According to Community Tool Box (2014), culture refers to shared customs, traditions and way of doing things among the people affiliated to a particular group. A typical organizational setting consists of people from different cultural backgrounds, but sharing a common professional goal.
Consequently, cultural competence provides a unique set of procedures, rules, processes, values and beliefs, which employees of a particular organization are expected to conform to. This paper, therefore, presents a discussion on culturally competent organizations exploring its rationale as well as the possible barriers.
The Need for Culturally Competent Organizations
Hofstede (1997) highlights several reasons to support the need for a culturally competent organization. Cultural competence, does not only increase the participation of other cultural parties, but also increases the reverence and thoughtfulness of various stakeholders in the organization.
Besides, it enhances belief and collaboration between various parties and enhances creativity and problem solving skills among employees and between employees and employers in an organization. Further, cultural competence helps in overcoming the fear of rivalry and disagreement arising from conflicting cultural backgrounds. It also decreases the chance of surprise and endorses presence and fairness among employees and between employees and employers.
FAO (n.d) discuss several organizational theories that support culturally competent organizations as highlighted below.
These theories either use scientific management, bureaucratic or administrative approach to achieve cultural competence in an organization. Scientific management approach focuses on normalization of the various professional competencies to achieve efficacy in an organization. Bureaucratic approach considers organizations to be subsystems within the larger systems. Finally, administrative approach focuses on planning, organizing, training, giving orders and coordinating functions by the management to ensure that employees produce the best results.
These theories are based on the assumption that productivity is determined by a combination of employees’ conduct and human relations.
These theories assume that organizations are flexible and can easily accommodate change. Just like classical theories, modern theories also have three approaches. In systems approach, the organization is considered to have interrelated and interdependent subsystems. The socio-technical approach considers both the procedural competencies and the social structure of an organization while situational approach considers the organization’s systems to be interrelated to the surrounding (FAO, n.d.).
Barriers to Creating a Culturally Competent Organization
According to Reese and Beckwith (2014), there exist several barriers to culturally competent organizations, which can be broadly categorized into internal and external barriers. Internal barriers include: lack of prioritization of cultural competence; failure to budget for cultural competence; employee resistance and; the implementers’ knowledge inadequacy as concerns cultural competence and the cultures of the groups involved.
External barriers, on the other hand, include external factors such as the stage of an organization and source of funding. Beginner organizations or those in remote areas may fail to attract diverse professional workforce needed in the company hence resulting into cultural incompetence. Further, government organizations may lack the funds needed to promote cultural competence.
The success of an organization is determined, to a greater extent, by its level of cultural competence. Given the different nature and type of organizations, various theories have been developed to guide organizations on the right path to follow when pursuing cultural competence. Nevertheless, barriers to culturally competent organizations exist, but these can always be overcome with proper planning and management.
Community Tool Box (2014). Section 7. Building culturally competent organizations.
FAO (n.d.). Session 1. Organizational theories.
Reese, D.J. & Beckwith, S.K. (2014). Organizational barriers to cultural competence in Hospice [Abstract]. Am J Hosp Palliat Care.