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Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED503402.pdf

Executive summary

This study investigated the contribution made by cross-cultural training to the workplace

performance of vocational education and training (VET) graduates and examined current practice

in its delivery in VET. The study also sought the views of employers on cultural competence and

the role of cross-cultural training.

Research background and rationale

The role of education systems in contributing to social cohesion has been recognised nationally and

internationally in recent years (McGaw 2006), as has the importance of social capital to human

capital (Putnam 2000). In multicultural societies in particular, social capital is underpinned by

cultural competence, broadly defined as the ability to work effectively in situations characterised by

cultural diversity. A review of the Australian and international literature for this study highlighted a

broad recognition of the importance of cross-cultural training in the development of cultural

competence and social capital.

A recent national study of cross-cultural training in the Australian public sector completed by the

author found the training to be effective in improving workplace performance and in contributing

to multicultural policy objectives (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

2006). In that study, as in this, the majority of employers surveyed predicted increased demand for

cultural competence and cross-cultural training over the next five years in response to the

expanding cultural diversity of employees and customers. Increasing globalisation of business

practices was also predicted to affect demand for cultural competence and cross-cultural training.

Most employers surveyed included cultural competence in career development strategies and

planned to conduct cross-cultural training programs. Cultural competence was also included in

recruitment and performance appraisal processes.

As the need for cultural competence becomes more widely recognised, employers in many

industries will increasingly look for cultural competence among new recruits and for ways to

develop it among existing staff. In anticipation of these trends and demands, this report set out to

indentify what the VET sector needs to do to better understand the nature, scope and effectiveness

of its current and potential capacity to provide cross-cultural training. Decisions to include crosscultural

training in VET qualifications require evidence that it contributes to the performance of

learners in their workplaces and careers. A literature review, wide-ranging consultations with key

stakeholders and online surveys of VET graduates, educators and employers were conducted to

address four research questions:

􀂗 How has cross-cultural training undertaken by VET students contributed to their performance

in the workplace and benefited their employers?

􀂗 What is the current extent and range of practices for teaching VET students cultural

understanding and developing their cultural competence for employment?

􀂗 What approaches and models of cross-cultural training provision are most effective in particular

occupational and industry domains and settings?

􀂗 What strategies and processes will best enable VET providers to develop and offer vocational

training leading to cultural competence?

NCVER 9

An online survey of VET graduates who had completed cross-cultural training as part of their

qualification in the last five years generated 134 responses. The graduates had received an average of

31 hours of training in cross-cultural communication and working with cultural diversity. About 80%

were employees in government agencies or private enterprises, the rest working for community and

voluntary organisations. The cross-cultural training undertaken focused on general awareness,

specific cultures and working with or managing diversity within 12 national training packages.

Sixty-one managers and teachers from 38 training providers who were identified as providing crosscultural

training within the relevant training packages responded to an online survey. Cross-cultural

training was also provided as part of English language training, staff induction, professional

development, Aboriginal cultural awareness and community programs. The most common

objectives of cross-cultural training were to improve: customer service; workplace communication;

community relationships; and compliance with equity policies and laws.

A telephone survey was conducted with executives and middle managers from 34 medium-to-large

organisations (18 private, 16 public sector), representing a wide range of industries, and four

industry skills councils, covering the relevant national training packages.

Contribution of cross-cultural training to VET graduates’

workplace performance

Almost 60% of graduates who responded rated their overall satisfaction with their cross-cultural

training as above average or excellent. Around 70% stated that the training had greatly or very

greatly improved their: understanding of cultural diversity issues; cultural self-awareness; knowledge

of cross-cultural communication skills; understanding of other cultures; and confidence in dealing

with people from different cultures. Over 80% of graduates rated highly the importance of cultural

competence for working with culturally diverse co-workers, clients and customers. These findings

were supported by the graduates’ qualitative responses, which commonly reported increased

awareness, acceptance, recognition, understanding and greater patience and empathy.

These positive messages are reinforced by the findings that over 60% of graduates would like

further cross-cultural training, 85% would recommend cross-cultural training to others, and 89%

believe cross-cultural training should be mandatory for all employees in customer contact positions.

The findings from the graduate survey are similar to those reported in the survey for the Standing

Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (2006) report. Together, the two studies

confirm the effectiveness and contribution of cross-cultural training, while identifying areas for

improvement in the design, duration and approaches of cross-cultural training, organisational

support and follow-up, and the professional development of cross-cultural training facilitators.

Current practice in cross-cultural training in VET

The VET providers’ ratings of perceived student satisfaction with their cross-cultural training and

their improvements in workplace performance were very similar to those given by the graduates

themselves. Providers’ ratings of the degrees of importance placed on cultural competence also

closely matched the ratings given by graduates and employers. This general congruence of ratings

across the three groups lends validity to the results, as does their close similarity to the findings of

the public sector study (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006).

Over 90% of VET providers who responded expected increased demand over the next five years

from employers for VET graduates to be culturally competent, particularly in the areas of

community, health, business, government, hospitality, tourism and training. However, the current

scope of cross-cultural training provision appears limited. Fewer than 23% of the training providers

identified as providing qualifications that include diversity units responded, with several declining to

10 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

participate because they did not provide cross-cultural training as such or had not done so in the

study period of the previous five years.

While over two-thirds of the 31 responding VET cross-cultural trainers had more than six years

cross-cultural training experience, 75% had not received any formal training in this area. Eight in

ten indicated they would like professional development and about half recommended the

development of training resources reflecting the Australian context. They also identified areas for

further research and the need for more consistency in policy and provision of cross-cultural

training in the VET system. Their responses closely matched those of trainers in the Standing

Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (2006) study.

