Too WOKE? Why Bother Being Culturally Aware?
The idea that we should be “culturally aware” in our workplaces has been a ‘thing’ for a long time now and at I can’t help wondering, why is it so important and what’s the point of it all? Could it be another one of those ultra ‘woke’ topics that are yet another distraction to businesses?
Being aware of and respectful to different backgrounds, values and beliefs might open our mind to new opportunities, both in our social lives and in our career, but is cultural awareness a topic that we should be exploring and investing any time into?
Maybe, let’s unpack what it means to be culturally aware:
A person who is culturally aware is someone who appreciates and tries to understand people from different walks of life. It involves being patient, showing empathy and requires good interpersonal skills that help forge good working relationships.
How does all this help me though?
Being culturally aware requires an understanding of how someone else’s background influences their opinions and thought processes. This helps sharpen our communication skills and forces us to learn patience, tolerance and be more open minded – skills we often forget to practice in our lives, and this can be detrimental to our growth as human beings.
Is there much of a benefit to businesses though?
Well, there are challenges to be sure. it’s not easy to work with people who don’t think and act the same way - which can make managing teams more complicated and time consuming. But as the old saying goes, if you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing, and this applies to businesses as well as individuals.
So, working together with lots of different people forces businesses to be more dynamic, learn to deal with more complexed issues and helps teams dig deeper to solve business problems, bringing a wider mix of ideas and experiences to the table.
Therefore, companies can significantly benefit from building a culturally aware workforce, both through investing in employee training and recruiting people who can demonstrate good cultural awareness.
We are seeing a growing trend of companies prioritising candidates who can demonstrate a good level of cultural awareness because they want to create a more diverse workforce and gain the sorts of business advantages we have spoken of in this blog - such as improved interpersonal skills and creative collaboration across teams and departments.
By having an employee culture where everyone feels accepted and respected, helps to boost engagement, increase productivity, and reduce employee turnover.
Get ahead by developing your own cultural awareness
Now that so many businesses are starting to realise how important cultural awareness can be in the workplace, you can use this to your own advantage. In your professional life, being culturally aware can develop you into a great team player, someone who employers and peers want to have on their team.
By becoming more culturally aware, you will have a valuable ‘human skills’ that can boost your own career. When employers are recruiting for management and senior roles, they are increasingly looking for candidates who can demonstrate strong cultural awareness, and the benefits that come with being culturally aware.
What can we do to develop a keener cultural awareness?
Educate yourself – be interested in different cultures and values. As well as doing your research through online information, talk to people from different backgrounds and cultures to find out more about their experiences.
Staying open-minded and not making assumptions about people or their situations is key to having cultural awareness. Welcome new ideas and different perspectives in meetings and discussions.
Communicate with empathy
Being empathetic is all about seeing the world from other people’s points of view. If you can step into other people’s shoes and get a better understanding of their outlooks, you can build a stronger working relationship.
Develop your self-awareness
To understand other people, it is vital that you look inwards to understand how your behaviour and opinions affect others. Reflect on your own actions and identify any weaknesses you need to work on. Asking colleagues for their honest feedback on how they perceive you can also help to develop better self-awareness.
Now use these steps to boost your career
If you follow these steps for developing cultural awareness, you will empower yourself with valuable human skills that are highly attractive to employers. You will become a better team member to collaborate with, helping to get the best out of other people, becoming a role model for cultural awareness.
Having these strings to your bow will give you the edge over other job candidates and put you in prime spot for any promotions.
This blog is a part of our on-going series "Our guide to the human skills you need to get ahead"