By: Paula Caligiuri, author of Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
Today’s competitive global business environment has created an increased demand for culturally agile employees. These workers must be equipped to handle the demands of an often complex cross-cultural marketplace.
Today’s top global companies are addressing this need by implementing talent management best practices that attract intercultural afficionados who are open to novel experiences and appreciative diversity. These culturally agile employees value language acquisition and are passionate about travel abroad.
Most important, they are drawn to organizations that offer an internationally-oriented employee value proposition that will expand their repertoire of cross-cultural competencies by providing developmental intercultural experiences.
Offering ethnic food in the company cafeteria is hardly sufficient to attract and retain this critical group.
The following is a sample of seven effective practices as part of a global recruitment that will engage the hearts and minds of culturally agile talent:
1. Offer employee development opportunities that include international assignments. Generally lasting over one year, international assignments enable employees to live and work in host countries, ideally providing an opportunity for significant and meaningful collaboration with host nationals.
Without question, this has been the single most developmental method used by organizations to both build cultural agility and engage cultural agile talent.
2. Offer international volunteerism opportunities. International volunteerism programs are formal programs where companies sponsor and fund an employee’s time, ranging from a few weeks to several months, to volunteer with targeted non-governmental organizations in developing countries.
In the past five years we have seen a plethora of leading organizations such as GlaxoSmithKline, Dow Corning, Pepsico, FedEx, and IBM offer such programs, as a means to both engage culturally agile talent and to demonstrate greater corporate social responsibility.
3. Provide cross-cultural training. Cross-cultural training is designed to convey knowledge about the cultural difference when working in a given country or with people from different cultures. This training can be delivered via a variety of formats, such as instructor-led courses, one-on-one orientations, videos, cultural coaching, or online tools.
Culturally agile employees appreciate cross-cultural training as it enhances their ability to interpret behaviors and respond appropriately in diverse cross-cultural contexts.
4. Provide language training. Language training is an essential complement to cross-cultural training for culturally agile employees who aspire to work in different countries with people who do not share their first language.
Whether Web-based, classroom, or with a private instructor, this training builds the foreign language skills considered most desirable for culturally agile talent.
5. Organize global project teams. A growing number of organizations are using cross-border, virtual, and global teams composed of members from geographically-dispersed employees.
Participation in cross-border teams is appreciated by culturally agile talent, enabling them to develop firsthand knowledge about different cultures, enhancing their cross-cultural communication skills. It also helps build interpersonal relationships with colleagues from different parts of the world.
6. Offer global leadership development programs in international rotation. Many leading organizations such as IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Dow, Nokia, and GE have created global rotational programs. These efforts build cross-cultural and functional competency within their firms’ most critical functional areas.
These global rotational programs offer high-potential employees exposure to working in one or more host countries, spending between six months and two years in a given context before moving to the next location. Global leadership development programs accelerate global career paths and are highly desirable opportunities for culturally agile talent.
7. Highlight your organization’s global image. Studies conducted on employer branding have found that organizations with a global image are attractive to culturally agile talent who want to affiliate with internationally-oriented organizations.
If your organization has a global consumer brand, cosmopolitan image or a worldwide organizational presence, be sure to feature it prominently in your recruiting materials and in corporate communications.
These best practices will enable your organization to craft an employee value proposition that attracts culturally agile talent. Include them in globally-oriented developmental opportunities that your organization offers, during networking meetings, in recruitment materials, in your social media platforms and on your organization’s careers website.
In addition to being more likely to attract and retain culturally agile talent, these practices will also raise the level of cross-cultural competence in your workforce, a key competitive advantage for any global organization.
Paula Caligiuri, PhD is the author of Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals and a Professor of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University. For additional information about building cultural agility n the workforce, please visit CulturalAgility.com.