Cross-cultural training effectiveness

The study identified numerous models and learning pathways for cross-cultural training, most of

which recognise that acquiring cultural competence is a lifelong process. While there are guidelines

and criteria for training and trainer effectiveness, the cross-cultural training field is diverse and

complex and, furthermore, contains no universal benchmarks for quality or outcomes of training.

The most common and most highly rated types of cross-cultural training undertaken by the

responding graduates were general cultural awareness, working with or managing cultural diversity

and culture-specific training. The most highly rated training approaches balanced lecturing and

interactive exercises or combined lecturing and fieldwork. The knowledge and skills of the trainers

was also rated as one of the best aspects of cross-cultural training.

Satisfaction ratings by graduates for elective cross-cultural training units were 12% higher than for

core units. While three-quarters of responding graduates said the duration of cross-cultural training

was appropriate, half suggested that increased time would improve the training. They also

recommended increased interaction and content.

Strategies for developing cultural competence through VET

Given the positive views on the value of cultural competence among graduates and employers and

the significant performance benefits reported, the VET sector should give serious consideration to

expanding the current cross-cultural training provision. The policy, curriculum and quality

frameworks are already in place. Support for the engagement and professional development of

cross-cultural training facilitators would help to ensure capacity and capability to meet the

anticipated growth in demand. A study of the quality and availability of existing training resources

would assist in identifying areas for new resource development.

VET organisations need to be encouraged to formally review their current practices in the

provision of cross-cultural training, in terms of student and industry needs. Using these research

findings as a basis for benchmarking, longitudinal evaluations of the vocational contribution of

cross-cultural training should be encouraged. The design and delivery of cross-cultural training

should also include strategies to increase the teaching and learning focus on the deeper cognitive

and attitudinal objectives of cross-cultural training and to ensure support for participants to

continue their learning and apply it in their workplaces and communities.

Conclusion

The findings of this study provide further evidence of the importance of cultural competence for

individual and organisational effectiveness and for the creation and maintenance of social capital in

Australia’s multicultural society. The findings also demonstrate the effectiveness of cross-cultural

training and its important role in developing cultural competence. The Australian VET sector, in

consultation with industry, has a significant role to play in the further development and

sustainability of the nation’s social capital.

NCVER 11

Background and introduction

Cross-cultural training in Australia

In 2003 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nominated the

need for work on the capacity of education systems to contribute to social cohesion as a major

policy issue (McGaw 2006). The Australian vocational education and training (VET) system

confirmed its role in fostering equity and diversity in its national strategy for VET 2004–2010

(ANTA 2004).

Underlying social cohesion and equity and diversity is the ‘social capital’ of societies.

Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties

of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals—social networks and

the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. (Putnam 2000, p.19)

Social capital is seen to take two forms. Bonding social capital is established among relatively

homogeneous groups. Bridging social capital is established between heterogeneous groups,

including ethnic groups (Putnam 2000) and is of particular significance to social cohesion in a

multicultural society and its workplaces. A recent study of the social costs and benefits of migration

observed that, while there is greater acceptance of the benefits of migration and cultural diversity,

‘at the heart of any consideration of social capital is the question of how well Australia is currently

accommodating ethnic groups and categories of visa entrants’ (Carrington, McIntosh & Walmsley

2007, p.55).

VET graduates work in many occupations and environments where the cultural diversity of coworkers

and customers directly influences their performance. Employers increasingly emphasise the

importance of communication and behavioural skills as critical to employability (Department of

Education, Science and Training 2002) and consequently provide cross-cultural training for

employees (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006). There is increased

awareness of and interest in the concept of cultural competence, particularly in human service

industries, such as health and community care (Johnstone & Kanitsaki 2005).

A national longitudinal study produced statistically significant evidence that cross-cultural training is

of direct benefit to individual employees and organisations across the public sector and in

community organisations (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006).

Almost 90% of employees who had undertaken cross-cultural training recommended that it should

be compulsory for staff in customer service positions. Nearly 70% believed it should be

compulsory for all staff. The study also found high levels of support for cross-cultural training, with

74% of organisations surveyed predicting increased or greatly increased demand for cross-cultural

training over the next five years.

These developments and findings confirm the positive impact of cross-cultural training on job

performance and its value to employees. As the need for cultural competence becomes more widely

recognised as a contributing factor to social and human capital, employers in many industries can

be expected to look increasingly for cultural competence among new recruits and for ways for

developing it among existing staff.

12 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Definitions

While the cross-cultural training field is diverse and complex, there is general agreement on the

following broad definitions of culture and cultural competence.

The term ‘culture’ is used in this report in the anthropological sense and refers to the total learned

and transmitted cultural domain of a social group, including social differences stemming from

nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, arts, language, gender and generational differences, histories and

socioeconomic status.

The term ‘cultural competence’ (also known as cross-cultural or intercultural competence or

competency) has come into increased use in recent years, particularly in the health industry, where

it has been defined as:

A set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency,

or amongst professionals and enables that system, agency or those professionals to work

effectively in cross-cultural situations … A culturally competent system of care acknowledges

and incorporates—at all levels—the importance of culture, the assessment of cross-cultural

relations, vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural differences, the expansion

of cultural knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet culturally-unique needs.

(Cross et al. 1989, pp.iv–v)

In this report, the term ‘cultural competence’ refers to the awareness, knowledge, skills, practices

and processes needed by individuals, professions, organisations and systems to function effectively

and appropriately in situations characterised by cultural diversity in general and, in particular, in

interactions with people from different cultures.

