In the ever-expanding global marketplace, organizations are increasingly embracing the importance of understanding and respecting diverse cultures. Nowhere is this more crucial than in the realm of global benefits, where effective communication and collaboration across cultural boundaries can make all the difference.

The complex challenges of international benefits and cultural expectations are a large part of the International Foundation’s twice-yearly offering, the Certificate in Global Benefits Management. Our February 2024 session began with Cross-Cultural/Diversity: The Power of Worldviews led by Damian Lipani, health client leader at Alight Solutions.

The Path to Cross-Cultural Competence

Cultural competence doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a journey that requires dedication, self-reflection, openness and ongoing learning. At its core, it involves developing an awareness of one’s own cultural biases and assumptions while simultaneously striving to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others. Lipani highlighted statistics that support the need for more culturally competent organizations and individuals.  

  • Since 1975, global migration has doubled.
  • Nearly 40% of U.S. workers will be Hispanic, African American or Asian by 2025.
  • Older adults are projected to outnumber children by 2035, for the first time in U.S. history.
  • 75% of U.S. women with children at home are actively working, and 40% are sole or primary wage earners.
  • 20% of U.S. households are multigenerational; in 2019, five generations were in the workforce for the first time in history.
  • By 2035, nearly 20% of China’s population will be over age 65.
  • China’s and India’s economies (GDP) are expected to be twice the size of the U.S. economy by 2050.

Understanding the shift in demographics opens doors for individuals to explore how culture, values and symbols are interpreted differently all over the globe. An example of how culture, values and symbols differ across regions includes how family is defined and viewed differently (e.g., who the primary caregiver is, patriarchy vs. matriarchy, blended families, etc.).

Using Models for Everyday Interactions

Lipani provided several models that exist to help individuals navigate cultural differences effectively. Among them, the DIN (Describe, Interpret, Navigate), DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity) and IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) models stand out.

  • Describe, Interpret, Navigate (DIN): This model encourages individuals to first describe the observed behavior, then interpret it through their own cultural lens, and finally navigate potential misunderstandings or conflicts by seeking common ground and mutual understanding.
  • Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS): The DMIS outlines six stages of intercultural sensitivity, from denial of difference to integration of multiple cultural perspectives. By understanding where they fall on this continuum, individuals can work toward higher levels of cultural competence.
  • Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI): This tool assesses an individual’s intercultural competence and provides insights into areas for growth. It helps identify one’s orientation toward cultural differences and offers strategies for development.
The Seven Dimensions of Culture

Culture is multifaceted, encompassing various dimensions that shape our beliefs, values and behaviors. The Seven Dimensions of Culture, a model developed by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, shows how cultures are not just randomly different. Their differences are based on their own way of thinking as well as their set of values, beliefs and preferences.

 The Seven Dimensions of Culture are:

  • Universalism vs. particularism 
  • Individualism vs. communitarianism
  • Specific vs. diffuse
  • Neutral vs. emotional
  • Achievement vs. ascription
  • Sequential time vs. synchronous time
  • Internal direction vs. outer direction.
How Diversity Impacts Team Performance

Research consistently demonstrates that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones when it comes to problem solving, innovation and decision making. By bringing together individuals with different cultural backgrounds and perspectives, teams can access a broader range of ideas and approaches, leading to more creative solutions and better outcomes.

However, diversity alone is not enough; inclusion and belonging are equally important. When team members feel valued, respected and empowered to contribute, they are more likely to collaborate effectively and achieve success together. By understanding and navigating cultural differences with sensitivity and respect, organizations can foster inclusive environments, drive collaboration, and ultimately, enhance their effectiveness in a globalized world.

Want to learn more about fostering an inclusive environment, tackling biases and creating an effective global benefit strategy? Consider these International Foundation offerings:

Eli Argueta

Favorite Foundation Product: Educational Programs/Conferences

Benefits-related Topics That Interest Him The Most: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Workplace Culture, Wellness, and Mental Health 

Personal Insight: Eli enjoys live theatre, concerts, traveling to new places, and watching reality TV. In his spare time, you can find him running outdoors, spending time with family, and playing with his dog, Lucy and cat, Karen.

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