Source: Economic Times, Mar 11 2013
Sreeradha D Basu, ET BUREAU
DUBAI: In India, 60 per cent of organisations rank inter-cultural skills as very important while 33 per cent feel it’s fairly important. Only 8 per cent think of it as neutral or unimportant. According to new global research published by the British Council in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs, employers value intercultural skills as highly as formal qualifications in the workplace.
The research surveyed employers working in public, private, and non-profit organisations in India, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, UAE, UK and the US. It found that employers recognise a clear business value in employing staff who can work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own.
In India, government regulation is perceived as the most pressing business challenge. Employers here, along with those in Brazil, South Africa and the US report the most problems in finding qualified candidates. Retaining employees is also a concern in India as is finding candidates with good communication skills. Nearly one-third of employers in India, UAE and Jordan also feel that finding candidates with adequate knowledge of foreign languages is a challenge.
Employers in India, UAE and Brazil are more likely than those in other countries to consider ability to work with a diverse set of colleagues as a benefit of intercultural skills.
According to employers surveyed, inter-cultural skills include the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints; demonstrating respect for others; and knowledge of a foreign language. Employers reported that employees with these skills are more likely to bring in new clients, work well in diverse teams, and positively support their organisation’s brand and reputation.
The research was launched at the British Council’s annual conference for education leaders, ‘Going Global’, held this year in Dubai. “This research demonstrates a real gap in the education provision across key global economies and the risks an inter-cultural skills deficit poses to businesses. Equally, it shows the great opportunities for education providers and the benefits that job seekers and multinational organisations can gain if we’re able to address this issue,” said Jo Beall, British Council director of Education and Society.
(The writer was in Dubai at the invitation of British Council)