What is cross-cultural communication (with benefits)

Updated 9 July 2022

Cross-cultural communication can result in excellent interaction, leading to good working relations between people in organisations. Different cultures have their own set of presumptions and inclinations within a conversation, sometimes making it challenging to pass a message from one person to another successfully. Workplaces are becoming more multicultural and companies that formerly focused on a single population may now operate in a worldwide market, making cross-cultural communication a critical component of organisational effectiveness. In this article, we explore what cross-cultural communication is, how to improve cross-cultural communication in the workplace and why it's vital.

Related: The importance of good communication in organisations

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What is cross-cultural communication?

Cross-cultural communication relates to the ways in which people from diverse cultural origins adapt to communicate more effectively with each other. Cross-cultural communication can also imply exchanging information between individuals from different cultures. This interaction involves using words and body language to communicate, negotiate and mediate cultural diversity and how individuals from various cultures connect. Understanding how cultural aspects affect interaction between individuals and organisations is critical in today's fast-changing professional settings.

The initial step in creating a productive workplace that encourages the best qualities of all employees within an organisation is to acquire practical cross-cultural communication skills. Communicating effectively with people from varied backgrounds is becoming increasingly important. Learning about their employees' culture can help organisations operate within inclusive policies. Thus, it's important to recognise cultural diversity and appreciate the significance of cross-cultural communication in any organisation.

How to improve cross-cultural communication in the workplace

Follow these steps to enhance cross-cultural communication in the workplace:

1. Use formal language

Formal language is desirable in business communication since it can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure clarity whether speaking or writing. Formal communication styles enable everyone in the organisation to understand your meaning clearly and act accordingly. Even if they understand your language, they may not know your culture's contemporary dialect. Companies may have grounded, basic principles to observe in professional communication while at work.

2. Maintain politeness

When preparing for a meeting with colleagues, you could learn a little about their culture before meeting them. For example, you could take the time to find out about the organisational etiquette their culture follows to prevent miscommunication and awkwardness. You could also conduct extensive research into the degrees of formality required in corporate communications in their country or countries and act appropriately. For instance, some people from certain backgrounds consider it inappropriate to respond unenthusiastically and may always interact positively.

3. Speak slowly and clearly

Even if your overseas colleagues are native speakers of the language you're using in corporate communications, speaking a little slower than usual and attempting to articulate your phrases properly helps colleagues understand you clearly. Use short, simple words and pauses to allow your colleagues to process what you have said. If colleagues speak too quickly or incoherently, you might ask them to slow down or repeat what they have said.

4. Consider any particular requirements of team members

Some of your colleagues may be based in different parts of the world with different time zones, making it necessary to choose an appropriate mode of communication. Asynchronous communication might be the best solution in this situation. Additionally, remember that your colleagues may observe various holidays in their locations. As a result, be conscious of diverse religions and beliefs among your colleagues, keeping in mind that religion is a potentially sensitive topic.

5. Conduct deeper conversations

It is essential to conduct all business conversations in a professional and mutually beneficial manner. Organisations have every intention to inspire their employees to engage in critical discussions, including cross-cultural dialogues. Therefore, encourage communication between staff from diverse backgrounds and learn about them. The outcome would be beneficial for both individual employees and the organisation as a whole.

6. Use open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions to keep a conversation flowing. Open-ended questions encourage your colleagues to be more imaginative and respond with answers they're comfortable giving. These responses can help managers make sound decisions for the growth of their teams and, eventually, the organisation as a whole.

Related: What are open-ended interview questions?

The importance of cross-cultural communication in an organisation

The following are benefits of cross-cultural communication in an organisation:

Communication and trust

Communication with people of diverse cultures can be improved when each person understands the other's customs, building a higher level of trust. Staff are more inclined to behave attentively towards others when they are aware of potential distinctions. This behaviour is critical to understanding and evaluating what the other person attempts to communicate. In addition, when staff and clients know and accept one another's cultural backgrounds, they can develop trust, fostering a sense of belonging to a group and improving teamwork and relationships.

Improved profitability and productivity

Trust and communication can lead to increased productivity in several ways, including fewer misunderstandings and a better grasp of tactics, procedures and objectives. Team members are able to concentrate more on their share of the collective effort when they can trust their colleagues without wondering whether other people are meeting required standards. Increased trust encourages team members to collaborate and feel united.


Another reason for effective cross-cultural communication is to influence the overall understanding of corporate incentive schemes. When managers adequately reward employees, output rises. Incentives make staff feel more valued since they perceive managers have considered their cultural values.

Related: Employee incentives: what they are and how to use them


Creativity can improve in a bigger pool of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity contributes to greater creativity when there is a wider variety of background influences and viewpoints. These cultural differences broaden the range of workable alternatives to any professional issue or obstacle. In cultivating open-mindedness, improving cross-cultural awareness is also necessary, encouraging people to recognise multiple solutions to every scenario or challenge before they happen. Enhanced creativity combined with problem-solving can give a company a notable advantage in today's swiftly changing market conditions.

Human resources

Cross-cultural communication and collaboration are also important in a company's human resources department. For example, a company can employ talented individuals from overseas who could integrate well whatever their cultural background. Increasing diversity would not only help productivity but also enhance the company's public reputation and show that it values aptitude and skill irrespective of origin. As a result, the human resources department cultivates a company culture that appreciates the diversity of all employees.

Putting the status quo to the test

Due to different cultures, employees might raise more questions to ensure efficient communication and cooperation. This can result in questioning the existing status quo, which frequently leads to changes that might have gone unnoticed in a mono-cultural setting. Regular adjustments frequently lead to more effective workflows, resulting in improved workplace success.

Local requirements

Regional departments are better positioned to adapt to and comprehend local concerns, customs and demands by utilising relevant expertise within their global workforce. Showing such local knowledge can be crucial for success in a local market. A company that caters to local culture could almost certainly gain an advantage over competitors.

Potential for growth

Connecting diverse cultures presents many opportunities for growth. Managers can choose to develop and implement cross-cultural communication at all levels in the company. Managers who act as role models and display understanding and agility open the way for the rest of the organisation to follow. Efficient cross-cultural communication can have many advantages, not least in terms of success and profitability.

If a cultural misunderstanding occurs, always wait before responding. Cross-cultural communication leads to an inclusive working environment that fosters learning within the workforce, later contributing to the growth of the company.

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