Delivering Excellence in Lifelong Learning

Intercultural competency skills drive careers, teams and companies




With our country’s diverse workforce and dependence on global markets, Canada has a critical need for professionals with intercultural competency. Increased equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace leads to greater success, opportunities and profits for Canadian companies.

In this year’s introduction to Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, it was noted that intercultural competency helps advance companies in many ways. “The benefits for companies that embrace best practices around diversity and inclusion are well established. The increased innovation, productivity and revenue growth sparked by diverse perspectives speak for themselves.” 

Research by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) also shows that intercultural competence benefits “both employees and employers as positive experiences of inclusion at work [as they] have been linked to increased engagement, problem solving within teams, and innovation.”

 A study that analyzed Statistics Canada's Workplace and Employee Survey data found a strong, positive relationship between the presence of ethnocultural diversity in the workplace and increased productivity and revenue. Across sectors, a one percent increase in diversity corresponded to an average increase of 2.4 percent in revenue and 0.5 percent in productivity. Some industries even saw a six per cent increase in revenue related to diversity. The study identified four key business benefits of ethnocultural diversity that directly impact profits: talent, creativity and innovation, product development and market access.

What is organizational intercultural competency?     

Organizational intercultural competency refers to a professional level of achievement that includes:

  • developing intercultural awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes
  • understanding the norms and values of your own culture to gain insight into others
  • learning best practices and strategies to build a professional intercultural team or workforce
  • acquiring the ability to communicate and work with diverse audiences and markets
  • sharing those skills to achieve a more competitive, innovative and successful workplace

Why intercultural competency skills are critical to the growth of the Canadian economy

Canada has a diverse workforce and professionals with intercultural competency are needed in every field. In the most recent Census data on on ethnic and cultural origins, Canadians reported over 250 origins with 41.1% recording more than one origin. 

The management of Canadian companies and organizations must adapt to the realities of multiculturalism – both in the workplace and in the global market. A report by The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service states, “Culture affects every part of the way people live and interact, including the way business is conducted around the world. Generating an understanding of the local culture is essential to commercial success.”  The Export Development Canada blog explains that the top three challenges faced by exporters is culture, culture and culture, “developing cultural intelligence—the ability to function effectively in different cultural contexts—will give you a critical advantage.” 

Professionals with intercultural competency skills are in demand

According to The Globe and Mail, “In an otherwise subdued Canadian job market, diversity and inclusion experts with the cultural competence and leadership skills to influence organizational change are in hot demand.” 

Following a landmark survey of over 1200 Canadian companies, research shows that organizations that emphasize diversity receive the following benefits:

  • Better return on investment
  • Better retention of employees
  • Better competitive outcome
  • More prevalence over the international markets and the local ones
  • Ready backup for any possible adversity
  • Growth in hiring more employees
  • Rapport building among customers 

Be a champion for equity, diversity and inclusion in your workplace

Set yourself apart by taking an Intercultural Competency program or online courses such as the ones offered at McMaster University Continuing Education to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to apply in your workplace. You’ll examine your perspectives about culture, diversity, and inclusion to help you recognize how these perspectives affect your behaviour and communications. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and within a diverse team and you’ll have the opportunity to study proven strategies to build and manage an intercultural workforce.

As Deloitte’s survey publishers concluded in Outcomes over optics: Building inclusive organizations, “we believe there is a unique opportunity for business leaders and their employees to capitalize on Canada’s reputation as an open, multi-cultural society to help build even more prosperous, innovative, and inclusive companies and a better, stronger, and economically inclusive Canada.” 9  There is no better time than now to be the champion for equity, diversity and inclusion in your workplace.


Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021)

2 The Global and Mail: Showing humanity is the foundation of inclusivity and intercultural competence 

Diversity is good for business

Government of Canada: Ethnic and Cultural Origins of Canadians

Government of Canada: Spotlight on intercultural business

Export Development Canada: Developing cultural intelligence gives exporters the critical advantage 

The Globe and Mail: Job Market sees growing demand for diversity and inclusion

Benefits of diversity in the workplace for small business

Outcomes over optics: Building inclusive organizations


Learn more: 

McMaster Continuing Education Intercultural Competency