Strategies to Build Cultural Awareness in the Workplace

Learn to communicate effectively and respectfully about culture with our tips and examples. Our article offers practical advice to improve cultural awareness in the workplace and appreciation of diversity.

Cultural intelligence plays a pivotal role in fostering effective communication, preventing misunderstandings, and building inclusive workplaces. By recognizing and respecting cultural differences, individuals can enhance interpersonal relationships and contribute to organizational success. Cultural awareness involves understanding, respecting, and navigating differences in values, beliefs, and behaviors among diverse cultural groups.

Investing in cultural awareness training equips professionals with the skills to excel in cross-cultural teams, serve diverse customer bases, and mitigate risks associated with cultural misunderstandings. Ultimately, prioritizing cultural intelligence enables organizations to foster inclusive environments, drive innovation, and achieve sustainable business growth.

We have previously discussed in depth the benefits of cultural competence and intelligence in today’s workforce (read more here!) In this article we delve into actionable strategies diversity professionals can employ to bolster their workforce’s cultural awareness. 

Table of Contents

Building a Cultural Awareness Program

To develop cultural awareness, it is important to remind employees to be open-minded, non-judgmental, and to have a willingness to learn about and understand other cultures. Lead and engage in conversations with empathy and invite them to challenge stereotypes and avoid assumptions based on cultural generalizations. It is important to establish this learning mindset with your employees when implementing any of the following strategies.

Identify the Need and Gain Support

EDI professionals can begin with determining and communicating the need for cultural awareness. Each organization has unique needs and its landscape varies accordingly. Therefore, it is beneficial to assess the diversity within the workplace and determine which advantages would be most applicable in constructing a compelling business case to garner support from colleagues and management.

Once support has been established, start a larger conversation with a facilitator who is neutral, open-minded and able to create a safe and respectful environment. This may be someone within or outside the organization. The facilitator should set the stage by establishing rules on respect, confidentiality, active listening etc., then begin the discussion with open-ended questions. Participants should be encouraged to share their experiences, perspectives and thoughts. 

At the end of the conversation, summarize the main points and action items and follow up with the participants to see if any further discussion is needed. Use these takeaways to inform the areas of cultural awareness and the skills applicable to the workforce.

Provide Cultural Training and Workshops

At Strasity, we highly recommend starting by educating your workforce on key terms, such as cultural intelligence, and defining where the organization stands in regards to these definitions. Without this education, employees will remain at the minimization stage, where their cultural awareness ends at knowing the differences between cultures, but lack the introspection and deep understanding. Ongoing education better equips employees to appreciate and work more effectively across the differences that exist within varying cultures.

Organizations can offer cultural awareness training sessions to educate employees about different cultures, customs and communication styles they may come across in their work lives. This can be facilitated by your People teams or through the company’s ERGs (employee resource groups). It is important to encourage participants to understand and appreciate cultural differences rather than simply tolerating or accepting them.

Further, during these sessions, encourage participants to be open-minded and non-judgmental when learning about other cultures. Interactive activities, such as role-plays, case studies, and group discussions, support learning and provide participants with real-life examples they may come across. At the end of the session, encourage participants to continue their learning by providing tips, topics for reflection, and other resources.

Build an Effective Training Strategy Today

Request a free consultation to understand how our team will support with building training programs and outlining a diversity roadmap to strengthen your workforces cultural intelligence.

Reinforce Learning with Resources and Support

Supplement training with ongoing resources and events to encourage continuous learning and demonstrate the organization’s commitment. 

  • Recommend resources and content to employees such as books, articles, online courses or internal guides to deepen understanding of different cultures. 
  • Address key events during notable cultural months or cultural holidays to raise awareness and celebrate differences. Event ideas include workshops to host meaningful discussions or demonstrate cultural activities. It is important to note that cultural events should supplement education and training.

  • Offer opportunities to learn new skills that they can use in their jobs such as language training or exchange programs. This can facilitate cross-cultural communication and provide hands-on learning on communication nuances between languages.

Integrate Cultural Awareness into Policies and Practices

Review the organization’s policies and procedures with a cultural awareness perspective to evaluate whether DEI considerations are integrated into the decision-making process and overall culture. Explore building diversity initiatives such as EDI policies linked to workplace harassment, creating a platform and policy around confidentiality and protecting employees when submitting workplace complaints, or career development and succession programs. As with all areas of a DEI strategy, it is important to continuously collect feedback and measure the process of such initiatives to evaluate effectiveness and to continue strengthening the programs.

Final Words

For today’s professional, cultural awareness and intelligence emerges as an indispensable tool for navigating cross-cultural workplaces and teams. It serves as a guiding principle for fostering understanding, respect and inclusivity among employees. By building cultural awareness, organizations can cultivate environments where communication, interpersonal relations and collaboration are enhanced. 

As businesses strive to remain competitive in global markets, integrating cultural awareness into their strategy is imperative for innovation, growth and sustainable success. Thus, investing in the cultural awareness of a workforce furthers one’s goals to build inclusive and thriving workplaces.


Free 30 Minute Consultation

Chat with our diversity consultants about your organization’s needs and how we can support your diversity journey with training and/or consulting services.

Scroll to Top