candidates with intercultural skills, business values such as keeping their teams running effectively (40%) and building trust and relationships with clients (35%) in employees with intercultural skills. Organizations whose employees lack these intercultural skills are more exposed to risks such as miscommunication between teams (37%) and damage to the organization’s reputation or brand (27%).

The research further shows that despite a high demand for intercultural fluency, only one-third of employers say that education providers in their countries sufficiently develop intercultural skills in students before they enter the job market (35%). Employers also admitted to inadequate screening processes for intercultural competence in job candidates, as 24% do not screen for these skills in the recruitment process. The research concludes that candidates who demonstrate to interviewers they have intercultural skills, as well as formal qualifications, would have an advantage when applying for jobs.

Clifford Young, Managing Director of Ipsos Public Affairs’ Public Sector Research and Political Polling in the US, said “In an increasingly globalized world, the market is demanding more than hard skills. The three Rs – reading, writing, and arithmetic – are just the necessary condition to enter into the workforce. Now employees need to know how to work in teams, communicate, and most importantly as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, they need to have the skills to negotiate different social and cultural environments. Our research shows a clear demand for these skills amongst employers globally.”

The research was launched at the British Council’s annual conference for the world’s education leaders, ‘Going Global’, held this year in Dubai.

Find the full text of the report here.