British Columbia is a very attractive place to call home - and for many newcomers to Canada - a second home. In 2006, nearly one third of BCs residents identified a language other than English as their mother tongue, with a quarter of the population identifying themselves as a visible minority (Profile of Diversity - BC). For business to thrive in our increasingly diverse province, intercultural understanding is a must.
The Centre for Intercultural Learning offers the following definition, when speaking of an interculturally effective person: "...is someone who is able to “live contentedly and work successfully in another culture." Taking this definition, but applying it to BC small business, it might read: "...is able to live contently and work successfully with another culture, or cultures."
Expanding the definition, two key specific traits of an interculturally effective person are:
"An ability to communicate with people of another culture in a way that earns their respect and trust, thereby encouraging a cooperative and productive workplace that is conducive to the achievement of professional or assignment goals"
"The capacity to adapt his/her professional skills (both technical and managerial) to fit local conditions and constraints"
A Profile or the Interculturally Effective Person (2001) - Electronic copy free upon request
Do you, as a business owner, fit these statements? Has your business conducted sufficient cultural due diligence? The cultural make-up of BC can be a great advantage to prepared businesses:
- A multi-lingual workforce, allows your company to do business beyond 'English-only' boundaries.
- Unique cultural perspectives can bring valuable insight.
- New Canadians = more Canadians. More Canadians = more consumers for your products/services.
- An increasingly skilled workforce to recruit from.
A great resource for any business owner, whether you're planning on expanding internationally, targeting a new demographic or just interested in learning more about a specific country or culture, is the Centre for Intercultural Learning. This website, run by the federal government, provides extensive country-by-country information and best practices for cross-cultural communication and business. At the provincial level, Welcome BC provides information about diversity within our province. The Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISS of BC) is another great provincial resource, take a look at their Employer Solutions webpage for more great ideas or for upcoming local events.
There have been numerous books published on the subject of intercultural relations, diversity management and international business etiquette. Here are just a couple of notable titles you might want to check out:
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo Talking in Languages 2.0 created by zinjixmaggir on Sept 3, 2010, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Last viewed on Dec 14, 2010.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo Stamps created by Siim Teller on Dec 18, 2008, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Last viewed on Dec 15, 2010.