May 11, 2018

Cultural competency on a multinational team

If you’re working on or managing a team, you have communication issues. If you’re working on or managing a multinational team, you definitely have communication issues. Does that mean you and your team members can’t stand to be in the same room with each other? No. Does it mean that each member of your team is interpreting your words and emails differently? Probably.

When you work on a multicultural team, each team member brings their own cultural differences to the table. It’s a fantastic thing that can give your team a lot more perspective, but it’s important to remember that those differences are affecting the way you and your co-workers communicate (or miscommunicate) with each other.

Cultural competency is understanding and accounting for the unique cultural lenses through which your multinational team members see the world and the workplace. Additionally, cultural competency is also integral to making sure your Diversity and Inclusion isn’t just a Diversity program. Inclusion implies an intentional effort to ensure your company and employees are respected, authentic, and engaged. If you’re not taking the time to integrate and leverage the unique cultural perspectives your team members have, then who is?

Good teams don’t just work well together. They also have great lines of communication.

Are you open to feedback? Are you transparent about your motivations? Are you honest about your mistakes? Maybe. Here’s a better question: Does your direct report or colleague think you are?

A lack of cultural competency and awareness are fissures in your team’s foundation waiting to crack. In the tech industry today, it is believed that the biggest problem is that 2018 is projected to experience a shortage of software engineers. But I’ll let you in on a huge secret…

There isn’t a shortage. You already have great engineers on your team, that’s why you hired them, because they’re good engineers. Here’s the real problem: Your team works well enough, but it’s the “enough” that will cost you talent. Employee turnover costs US companies $160 million a year, and by not acknowledging and providing a solution to communication discrepancies, you’ll be no exception. Emotional intelligence, empathy…these buzzwords get thrown around like hotcakes but active efforts from team managers to expand their cultural competency, to practice what they preach, fall short. Even advanced English speakers on your team aren’t feeling like their place at the table is a comfortable one.

Cultural competency starts with self-awareness, with acknowledging that your team has different cultural perspectives: allow those unique cultural experiences to create an environment that encourages authenticity and innovation. Communication, soft skills, career growth are concerns your multinational engineering team has, even if they’re not telling you.


-Crystal Abing, Manager of Learner Impact at Lingo Live


Interested in reading more?

Check out Lack of communication is a risky business and Our own engineers get real about communication.




Communication, Company Culture

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