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How Intercultural Competence Can Enhance Global Mobility

By intercultures España & LATAM

Technological innovation has made our world vastly interconnected. For businesses, this means that global mobility is no longer a choice, but a necessity.

How do we achieve global mobility? First and foremost, we must be interculturally competent. According to the Council of Europe, “intercultural competence is the ability to understand and respect each other across all types of cultural barriers.” It is not enough to know how to interact with people who are similar to us; we must also be able to work with those who are different from us. To work together effectively, we should acknowledge and appreciate our differences and adapt our communication style to a manner that is suitable for both parties.

Global mobility allows companies and their workforces to move and operate around the world efficiently. It can also refer to the specific process of relocating individual employees to different locations around the world. Given these factors, it is clear why global mobility and intercultural competence are so closely related. By enhancing our ability to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures (enhancing intercultural competence), we simultaneously improve our ability to conduct business around the world and better connect with an international talent pool (enhancing global mobility).

Intercultural competence is not only necessary for those in executive positions or those who are directly involved in the hiring process. Rather, it is a skill that all employees at every level of the organization should have. To help you gain a better understanding of how your organization can encourage intercultural competence among your team, let’s examine the practices of IBM, a Fortune Global 500 business.

In 1995, IBM commissioned eight Executive Task Forces, each designed to address the needs of specific groups. The task forces were: Asian, Black, Hispanic, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT), Men, Native American, People with Disabilities, and Women. Each was asked to respond to these questions through the lens of their group:

  •     What is required for your group to feel welcomed and valued at IBM?
  •     What can IBM, in partnership with your group, do to maximize your productivity?
  •     What courses of action can IBM take to influence the buying decisions of your group?
  •     Which external organizations that address the interests of your constituency should IBM have a relationship with?

Of course, every organization has its own unique needs, but IBM’s initiative is an exemplary way of promoting intercultural competence within a company. All organizations can take inspiration from IBM by directly working with their employees and client base to determine what is needed from the organization for them to feel their culture is respected and welcomed. Doing so is especially necessary and beneficial when working in a global context and will undoubtedly allow for better global mobility.



IBM Staff. (2013). Diversity & Inclusion. IBM Corporation. Retrieved from: https://www.zurich.ibm.com/pdf/employment/ibm_diversity_brochure.pdf

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