The term ‘cross-cultural training’ refers to all modes of training and education aimed at developing

cultural competence. It includes workshops, seminars, training courses, coaching, mentoring and

formal qualifications. While the terms ‘cross-cultural’ and ‘intercultural’ are either used

interchangeably or seen to carry different connotations, this report uses the term ‘cross-cultural’

and does not make a distinction between the terms.

Cultural competence and cross-cultural training and the

VET system

In the past two decades, the concepts and practices of diversity management, cultural competence

and cross-cultural training have been increasingly considered within the broader context of

Australian social and economic trends, with a particular focus on social inclusion and cohesion and

organisational development. This mirrors trends in the United Kingdom, the United States and the

European Union (Bikson & Law 1995; Chief Executive 2003; Hassid 2002; Valjus 2002; Weber

2006). As discussed above, there is also increasing demand for cross-cultural training and

recognition of the roles that education systems play in developing both social capital and human

capital (McGaw 2006).

While cross-cultural training has traditionally been perceived as a separate and specialised area of

development, in the context of social cohesion it needs to be seen as an important element in the

development of cultural competence as a generic capability.

In recognition of these drivers and trends and in response to industry advice, the Australian VET

sector has developed 12 national training packages that incorporate units of competency in working

with and managing diversity, some of which have been imported into other training packages

(National Training Information Service 2007; Department of Immigration and Multicultural and

Indigenous Affairs 2005; Manidis 2005). All of these units can be delivered with varying degrees of

focus on cultural diversity and cross-cultural communication. However, this study found that, for

NCVER 13

many employers and educators, the position of cross-cultural training in training and development

frameworks and strategies was generally not clear and that cultural competence was not yet

considered a generic skill in most industries. While the concept of ‘cultural competence’ is

recognised in several service industries, many of the VET and employer representatives consulted

for this study had not previously heard of it, although they agreed that it was a useful concept and

that cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication skills could be seen as competencies.

Units of competency addressing cultural diversity are not commonly included as core units. VET

trainers consulted for this and the public sector study (Standing Committee on Immigration and

Multicultural Affairs 2006) often expressed reluctance to go beyond general references to diversity

matters within their training programs, a situation usually attributable to a lack of expertise,

resources and the confidence to deal with the complex issues raised by diversity.

Cultural competence as such does not feature strongly in the VET literature, which is concerned

mainly with equity and diversity in the broader sense. The national VET strategy 1998–2003

emphasised student equity, declaring that VET ‘is viewed as a means through which to overcome

social inequality and achieve an informed and just society (ANTA 1998, p.2). During development

of the 2004–10 national VET strategy, support was evinced for a model that would also address the

business case for managing equity and diversity and enable VET providers ‘to model good practice

in equity and diversity management and to prepare students with the knowledge and behavioural

skills to operate effectively, ethically and equitably in diverse workplaces, communities and markets’

(Bean 2004, p.285).

The current National Strategy for VET 2004–2010 recommended that:

The learning needs of people who face barriers due to age, gender, cultural difference,

language, literacy, numeracy, cost, unemployment, imprisonment or isolation are addressed

through an integrated diversity management approach. (ANTA 2004, p.3)

In support of this approach, several studies and resource development projects focused on the

equity strategies of training providers (McIntyre 2004 et al.; Miralles 2004; Robertson & Schlanders

2004). A guide to cultural diversity management resources for VET sector educators and managers

(Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 2005) described learning

pathways, beginning with cultural awareness at the lower certificate levels, to the leadership and

management of culturally inclusive organisational strategies at diploma levels.

Effectiveness of cross-cultural training

Cross-cultural training aims to enable participants to develop the awareness, knowledge and skills

required to be culturally competent in cross-cultural situations (Pusch 1981). As with any form of

training, cross-cultural training, to be effective, must meet its intended objectives, include some

measure of this attainment, actively involve the adult learner and be based on a model or theory of

culture that is linked to the objectives. The critical factors in meeting these requirements are

effective trainers, good design and suitable resources.

The literature has discussed the attributes of effective cross-cultural training in some detail (Landis,

Bennett & Bennett 2004; Paige 1993; Porter & Samovar 1991). There is general agreement that

cross-cultural training has a deeper educative role because of the pervasiveness of culture in all

human interaction and that ‘intercultural trainers are concerned with human relations … and

making learners aware of the impact of culture on their lives’ (Paige 1993, p.149). Paige has also

referred to the ‘transformative nature’ of good cross-cultural training. Indeed, many practitioners

refuse to define what they do as ‘training’, as they see the development of cultural understanding

and cultural competence as a lifelong process and their roles as far more complex than those of

knowledge transfer or skill development.

14 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Cross-cultural trainers face unique challenges in acquiring the relevant competencies. While all

trainers need to be sensitive to the needs of learners, cross-cultural trainers must be able to deal

with the intensity of emotions that cultural differences can arouse in participants, including

frustration, defensiveness or anger. Participants are typically faced with information and situations

that may challenge their sense of cultural identity and personal beliefs. The trainer must help

participants to understand and recognise other ways of seeing—without sacrificing their own

integrity—and assist them to function effectively in situations demanding accommodation of two

or more cultural frames of reference.

The design of cross-cultural training programs begins with the recognition of adult learning

principles, particularly those relating to participants understanding the reasons for learning,

participants being involved in their own learning and their being protected from surprises,

embarrassment or confusion. Some of the basic criteria for effective cross-cultural training program

design are that it should be of adequate duration to meet its objectives, be provided in a timely

manner relative to the participants’ needs and tailored to the participants (Graf 2004), principles

shared across all training domains.

