Intercultural Competency Important for Employers

Guest Blog by Nicole Weipu Liu

One of the advantages of a proactive policy of hiring people of different cultures is that it strengthens the employer’s place in the market.  Employees from different cultural backgrounds bring with them an understanding of their new host culture and their original culture.  They already have experience in dealing with the inevitable frictions between the cultures and are in a perfect position to interpret the advantages of dealing with their employer.

These intercultural employees are able to guide other host culture employees in the proper direction when dealing with potential clients.  In the Narver (2018) video it is made clear that it is very easy to have an unconscious world view that is ethnocentric. Having employees from different backgrounds helps overcome that and positions the company to succeed in the international market place.

The Varner and Beamer (2011) book provides specific advice on raising skills on areas like business socializing in different cultures and handling controversies and various moral and ethical issues in various cultural settings.  Working side by side with employees from different cultures raises everyone’s skill level as they observe each other maneuver different challenges.

My own experience in working with a range of cultures was in China.  After I earned my first university degree in Chinese Culture, I was hired by Hainan Airlines to help the company cope with integrating its workforce from many Chinese sub-cultures.  Hainan is China’s fourth largest airline with over 500 routes servicing many different ethnic regions in China. The airline is based in the city of Haikou which is populated by Mandarin speaking Han Chinese similar to the Chinese in Beijing.  The airline services other far away cities such a Urumqi which has a large Uyghur Muslim population and Shenzhen which is a center of Cantonese culture near Hong Kong.

I was part of a team whose mission was to build an efficient and happy workforce which could work together.  Our larger goal was to give the population of the various regions of China the feeling that Hainan Airlines was their airline and understood their needs.  We developed strategies of cross training so that employees had to do each other’s jobs as part of a learning exercise.  We would deliberately mix the cultures from all over China for this training.  The object was not to foster a sameness but to build understanding of the different cultures in the group.

We also looked at the market for clients and created marketing messages suited to the cultures we were dealing with.  For example, a marketing message for people from Urumqi might show a Muslim family traveling, and an advertisement for Beijing might depict young professionals.  The skill was in getting the message just right and this required input from intercultural employees.

Developing skills of intercultural competent communication is vitally important for both the employees of national companies and international companies in this era of globalization.  It simply makes sense to take advantage of the breadth of experience available from an intercultural workforce.


Additional Resources:

Duggan,T. (2018).  Strategies for Dealing with Intercultural Communication.  Retrieved from:

Faris, S. (2018). Why is Intercultural Communication Important in the Workplace? Retrieved from:

Miron, A. (2013). The Importance of Intercultural Skills.  Retrieved from:

Narver, D. (2018).  Research on Cross Cultural Team Performance and International Resources.

Varner, I., & Beamer, L. (2011) Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace.  Cultural Rules for

Establishing Relationships,  pp 251-288.