16 MARCH, 2023


As workplaces become increasingly diverse, managing this diversity in the workplace has become a critical capability for any successful organisation. To achieve this, promoting cultural engagement competencies and improving cultural awareness can be powerful tools in creating a harmonious and product environment. By equipping your employees with the necessary skills, knowledge and capability, you can help them overcome cultural barriers and work together towards common goals. This not only reduces the risk of cultural conflicts, but also enables your team to better serve and connect with a wider range of customers and colleagues.

In this article, we’ll explore seven strategies for driving cultural awareness in the workplace, empowering you and your team to embrace and celebrate diversity.

  1. Invest in global citizenship training

    To truly promote cultural awareness and ensure that your workforce understands why cultural competence is beneficial, you should begin by building the cultural knowledge of your employees. One way to achieve this is by holding development workshops to build cultural awareness capability in staff. These learning opportunities should be framed in a way that allows your employees to learn how to deal with working in an increasingly diverse global economy and society. They should also be framed against the context of your company. For example, if your company does a great deal of business in China, arrange for formal training from someone who has worked in China.

    In a business setting, these workshops will cover things you need to be aware of when it comes to your organisation. They will also address topics such as communication, business etiquette, negotiation skills, and marketing skills. If you are interested in finding out more about how to upskill your employees, DeakinCo. offers a Global Citizenship credential.

  2. Promote culturally sensitive communication skills

    Effective communication is a crucial skill when it comes to managing diversity in the workplace. How you communicate with others, both verbally and non-verbally, can make or break a deal. While it’s ideal if your employees know the language of the country you’re doing business with, effective communication is still possible even if they don’t. It all starts with having a thorough understanding of the local culture, which can help avoid misunderstandings and build stronger relationships.

    Here is a common cultural awareness example: if you have gloabl customers or employees who don’t speak English fluently, it’s important to provide guidance to your staff members on how to communicate effectively. This could involve encouraging them to stick to the point, use simple language, and avoid using humour and colloquialisms that may be difficult to understand. It’s also helpful to have your English-speaking employees ask for clarification when necessary, whether it’s through email, phone, webcam, or face-to-face interaction. By doing so, you can prevent misunderstandings and mistakes, and ensure that all parties are on the same page.

  3. Promote good manners in employees

    Promoting good manners in the workplace is an important aspect of building cultural awareness, improving emotional judgement and managing diversity. Regardless of where you do business, demonstrating polite and respectful behaviour is crucial for building trust and forming strong relationships with clients and colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds.

    For instance, in some countries, using polite expressions such as “please” and “thank you” is a necessary part of business communication. By showing your employees how to use these expressions in the appropriate context, you can demonstrate that your company values cultural competence and help them avoid inadvertently causing offence.

    In addition to using appropriate language, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences when it comes to formality. In some countries, it may be inappropriate to use informal language or to address a customer by their first name during initial contact. By providing guidance on these issues, you can help your employees avoid potential misunderstandings and show that your company is respectful of cultural differences.

  4. Celebrate your colleagues’ traditional

    Celebrating traditional holidays is one of the best activities to promote cultural awareness in the workplace. It shows that the company values and respects the cultural heritage of its employees, and creates a sense of inclusivity that can lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity. By celebrating different holidays and festivals, the company can also increase awareness and understanding of different cultures and traditions, which can help to break down barriers and promote cross-cultural communication.

    There are many ways to celebrate traditional holidays in the workplace. One approach is to include the holidays of different cultures in the company’s calendar of events or announcements. This may be done through email or bulletin board announcements, and can provide information about the significance and history of the holiday, as well as any associated customs or traditions.

    Another way to celebrate traditional holidays is through shared events or activities. For example, the company could host a potluck lunch or dinner where employees are encouraged to bring a traditional dish from their culture. Such gatherings can be a fun and engaging way to share food, stories, and experiences with colleagues from different backgrounds.

  5. Listen to foreign clients and colleagues

    Encouraging your employees to listen to foreign clients and colleagues is a crucial aspect of promoting cultural awareness in the workplace. This becomes even more important when managing a remote team where communication is often the only means of collaboration. Listening to others with an open mind allows your employees to learn about different customs and perspectives. It also shows respect and a willingness to understand different viewpoints.

    In addition to listening, it’s also important to observe the attitudes and behaviours of culturally diverse customers and colleagues. This can help your staff to understand the underlying logic and values that shape their actions and behaviours. Even though these behaviours may seem odd, confusing, or even annoying at first, your staff will be able to respond to cultural differences in a calm and rational way. This can help prevent cultural conflict and build better relationships with clients and colleagues.

    By fostering a culture of active listening and observation, you’re not only promoting cultural awareness, but also creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace. This can lead to increased creativity, innovation and productivity, as well as a more positive work environment for everyone.

  6. Pay attention to cultural differences

    To promote cultural awareness in the workplace, it’s important to remind your employees to pay attention to cultural differences when working with customers or managing a remote team. This includes being mindful of national and religious holidays, avoiding topics such as politics or religion, and understanding local customs and etiquette. Encourage your employees to do some research on the cultural norms and expectations of their customers or colleagues, so they can communicate and work effectively with them. For instance, in some cultures, it’s not appropriate to discuss pricing upfront, and a hard sell approach may be off-putting. Instead, your employees may need to adjust their communication style to align with the cultural preferences of their counterparts. By being sensitive to these cultural differences, your employees can avoid misunderstandings and establish positive relationships with their foreign colleagues and customers.

  7. Be aware of different time zones

    When working with colleagues and clients in different time zones, it’s essential to be mindful of the time differences. Your employees should be aware of the business hours, lunch hours, and holidays in the location where the customer is based. Being aware of these details will help them to schedule meetings and follow-up calls that are convenient for the customer. They’ll also know when to say “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening”, which will help ensure the conversation starts off on a positive note.

    It’s also a good idea to encourage your employees to be respectful of the customer’s time zone by avoiding contacting them during their non-business hours. This will demonstrate a level of cultural awareness and sensitivity towards the customer’s work-life balance.

    To help your employees keep track of different time zones, suggest using online tools such as The World Clock or Time Zone Converter. These tools can help them to convert time zones and determine the best time to schedule calls or meetings. By being mindful of time zone differences, your employees can build stronger relationships with foreign customers and colleagues while promoting cultural awareness in the workplace.

Want to learn how learning enables organisational culture and performance?

Developing cultural literacy and awareness among employees will naturally have a positive impact on communication, productivity, and unity in the workplace. Culturally competent employees can work effectively with foreign customers and colleagues, resulting in fewer misunderstandings and mistakes, and ultimately better work outcomes.

To promote cultural literacy and awareness, it’s important to provide learning opportunities that build an employee’s capability to navigate cultural differences in the workplace. This can include education on cultural norms, customs, and etiquette, as well as language training and cross-cultural communication skills.

By investing in Global Citizenship professional learning, you are actively fostering a culture of inclusivity, respect, and understanding in your workplace, which can lift  your employee’s cultural awareness capability in the workplace. Find out more about obtaining Global Citizenship training today.