Cultural competence should be a mandatory promotion requirement

by Aug 17, 2023

Cultural competence – a mandatory promotion requirement?

Cultural competence should be a mandatory promotion requirement as there are significant benefits for skilled managers.


When employees are assessed for promotion potential, the focus tends to be their hard skills and experience. Timothy R. Clarke, Organisational Anthropologist and CEO of LeadFactor suggests that this is not enough.  He believes that cultural competence should be included as a benchmark for evaluation in the promotion process and would also take it one step further. He suggests that employees who do not have a demonstrated track record of creating psychological safety should not be eligible for promotion to the management level.

So goodbye brilliant jerk.

What is cultural competence?

Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively and respectfully with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and identities. This is not to be confused with cultural fit.  A newly promoted manager should not be required to fit in with a homogeneous team but should have a demonstrated capacity to create psychological safety and operate with cultural competence.


cultural competence

Why cultural competence is important

There are significant benefits to having managers skilled in cultural competence

1. Better leaders Cultural competence is a key component of effective leadership. Leaders who understand and value different cultures can lead teams more successfully by promoting respect, understanding, and inclusion.

2. More inclusive leadership style: Many industries and regions have regulations and guidelines that emphasise diversity and inclusion. Incorporating cultural competence into promotion requirements demonstrates a commitment to meeting these standards.

3. Reduced Discrimination and Bias: Cultural competence training raises awareness about unconscious biases and promotes inclusivity. By recognising and addressing biases, organisations can create a more equitable workplace and reduce instances of discrimination.

4. Enhances business success  In a globalised world, businesses often interact with clients, customers, and partners from various cultural backgrounds. Employees with cultural competence are better equipped to understand and cater to the needs of diverse clients, resulting in improved customer relations and increased business opportunities.

5. Increased Innovation: Organisations with psychological safety, diverse teams led by culturally competent leaders bring together a range of perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and creativity. Cultural competence promotes an inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their unique viewpoints, leading to more innovative solutions.

6. Stronger Employee Brand: Organisations that prioritise and promote cultural competence tend to have a positive reputation in terms of diversity and inclusion. This can attract top talent and foster a positive image in the eyes of customers, investors, and the community.

7. Higher employee engagement and reduced attrition: Employees feel valued and respected in an inclusive workplace where their cultural identities are acknowledged. This contributes to higher job satisfaction and improved employee retention rates.

8. Support international business initiatives: For multinational companies or those hoping to expand cross borders, cultural competence is essential for successfully understanding the complexity of international markets, adapting to local customs, and building relationships with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.

9. Social Responsibility: Emphasising cultural competence as a promotion requirement reflects an organization’s commitment to social responsibility and contributing positively to society by valuing and respecting all individuals. All add to enhancing the employer brand and the company brand in general.

Cultural Impact

Clarke suggests that “If you’re not considering the cultural impact your team members are having on your organization as you promote, you’re leaving talent on the table.”

He suggests using these 7 questions to evaluate someone’s personal impact on psychological safety.

✔️ Presence:  Someone’s presence has an impact on the tone and tenor of a meeting. When they enter a room, does their influence warm or chill the air?

✔️Collaboration: When they collaborate with their peers, does their influence accelerate or decelerate the speed of discovery and innovation?

✔️Feedback: Fear breaks the feedback loop. If there’s pervasive fear, people filter or withhold feedback. Does your influence increase or restrict the flow of feedback?

✔️Inquiry: Telling has a tendency to shut people down, while asking has the tendency to draw people out. Does their influence draw people out or shut them down?

✔️Dissent: Dissent is critical to making good decisions by thinking carefully about different potential courses of action. Do they encourage and reward dissent or discourage and punish dissent?

✔️Mistakes: Mistakes are clinical material for learning and progress. Do you celebrate mistakes and the lessons learned or overreact and marginalise those who make them?

✔️ Unvarnished Truth: No one likes to hear the unvarnished truth when it’s unflattering. And yet we need to hear it or suffer the consequences of wilful blindness. Can people tell them what they don’t want to hear?

Power Skills

As the nature of our workplaces changes skills that were once overlooked will become more important. Hard skills while still vital become quickly outdated and soft skills are the new power skills.


Make sure you are doing everything you can to use your power in the right way by taking our Leadership Assessment.


For more information on inclusive leadership get in touch


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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