Tuesday 05 March 2013

Employers value intercultural skills as highly as formal qualifications in the workplace, according to new global research published by the British Council in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs. The research is available here.

The research surveyed employers working in public, private, and non-profit organisations in nine countries. It found that employers recognise a clear business value in employing staff who can work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own. Conversely, organisations whose employees lack these intercultural skills are more exposed to risk.

The research asked employers to define ‘intercultural’ skills. They said that intercultural skills include the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints; demonstrating respect for others; and knowledge of a foreign language. Employers reported that employees with these skills are more likely to bring in new clients, work well in diverse teams, and positively support their organisation’s brand and reputation. Employees who lack intercultural skills leave their organisation susceptible to risks including loss of clients, damage to reputation, and conflict within teams.

The research shows that despite this high demand for intercultural fluency, most employers say that education providers in their countries do not sufficiently develop these skills in students before they enter the job market. Employers also admitted to inadequate screening processes for intercultural competence in job candidates. 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.

The research was launched at the British Council’s annual conference for the world’s education leaders, ‘Going Global’, held this year in Dubai. Speaking at Going Global, Dr Jo Beall, British Council Director of Education and Society, said “This research demonstrates a real gap in the education provision across key global economies and the risks an intercultural skills deficit poses to businesses – but equally the great opportunities for education providers and the benefits that job seekers and multinational organisations can gain if we’re able to address this issue. The British Council is developing a capability building programme for intercultural credits to help provide quality accreditation in this market because clearly there are great commercial and reputational benefits to be had for employers if they can have a workforce qualified to operate in a global market.”

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.”


Notes to Editor

The research is available to download here.

WHAT: A research study into the value employers place on intercultural skills in the workplace.

WHO: The research was produced by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs.

WHERE: Employers surveyed in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.


For more information, data, and interviews, please contact:

In the US:                                                                                           

Alexandra Dimsdale 

Manager, Press and Communications, British Council USA


+1 202 588 7837     


In the UK:           

Mark Moulding

Senior Press Officer, British Council


+44 (0)207 389 4889                             


In the UAE (at Going Global):

Tim Sowula

Senior Press Officer, British Council


+44 (0)7771 718 135


About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

We work in more than 100 countries, and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%.  We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org/.

About Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of strategy and technology consulting for nearly a century. Today, the firm provides services to US and international governments in the defence, intelligence, and civil sectors, and to major corporations, institutions, and not-for-profit organisations. Booz Allen Hamilton offers clients deep functional knowledge spanning strategy and organisation, engineering and operations, technology, and analytics – which it combines with specialised expertise in clients’ mission and domain areas to help solve their toughest problems.

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos is the third largest market research company in the world, with offices in over 85 countries and research coverage in over 140 countries. Ipsos offers unparalleled local knowledge paired with a networked global approach to project management and quality control. Ipsos offers expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as evaluation, forecasting, modelling, and consulting. Ipsos has a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2011, Ipsos generated global revenues of approximately €1.4 billion.