Although no single study has been able to determine which method of cross-cultural training is most

effective or which methods are most effective for particular situations, the literature uniformly points

to the superiority of the experiential and interactive approach over the didactic approach (Bennett

1986; Bhawuk & Brislin 2000; Black & Mendenhall 1990; Kohls & Brussow 1994; Paige 1993).

Reflecting the emphasis on interactivity and experience, two recent studies (Berardo & Simons

2004; Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006) found that the main

tools used by cross-cultural trainers are: models for understanding culture; case studies; exercises;

simulations; role plays; games; and intensive group activities. Both studies reported strong demand

for the development of new resources, particularly in relation to conflict resolution, working in

multicultural settings, establishing the business case for cultural competence and examining the role

of culture in power, privilege and politics.

All of the above studies conclude that the cross-cultural training facilitator’s skills and methods of

presentation are more important than the quality or extent of the training resources.

… the message can precipitate some changes in cultural diversity sensitivity, but the

methodology used to reduce resistance and nurture and reinforce the message has a greater

influence. (Brown 2004, p.325)

Several studies have found positive correlations between cross-cultural training and: improvement

in participants’ interpersonal relationships; changes in their perception of their own and other

cultures; a reduction in their experience of culture shock or intercultural conflict; increased capacity

to recognise and negotiate any differences arising from cultural background so as to achieve a

positive outcome; and improvement in their performance on the job (Black & Mendenhall 1990;

Hammer, Bennett & Wiseman 2003; Bawhuk & Brislin 2000; Martin & Nakayama 2004).

Any comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of cross-cultural training must also take into

account the subjective nature of cross-cultural experiences and the psychological effects of

experiential training. It is far easier to measure outputs such as types and levels of activity than it is

to assess levels of awareness and acceptance, perceived relevance to duties, transference of skills

and knowledge to the workplace, and the influence of cross-cultural training on team and

organisational cultures.

As the literature attests, because of the ever-changing nature of cultures and the unpredictability of

individuals, the acquisition of cultural competence is a lifelong learning process, at no point in

which can the learner confidently state that they are fully competent. Furthermore, while crosscultural

training has the potential to transform participants’ views of their own and other cultures,

its influences may not be immediately perceptible, particularly during or immediately after the

training program.

NCVER 15

A review of several studies indicates that cross-cultural training seems to be effective in enhancing

knowledge and satisfaction, but is much less effective in changing behaviour and attitudes, although

it is acknowledged that measuring such changes is difficult (Kohls & Brassow 1994). The Standing

Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs study (2006) involved 195 training providers

and employers and conducted pre-training and immediate post-training evaluation surveys of 515

public sector employees who had undertaken cross-cultural training. Of these employees, 145

responded to a second survey five to ten months after completing cross-cultural training. A

comparison of immediate post-training and the subsequent evaluations found that the crosscultural

training had produced statistically significant differences in three areas:

􀂗 understanding of organisational cultural diversity policies and issues (12.3% increase)

􀂗 knowledge of cross-cultural communication skills (17.1% increase)

􀂗 knowledge and understanding of the customs, values and beliefs of diverse cultures (16.7%

increase).

Later in this report comparisons are made between the findings from the current study and the

Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs study, both being national in scope

and both focused on the VET sector and the contribution of cross-cultural training to job

performance. Previous national and international studies of cross-cultural training were

predominantly limited to specific occupational fields or focused on specific areas such as

Indigenous cultural issues or health services and were generally small in scale. Quantitative studies

have proved inconclusive, leading to a stronger emphasis on qualitative data and a study of

participants at various points in their development of cultural competence (Black & Mendenhall

1990; Bawhuk & Brislin 2000; Hammer, Bennett & Wiseman 2003; Martin & Nakayama 2004).

Research objectives and methodology

The literature review and consultations identified a number of research challenges to be taken into

account in the design and analysis processes. There is considerable diversity in cross-cultural

training design, delivery, approaches, trainer qualities and evaluation methodology. Participants and

trainers also bring a great diversity of beliefs, perceptions, needs, purposes and expectations to

cross-cultural training, which will influence their experiences and evaluations of the training. The

degree to which participants are able to apply their learning to job performance is conditional on

their personal motivations and the level of organisational support for the development and

application of cultural competence. Because informal workplace learning has been shown to be an

important element of skill development (Figgis et al. 2006), it is difficult to assess its contribution

and that of other non-training experiences to an individual’s cultural competence.

The main objective of the study was to determine the contribution of cross-cultural training

undertaken by VET students to their subsequent workplace performance. The study also aimed to

review the current practice, status and scope of cross-cultural training provided by VET

organisations, with a focus on programs within the 12 national training packages that include units

of competency in diversity.1

Consultations and surveys were designed to address four research questions.

􀂗 How has cross-cultural training undertaken by VET students contributed to their performance

in the workplace and benefited their employers?

􀂗 What is the current extent and range of practices for teaching VET students cultural

understanding and developing their cultural competence for employment?

1 The 12 training packages are: Business Services, Community Recreation, Community Services, Conservation,

Correctional Services, Entertainment, Health, Hospitality, Tourism, Public Safety, Public Services and Training

and Assessment.

16 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

􀂗 What approaches and models of cross-cultural training provision are most effective in particular

occupational and industry domains and settings?

􀂗 What strategies and processes will best enable VET providers to develop and offer vocational

training leading to cultural competence?

