Cultural Adaptability: Definition & Development

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  • 0:04 Cultural Adaptability
  • 1:11 Training & Development
  • 2:36 Standard Courtesy & Skills
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joseph Madison

Joseph received his Doctorate from UMUC in Management. He retired from the Army after 23 years of service, working in intelligence, behavioral health, and entertainment.

This lesson defines cultural adaptability. It explains how managers can teach employees to be more respectful and considerate of different cultural backgrounds to help team members to work within a diverse team.

Cultural Adaptability

Melanie, a manager at Tech for You & Me, is meeting tomorrow with the Chinese branch of the organization. She has planned out a working lunch and scheduled a list of things to review. Melanie is concerned because she has been in constant contact with the Chinese branch, and they have only accomplished 70% of the requests that she has sent them. However, they keep telling her that they will get the work done, even when they don't. Melanie goes into the meeting the next day and firmly explains to their partner branch that they need to follow through on their work. The Chinese branch completely agrees, and everyone is satisfied. However, a few months later, the issue has not been resolved. This is where Melanie could use some cultural adaptability.

Cultural adaptability is the ability to adapt and understand other cultures within your day-to-day work environment. If Melanie had researched China and its cultural norms, she would have found that Chinese people often struggle with saying 'no.' Instead, they will speak in vague ways that say 'yes' but ultimately mean 'no.' Had Melanie been aware of this cultural tendency, she could have saved her organization a lot of time and money.

Training & Development

In a world with hundreds of different and exciting cultures, it is important to remember that each behaves in various ways. Complications arise in a work environment if these cultural behaviors are unknown or unaddressed. So, how do you teach cultural adaptability to your employees? To develop a culturally adaptive workplace you should:

  • Assess current cultural adaptability - Create a few organization-wide assessments to help you and management determine how culturally adaptive your employees are. This will give you a jumping off point for training.
  • Hire inside or outside change agents - You may find it more effective to hire individuals that specialize in cultural adaptability and bring them in for specific trainings. However, keep in mind that you will need to have reoccurring trainings, so you have to hire someone on permanently.
  • Start from first hire - Look for words on resumes such as cultural intelligence, cultural agility, and other phrases that show potential employees have experience in cultural adaptability. Look for studying abroad, international groups, or volunteering experience.
  • Train from day one - Make sure to start training on cultural adaptability from the moment you hire new employees. This will show them what type of environment your organization has.
  • Have employee trainings - Develop events for your employees where they discuss their culture and behaviors. This provides a great experience for both the trainers and the trainees.

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