How to Improve Your Team’s Intercultural Communication Skills

In recent years, addressing intercultural communication issues has become a top priority for market-leading companies around the world. In central Europe, where Babbel is based, large corporations like Adidas, Siemens, and BMW as well as thriving international startups in cities like Berlin, Vienna, and Zürich are turning to an international job market to find the best talent, with Germany and Switzerland ranking in the top 10 destinations for tech talent in Europe 

Nonetheless, this expansion also comes with a learning curve for intercultural communication. Companies that already use English as the language of business have an advantage in attracting an international workforce and providing employees from abroad a smooth onboarding. For businesses in the process of transitioning the company language, here are three action points you can take on a weekly, quarterly, and long-term basis to build intercultural communication within your team.

Weekly practice: Strengthen intercultural understanding through structured team events.

There are numerous fun and motivating ways to mix team-building exercises with cultural exchange. One example would be weekly lunches where team members prepare dishes they grew up with or (in the age of remote work) swapping recipes or favorite cooking show clips in a digital lunch hour. 

Depending on your company's language learning needs, these lunches could also be an opportunity for tandem exchange, where employees teach and learn each other's language through a friendly, casual conversation week to week.

intercultural team communication via video call

Quarterly goal: Invest in diversity training and workshops.

Diversity training can help employees have greater empathy and understanding for the different cultures around them, and can give teams the skills they need to facilitate positive group interactions. Workshops on topics such as unconscious biases can help create a more empathetic, happy, and inclusive company culture, and create space for international employees to feel heard, seen, and understood.

Companies using a widely spoken lingua franca such as English as a standard have an advantage in growing diverse teams of international employees. Language training for those not yet used to working in another language or needing to brush up on business English can further ensure that all team members can get on more equal footing when communicating in the workplace.

Long-term strategy: Provide your team with the tools to learn a common language.

Without a doubt, giving your international team tools to improve their language skills will help them communicate more fluently and effectively with one another. While this can make team collaboration more productive, learning a new language also allows employees the opportunity to learn about culture, become more open-minded, and develop empathy for one another, all of which are foundational to effective intercultural communication. 

How do teams benefit from strong cross-cultural communication?

Teams with developed intercultural communication skills gain enhanced professional tools that extend far beyond the workplace:

  • Smoother communication and fewer misunderstandings
  • Positive and inclusive work cultures
  • Truly diverse and understanding teams
  • Happier international client and customer bases
  • A focus on mutual respect

Investing time in improving your team’s intercultural communication skills will give employees a better connection with their workplace and coworkers. This will help attract international talent while also enhancing cultural awareness and mutual respect within the company.

 

Introducing Babbel for Business to your team is a first great step to effective cross-cultural communication, with a learning platform that will get everybody on the same page, whatever their native language and level. This way, employees will gain more understanding for each other, feel more connected, and thus collaborate more successfully.

Ebook: Multilingual communication in companies


Want to learn more about intercultural and multilingual communication? Download our free e-book here and take advantage of our communication specialists' expertise.



 

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