The project comprised three stages of research, beginning with a literature review of cultural

awareness and cultural diversity training in the Australian VET sector for the period 2001–06,

discussed above.

The second stage involved consultations with key VET sector stakeholders in multicultural

education, curriculum and program delivery about current practice and issues in cross-cultural

training. This was followed by an online survey to examine current practice in cross-cultural

training delivery and to profile individual cross-cultural training trainers working within the VET

system. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to 166 registered training organisations

listed by the National Training Information Service as delivering qualifications that include units of

competency in diversity in the 12 national training packages of interest to this study. Sixty-one

responses, around 23% of the survey sample, were received from managers, teachers, coordinators

and project officers employed by 38 large and small public and private sector training organisations.

Many of the invited organisations did not respond and several declined to participate in the survey

as they had not conducted any cross-cultural training in the previous five years.

While the sample was representative of those training organisations that provide cross-cultural

training in units of competency, it is not representative of the VET system as a whole. However,

the use of an online survey creates a voluntary response bias in the sample.

The third stage involved an online survey of VET graduates who had completed cross-cultural

training as part of their qualifications. Graduates were contacted with the assistance of several

registered training organisations. Through this approach, 255 graduates indicated a willingness to

participate, with 134 completed surveys received.2 The survey focused on the graduates’

experiences and their evaluations of cross-cultural training received in their VET studies, the

contribution of cross-cultural training to their workplace performance and their recommendations

for future cross-cultural training provision. The survey also elicited information regarding other,

non-training and education ways in which respondents may have developed cultural competence.

A national survey of 34 senior and middle managers from medium-to-large organisations (18

private and 16 public sector) was conducted mainly by telephone interview. The objectives of the

survey were to assess the importance of cultural competence to employers, their current practices in

developing cultural competence and their view of future demand for employee cultural

competence. The sample represented ten of the 17 Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry

Classification (ANZSIC)3 categories and included the four industry skills councils covering the

main national training packages that include units of competency in diversity.

All of the surveys replicated some of the key questions of the Standing Committee on Immigration

and Multicultural Affairs study (2006), enabling some direct comparisons of the findings. The

current study differed from the 2006 study in that it covered all forms of cross-cultural training

provided through VET, including Aboriginal cultural awareness training, and surveyed VET

graduates across public and private sector workplaces, with the graduates in this study receiving an

average of 31 hours cross-cultural training, compared with six hours for the 2006 study respondents.

Copies of the surveys and tests of statistical significance can be found in the support document.

2 An incentive for participation was offered. This took the form of a draw to win one of 10 $50 retail chain gift vouchers.

3 The industries represented in the survey of employers were agriculture, mining, manufacturing, electricity, water,

wholesale trade, transport, communication services, finance, government, and health and community services.

NCVER 17

Contribution of cross-cultural

training to workplace performance

of VET graduates

Profile of survey respondents

The 134 respondents were predominantly female, with an average age of 38 years. Two-thirds were

born in Australia, with 84% speaking English as their first language.

Just over half of the respondents were employed by governments and one-third by private

enterprises. The others were employed by community organisations or were volunteers or students.

Three-quarters were staff-level employees and one-quarter were middle or senior managers. Nearly

all respondents worked with customers or clients from culturally diverse backgrounds and most

worked with culturally diverse co-workers. (See appendix C for details.)

Sample bias arises from under-coverage of some areas, in that responses were sought primarily from

graduates with qualifications that included cross-cultural training. Further, there may also be a nonresponse

bias, as only 134 of the 255 graduates who indicated a willingness to participate actually did.

Cross-cultural training experience

Three-quarters of respondents had completed their training within the last two years, with only

10% having completed it five or more years ago.

Three-quarters of the cross-cultural training programs were undertaken as a core unit or part of a

core unit, with only 16% undertaken as an elective unit or part of an elective unit. The crosscultural

training was also organised as special workshops, group projects or work experience tasks

(see appendix C for details.) The cross-cultural training was undertaken in 11 national training

packages in shown in table 1.

Table 1 Distribution of cross-cultural training units by national training packages, expressed as a

proportion of respondents

National training package % No.

Public Services 33.3 44

Community Services 31.8 42

Business Services 18.1 24

Training and Assessment 14.4 19

Health 10.6 14

International Business 8.3 11

Hospitality 7.6 10

Tourism 7.6 10

Community Recreation 3.8 5

Conservation 3.0 4

Public Safety 0.8 1

Other: Teaching English, Teacher Training 4.5 6

Notes: Percentages add up to more than 100% as respondents could choose more than one option.

n = 132

18 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

For three-quarters of respondents, the highest level of qualification that included cross-cultural

training was a VET qualification, with nearly half completing a diploma or advanced diploma. For

about one-quarter of respondents, their highest levels of qualifications, including cross-cultural

training, were outside the VET system, mostly in university courses or workplace training programs

(table 2). The level of detail and complexity of cross-cultural training increased in line with the level

of qualification.

Table 2 Highest level of qualification achieved that included cross-cultural training

Qualification level % No.

Certificate I 5.6 7

Certificate II 10.5 13

Certificate III 25.0 31

Diploma 21.0 26

Advanced diploma 13.7 17

Other: High school, BA, MA, MBA, workplace training 24.2 30

Total 100.0 124

Missing 10

Note: n = 124

The most commonly reported delivery styles of cross-cultural training were a combination of

lecturing and interactive discussions and exercises and a combination of field or project work and

lecturing (table C5 in appendix C). The most commonly reported subject areas covered in crosscultural

training were general cultural awareness and working with cultural diversity. The other

reported subject areas, in rank order, were cultural diversity management, Aboriginal cultural

awareness, other specific cultures, occupation-specific cross-cultural training and working with

interpreters and translators (table C1).

