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Culture & Language Skills Set Job Applicants Apart

Culture & Language Skills Set Job Applicants Apart Credit: Multi-cultural image via Shutterstock

Culturally savvy employees are in high demand by businesses around the world, new research shows.

In a study by Ipsos Public Affairs, on behalf of the British Council and Booz Allen Hamilton, nearly two-thirds of employers around the world said the ability to work effectively with individuals and organizations from different cultural backgrounds is very important to their organization.

Specifically, employers want workers who can understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints, demonstrate respect for others and comprehend foreign languages.

The study shows that employers see numerous benefits from employees who can work well with peers from other cultures. Specifically, 40 percent of the companies surveyed said employees with intercultural skills help keep teams running effectively, while 35 percent believe such skills improve trust and relationships with customers and clients.

Workers who lack intercultural skills expose companies to greater to risks, such as miscommunication among teams and damage to the organization's reputation or brand, the research shows.

Clifford Young, managing director of Ipsos Public Affairs' Public Sector Research and Political Polling in the United States, said that an increasingly globalized market demands more than hard skills.

"The three Rs — reading, writing and arithmetic — are just the necessary condition to enter into the workforce," Young said. "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."

Despite that high demand for intercultural fluency, the research revealed that only one-third of employers think that education providers in their countries sufficiently develop students' intercultural skills. Employers also admitted to inadequate screening processes for intercultural competence in job candidates, with 24 percent of businesses failing to look for such skills in the recruitment process.

The study authors conclude that job applicants who demonstrate intercultural skills as well as formal qualifications have an advantage during the hiring process.

The research was based on surveys of more than 350 employers working in public, private and non-profit organizations in the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, India, China and Indonesia.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.