If there is one frustration that we at The Kaleidoscope Group hear consistently from HR executives it is that they are in constant reaction mode.
- “We need a [fill in the job] asap.”
- “We’re running into trouble with supplier diversity.”
- “I need to report an incident.”
HR regularly confronts issues of diversity and inclusion and is often tasked with leading Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives. The reality, though, is that those tasked with the work have not been supported with the education and training they need to execute effectively.
What is Cultural Competence?
Cultural Competence, the ability to interact effectively across lines of difference, is the ultimate benefit of impactful D&I training. Cultural Competence equips us with the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that foster the emergence of an inclusive culture and all the researched and documented positive business outcomes that come with it (e.g. innovation, engagement, increased revenue).
Cultural Competence is not about lists of “Dos & Don’ts,” but about expanding our capabilities, our ability to do.
Leadership is an intense journey into yourself.
You can use your own style to get anything done.
It’s about being self-aware.
Jeffrey R. Immelt
Chairman of the Board & CEO, General Electric
How Cultural Competency Impacts Organizations
When HR leaders develop their Cultural Competence, through their own D&I work, the ROI for the organization is felt exponentially. Culturally competent people in HR roles become change agents in their organizations by:
- Educating Others: Because HR tends to be connected to all other business units, individuals in HR are uniquely qualified to reach the entire organization. This provides an invaluable opportunity for those who understand and leverage the power of D&I to educate others with a keen insider’s awareness of organizational culture and the specific demands their colleagues face.
- Coaching Leaders and Managers: Though the results can feel revolutionary, the development of a culturally competent culture is an evolutionary process. Leaders and managers, throughout the organization, will have to embark on their own journeys toward Cultural Competence. Along the way, a culturally competent ear and voice in HR can provide “just in time” guidance when challenges arise, as well as needed perspective around successes, challenges, and the assessment of progress over time. Over time, those leaders and managers engage HR, not as a place to dump problems, but as a place to find and generate solutions with their valued coach.
- Sustaining D&I Efforts: A common challenge with D&I efforts is that they don’t “have legs.” In other words, the efforts are not sustained. There may be an event or a class, but before long everyone returns to the “culturally incompetent” status quo. Culturally competent HR professionals, first, understand and appreciate the need for D&I efforts to be sustained effort. Second, and more importantly, they understand how to meet their colleagues “where they are” and engage individuals and business units, specifically, to implement initiatives and practices that are aligned to their function and their needs.
Culturally competent HR professionals have a sustained impact on their organization’s success. They impact that success by developing and implementing sustained D&I efforts. They help sustain those D&I efforts by coaching leaders and managers, throughout the organization, to develop and leverage their own cultural competence, day to day. Culturally competent HR professionals lay the groundwork for their coaching by educating others on D&I topics and their impact on the business.
The first step, though, for the HR professional who wants to transform from reactive process manager to proactive change agent, the step that precedes all this work with others, is to do some work on self. Take classes. Read articles and books. Engage experts and mentors. Expand your circle and engage people who used to be beyond it. The first, critical, and introspective step to transforming to a change agent in your organization is: Develop Cultural Competence.