Cultural competence is also acquired in many informal ways. Respondents reported a range of

experiences that had contributed to their understanding of cultural differences, including working

in Australia with people from different cultures, having friends from different cultures, having

family members from different cultures, living or working overseas, learning a language and

migrating (table C2). While the contribution of these experiences to respondents’ cultural

competence cannot be directly related to other survey ratings, the importance of these kinds of

informal learning cannot be over-emphasised.

Graduates’ evaluation of cross-cultural training

Graduates were asked to rate six key aspects of the cross-cultural training they had undertaken, on a

scale of 1 (below average) to 5 (excellent). As shown in table 3, all aspects were rated at 3.5 or above.

Respondents rated their overall satisfaction with cross-cultural training at 3.75. Just over 65% of

respondents rated their satisfaction with cross-cultural training as above average or excellent, with

approximately 13% rating their satisfaction as below average or poor. While participant satisfaction

with training is not a predictor of its contribution to performance, ratings of satisfaction reflect and

support other ratings of effectiveness, which underpin ratings of applicability to performance. To

explore some of the predictors of participants’ overall satisfaction with their training, the percentages

of respondents rating their overall satisfaction at 4 (above average) or 5 (excellent) were filtered by

mode of training, style of training and recency of training completion. (See appendix C for details.)

Satisfaction ratings of above average or excellent were 13 percentage points higher for crosscultural

training undertaken as elective training than for cross-cultural training delivered as core

training (78.9% vs 65.9%; table C4).

NCVER 19

Table 3 Evaluations of six key aspects of cross-cultural training programs reported as a Likert scale

rating and as a percentage

Survey question Average

rating

%

1 Over all, how would you rate the effectiveness of the cross-cultural training trainers? 3.7 74

2 How much did cross-cultural training improve your understanding of workplace

policies and issues regarding cultural diversity?

3.6 72

3 How much did cross-cultural training increase your awareness and knowledge of the

ways in which your own culture influences your thoughts and feelings

3.7 74

4 How much did cross-cultural training increase your knowledge and understanding of

cross-cultural communication skills?

3.7 74

5 How much did cross-cultural training increase your knowledge and understanding of

the customs, values and beliefs of other cultures?

3.6 72

6 How much did cross-cultural training increase your confidence in dealing with people

from different cultures?

3.5 70

Note: n = 124

Satisfaction ratings did not differ greatly according to the styles of training delivery. About 70% of

respondents who undertook cross-cultural training delivered as mainly classroom lecturing, mainly

interactive exercises, or a style combining the two rated their training as above average or excellent,

compared with 75% of those who experienced a training style that combined classroom lecturing

and field work. Just under 60% gave high satisfaction ratings for training styles comprising only

field or project work without classroom learning (table C5).

Looking at the recency of training completion, 63% of those who had received their cross-cultural

training one to five or more years ago rated their satisfaction as above average or excellent. By

comparison, 52% of those who had completed the training less than one year ago gave similar

ratings (table C6). This comparison appears to indicate that the passage of time may increase

positive assessments of cross-cultural training experiences, although the small sample sizes limit the

validity of this observation. Qualitative comments from cross-cultural training facilitators and

participants indicate that for many participants the value of cross-cultural training becomes more

apparent as learning is applied to and corroborated by subsequent experiences. However, other

factors such as number of contact hours, teaching mode and style, and the degrees to which

participants’ organisations recognise, support and reward culturally competent performance would

also have a significant bearing on this.

More than eight in ten respondents judged the best aspects of their training to be interaction and

discussion. Over half also identified the training content of the training and the style, knowledge

and enthusiasm of the trainer as positive aspects.

While three-quarters of respondents considered the duration of the cross-cultural training to be

appropriate, 23% considered it to be too short. When commenting on ways to improve the crosscultural

training they had attended, half suggested that it could have been improved by increasing

the duration. Just fewer than 2% suggested decreasing the time.

Asked to suggest ways of improving training delivery, about half the respondents recommended

increased interaction and content. Around a quarter also suggested taking different training

approaches, changing course structures or having better trainers.

Contribution of cross-cultural training to

workplace performance

In assessing the degree to which cross-cultural training had contributed to VET graduates’

workplace performance, the survey first investigated the level of importance that graduates placed

20 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

on cultural competence and their perceptions of the level of importance their employers placed on

cultural competence.

On a scale of 1 to 5, five being the highest rating, respondents rated the importance of being able

to work effectively with co-workers from different cultures at 4.3. Significantly, 84% of graduates

rated this ability as of above average or of great importance. They rated the importance they

thought their employers placed on this ability slightly higher, at 4.4.

Respondents rated the importance of being able to work effectively with customers and clients

from different cultural backgrounds at 4.5, giving the same rating for the importance they believed

their managers placed on this ability. Almost 93% rated this ability as of above average or of great

importance. About half the respondents said that their ability to work effectively with co-workers

and clients from different cultural backgrounds was included as a performance indicator in

performance reviews.

