Improving Employee Retention Through Cultural Competency

Published: Nov 30, 2017
Modified: Apr 09, 2024

By AMA Staff

As companies focus their attention on employee retention, their strategies often include the creation of a “retention environment.” This environment aids in improving employee retention, reducing employee turnover, and boosting overall morale. There are many components of a retention environment, including cultivating a sense of purpose for employees and creating a learning culture.

One of the most important components of a retention environment is diversity and inclusion (D&I). A diverse team with unique individual perspectives can deliver exceptional results, becoming a win-win for all.

Diverse work environments are places where employees feel their differences are nurtured and appreciated, not just tolerated. Employees are encouraged to perform, not conform, and individuality is cherished. Imagine working in a welcoming workplace where everyone’s differences and strengths are accepted, and their involvement is encouraged. This environment would lead to a far more collaborative and innovative culture, and thereby contribute to employee retention.

Cultural competency and a retention environment

According to AMA’s Leading in a Diverse and Inclusive Culture program, a person must be culturally competent to be an effective colleague in a diverse and inclusive environment.

Cultural competency is defined as the ability to recognize and respond effectively and appropriately to cultural differences (in values, thoughts, beliefs, practices, behavior, norms, and “rules”) and adapt your communication and behavioral styles. This will create an environment of inclusion, which accepts the differences of individuals, embraces their strengths, encourages involvement, and provides opportunities for all to achieve their full potential.

This retention strategy requires the following set of cultural competency skills:

Self-knowledge: Able to identify and recognize one’s own feelings, emotions, and reactions to different groups; understands how these emotions and feelings impact one’s thoughts and behaviors

Self-regulation/management: Able to choose one’s responses in every situation; manages feelings and emotions appropriately; consciously chooses how to respond to diversity and inclusion dynamics as opposed to reacting; monitors one’s emotions and responses to others

Interpersonal sensitivity: Able to accurately assess others’ abilities, states, and traits from verbal and nonverbal cues and modify one’s behavior as necessary

Cultural sensitivity: Able to respond appropriately to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of groups of people that share a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage

Empathy: Sensitive to others’ feelings; able to appreciate the difference humans exhibit and to take into account others’ perspectives

Flexibility: Being open to and embracing the perspectives that others bring; encourages others to share views that may differ from yours; respects others’ opinions and ideas

Curiosity: Willingness and desire to learn about other cultures; seeks out opportunities to interact with individuals from different cultures

Tolerance for ambiguity: Able to operate effectively in a multicultural environment; understands that working with individuals from other cultures can result in uncertainty, unpredictability and conflict; uses conflict as a constructive process to exchange ideas and bring about resolution; understands the dynamics behind conflict

Once these skills are sharpened, everyone in your team should feel valued. This positive team culture will support the development of a retention environment, and you’ll see the benefits and payoff of this employee retention strategy.