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.”