These findings are similar to those obtained from the survey of the graduates’ employers (see

appendix E). All respondents to the employer survey agreed that cultural competence was of

importance to their organisations. Having employees with adequate cultural competence for

working with culturally diverse clients and customers was rated as above average or of great

importance by 86% of responding employers, with 90% of the public sector employers giving this

rating, by comparison with 78% of private sector employers. The importance of cultural

competence for working with culturally diverse co-workers was rated as above average or of great

importance by 80% of employers. Again, a greater proportion of employers from the public sector

than from the private sector rated this aspect as above average or of great importance (85% vs

76%). Similar ratings were reported in the public sector study (Standing Committee on Immigration

and Multicultural Affairs 2006).

As a further indicator of perceived importance, almost three-quarters of responding employers stated

that their organisations included cultural competence in career development strategies, although less

than half included it in recruitment or performance appraisal criteria. Several respondents

commented that, while cultural competence as such was not specified in recruitment specifications

or selection interviews, the ability to work harmoniously in diverse workplaces was often considered,

particularly for professionals and candidates in customer service positions. Some organisations

‘embed’ cultural competence in specifications or see it as part of employability skills in general.

These findings indicate a generally strong awareness among these stakeholder groups of the

rationale for developing cultural competence, even when taking into account any response bias

arising from the social desirability of positive responses regarding cultural diversity.

Turning to workplace performance, responding graduates identified a range of improvements to

their work performance they believed could be attributed to their cross-cultural training (table 4).

Table 4 Contribution of cross-cultural training to workplace performance, expressed as a proportion

of respondents

Performance improvements % No.

Improved services to customers from different cultural backgrounds 76.9 90

Improved workplace communications and relationships 73.1 87

Increased cultural self-awareness 71.4 85

Improved understanding and interactions in personal life 48.7 58

Improved community relationships 42.9 51

Improved compliance with EO, discrimination and equity policies 37.0 44

Improved ability to assist overseas customers or partners 36.1 43

Improved ability to work internationally 28.6 34

Improved marketing/promotion to culturally diverse customers 26.9 32

Notes: Respondents could choose more than one option.

n = 119

NCVER 21

Almost 60% of respondents rated the overall contribution of cross-cultural training to their job

performance as above average or excellent, with only 12% rating it below average or poor.

Just under 40% of respondents rated the extent to which they had been able to transfer what they

had learned to their co-workers as above average or excellent, with about one-quarter rating it

below average or poor. While experience shows that transferring the learning from training

programs of any kind to colleagues can be difficult, the complex and subjective nature of crosscultural

training is likely to increase this level of difficulty. Many cross-cultural training participants

commented that they wished their managers and supervisors had also attended the program, a

sentiment reflected in the recommendation by 81% of respondents that cross-cultural training

should be mandatory for everyone in their organisation, with 89% indicating that it should be

mandatory for employees who were in customer or client service positions (appendix C).

In responses to an open question about the most important things learned from cross-cultural

training, graduates who responded nominated, in rank order, increased acceptance, recognition and

understanding, increased awareness and skills, greater patience, empathy and tolerance, and

increased knowledge and information. There were only two negative comments, both referring

specifically to antipathy towards individual trainers.

Representative comments included the following:

[I realised] how set in my ways I was and how much I took things personally, when really

cultural differences were at play.

It has given me a higher tolerance and understanding of how hard it is for migrants to

integrate into Australian culture.

Even within specific cultures, people are individuals and shouldn’t be bundled together in

one group.

As a foreign person myself, I can relate and assure [sic] how helpful and important was

the study of cultural diversity. It was not only interesting but mainly helpful for me in my

adjustment to life in Australia, and also I am sure it opened my eyes for a better

understanding [of] people from other cultures.

To be aware, stay aware and understand the different cultural needs in everyone. Everyone is

unique and that’s a beautiful thing about living in Australia and having dealings with people

from all over the world.

It should be noted here that, while the measurement of return on training investment is

problematic in virtually all areas of communication and relationship training, the frequency of

such comments in cross-cultural training evaluations is a strong indicator that the immeasurable

contributions of such training experiences can be profound and durable.

Looking at the impact of cross-cultural training on work performance from an employer’s

perspective, over 90% of public and two-thirds of private sector organisations conducted crosscultural

training for their employees (appendix E), with most reporting positive feedback

regarding increased awareness and understanding of the relevance of cultural competence to

work performance.

Two-thirds of responding employers said that the VET graduates they employed demonstrated an

understanding of and ability to work with cultural diversity, leading to a range of benefits, improved

customer service being most commonly reported. A third of the respondents were unable to

comment directly on any benefits from cross-cultural training, several saying they would have no

way of knowing if a person’s cultural competence was derived from cross-cultural training or if a

qualification had included cross-cultural training or whether it was attributable to education and

training, personal experiences or individual character.

Almost two-thirds of public sector and a third of private sector employers believed that crosscultural

training should be mandatory for all employees (table E7), with over 90% of public and

22 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

two-thirds of private sector respondents indicating it should be mandatory for all employees in

customer contact positions (table E8), proportions similar to those reported from the graduate

survey. The majority of organisations planned to provide cross-cultural training to employees in the

next five years (table E5). Over 80% of organisations were also likely to develop other strategies to

develop cultural competence over the next five years, including building cultural awareness into

other training, recruiting more staff from culturally diverse backgrounds, providing mentoring or

coaching programs and developing policies and procedures for culturally inclusive work practices

(table E6).

Demand and recommendations for future

cross-cultural training

With respect to future demand, approximately 70% of responding graduates indicated that they

would like further cross-cultural training (see appendix C). The types of cross-cultural training

preferred, in rank order, were training in specific cultures within the multicultural society, working

with or managing cultural diversity, general cultural awareness and communication, Indigenous

cultures, specialised training for specific occupations and working with interpreters and translators.

