Pushing Past "PC" with UWF’s Cross-Cultural Competency Course

August 8, 2018 | Martha D. Saunders, Ph.D.

Cross-Cultural Competency

“We live in a global society.”

It’s a common phrase that we’re hearing more every day. No longer do we exist in homogeneous silos. The U.S. is more diverse than ever before, and the world is changing all around us. Our workplace teams include people from many generations, faiths, backgrounds and parts of the world. Pew Research Center projections show that by the year 2065, the U.S. will no longer have any single ethnic or racial majority.

Workplace diversity makes good business sense

Prioritizing workplace diversity and cross-cultural competence is not only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense. According to the management consulting company McKinsey, companies with a diverse workforce are 35 percent more likely to outperform those without diversity initiatives. Companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity in their organizations bring in nearly 15 times more sales revenue than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity, according to the American Sociological Association.

A 2016 article on the state of U.S. workplace diversity noted “when you create diverse teams, you widen your access to market insights and become better able to serve an increasingly diverse customer base. You are also able to tap into a more qualified workforce because you widen the pool of potential employees.”

Attracting and retaining top talent

Not only does a culture of inclusivity affect the bottom line, but it affects a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Our workforce demands inclusivity.

According to a study by Deloitte, in 10 years millennials will comprise nearly 75 percent of the workforce, and 83 percent of them are more actively engaged in their work when they feel their company fosters an inclusive culture.

The evidence is clear that companies that don’t make cultural competence and diversity a priority will lose out in the long run. But what does it really mean to foster cross-cultural competence? How do you teach your employees this skill and make it a part of your organization’s culture?

Launching “Cross-Cultural Competency”

For Kim LeDuff, UWF’s vice president for academic engagement and chief diversity officer, it means that instead of the Golden Rule of “treat others how you want to be treated,” we should elevate our thinking to the “Platinum Rule,” which means treating others how they want to be treated.

“The reality of knowing how others want to be treated is you can’t know that unless you talk to them,” LeDuff said. “You have to have conversations with people. You can’t assume people want the same things that you want in life. The more you learn, the better able you are to treat them as they want to be treated.”

It’s with this philosophy that LeDuff, in partnership with the UWF Innovation Institute, launched the University’s newest massive open online course, Cross-Cultural Competency. The nationwide, not-for-credit course is free and open to the public and takes 12 to 15 hours to complete. The course’s conversational approach to sometimes sensitive subjects aims to help those who participate understand and respect one another, as well as function in diverse environments encountered in the workplace, the classroom or in social settings.

Understanding our own culture to effectively collaborate

By learning about ourselves, our own cultures, preconceptions and world views, we promote self-confidence and empower individuals and teams with a sense of control over barriers, prejudices and stereotypes.

Cross-Cultural Competency is structured around the concepts of awareness, acceptance and respect and includes an overview, plus four additional modules taught by UWF faculty and staff experts:
“Global Village,” taught by Rachel Hendrix, executive director of international affairs;
“Religious Diversity,” taught by Dr. Ben Stubbs, director of student involvement;
“Gender & Sexuality,” taught by Dr. Greg Tomso, interim director of the Kugelman Honors Program;
“disABILITY” taught by Dr. Vannee Cao-Nguyen, associate vice president for academic engagement and the University’s student ombudsperson.

Participants in the course gain an understanding of their own life paths and how it impacts them in the workplace. Understanding culture is key to being able to adjust behavior and collaborate effectively.

At UWF, we are committed to an environment of inclusive excellence. We see value in this type of training for business and community leaders across the nation, for employees in every sector and for our own University community, not just because we are preparing the workforce of the future, but because we are also a major employer in the region, a partner in our own community and a leader for change.