Just over 70% of employers estimated that demand for workforce cultural competence would

increase in response to the increased cultural diversity of the workforce, the labour market and

the customer base, and increased internationalisation and globalisation (table E4). Other reasons

included policy and legal requirements and an increased number of agreements with traditional

land owners. Just under a third said demand would stay at current levels. None anticipated any

decrease in demand. There were no significant differences in the responses of public and private

sector organisations.

The indicators of the perceived importance of and need for cultural competence and positive

ratings of the effectiveness of cross-cultural training given above, along with the fact that so many

recipients of cross-cultural training believe it should be mandatory, suggest that the leaders and

managers of Australian organisations should consider more carefully the role of cross-cultural

training in the creation and maintenance of social capital and its contributions to performance.

Comparisons with the public sector cross-cultural training

effectiveness study

Most of the findings above are very similar to those of the national study of the effectiveness of

cross-cultural training in public sector organisations (Standing Committee on Immigration and

Multicultural Affairs 2006). The demographic profiles of the employees who responded to the

surveys were similar. The 145 public sector employees from the public sector study had received an

average of six hours cross-cultural training between six and 11 months before responding to the

survey, while the 134 VET graduates had received an average of 31 hours of cross-cultural training,

the majority of the training received between one and three years before the survey. Several of the

survey questions in this study replicated or closely matched those of the public sector study.

The six questions in table 3 are identical to questions asked in the Standing Committee on

Immigration and Multicultural Affairs study. The average rating on a 5-point Likert scale for all

questions in this study was just over 3.6, compared with an average rating in the former study of

just under 3.7.

In both studies, overall satisfaction with cross-cultural training was rated 3.7. In this study,

satisfaction ratings of above average or excellent for cross-cultural training undertaken as elective

training were given by 78.9% of respondents, compared with 65.9% of respondents who had crosscultural

training delivered as core training. In the Standing Committee on Immigration and

NCVER 23

Multicultural Affairs study, the average was 76% for voluntary training, compared with 69.8% for

compulsory training.

In this study, the average rating of the importance of cultural competence for working with coworkers

and customers from different cultural backgrounds was 88%, which is identical to the

average rating in the public sector study. In this study, the average rating of importance to

respondents’ managers was 90%, compared with an average rating of 84% in the Standing

Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs study.

In this study, almost 60% of respondents rated the overall satisfaction with the contribution of

cross-cultural training to their job performance as above average or excellent, with only 12% rating

it below average or poor. In the public sector study over 40% rated it as above average or excellent,

with 13.9% rating it below average or poor. This may be a reflection of the lower number of hours

of cross-cultural training received by the Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural

Affairs study respondents or attributable to other factors such as organisational support for the

application of learning in the workplace.

Just under 40% rated the extent to which they had been able to transfer what they had learned to

their co-workers as above average or excellent, with 26% rating it below average or poor. In the

Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs study, 30% gave the higher ratings,

with 25% rating it below average or poor.

Almost 70% of respondents indicated that they would like further cross-cultural training, compared

with 60% in the earlier study.

Eighty per cent of respondents to this study believed cross-cultural training should be compulsory

for all employees in their organisation, compared with just over 70% in the 2006 study. Most

significantly for those making decisions about the future provision of cross-cultural training, 89.3%

of graduates who responded the current study believed that cross-cultural training should be

compulsory for all employees in their organisation who were in customer or client service positions,

compared with 87.7% in the 2006 study.

These comparisons between the survey responses of two samples totalling 279 employees lend

validity to the findings on the effectiveness and performance contributions of cross-cultural training.

24 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Cross-cultural training

practice in VET

Profile of survey respondents

Sixty-one senior managers, teachers, coordinators and project officers employed by 38 large and

small public and private sector training organisations participated in the survey. (See appendix D

for details.)

The sample is not representative of the VET system as a whole and the use of an online survey

creates a voluntary response bias in the sample.

Cross-cultural training provision

The responding organisations provided cross-cultural training at various levels in 11 of the 12

national training packages, including units of competency in diversity mainly at the certificate III

and IV levels (table 5).

Table 5 Provision of cross-cultural training in national training package qualifications

Cross-cultural

training package

Certifica

te

II

Certifica

te III

Certifica

te IV

Diploma Advanc

ed

diploma

Total

respons

es

Business Services 9 12 16 15 3 55

Community 0 1 1 0 9 11

Community Services 7 20 21 13 4 65

Conservation 1 1 1 1 0 4

Correctional Services 3 3 2 0 0 8

Health 4 13 7 5 1 30

Hospitality 5 7 6 5 4 27

Tourism 5 5 5 4 3 22

Public Services 0 5 6 5 2 18

Training and 1 2 17 5 0 25

International Business 0 1 1 2 3 7

Total 35 70 83 55 29 272

An average of 21.7 contact hours per unit was devoted to cross-cultural training in 14 specific

units of competency within these training packages. Respondents identified several other areas in

which elements of cross-cultural training were provided, including outdoor recreation, fashion

design, education, religious studies and arts and media. Some of the cross-cultural training was

delivered in the form of units of competency imported from other training packages and some as

specialised workshops.

Two-thirds of responding organisations reported that they had also provided accredited and nonaccredited

cross-cultural training in other training areas, including English language teaching,

Aboriginal cultural awareness, staff induction, community outreach and settlement and crosscultural

training courses for external organisations.

NCVER 25

The average length of time training organisations had been delivering cross-cultural training in one

or more of the training packages was 10.5 years. They had delivered cross-cultural training in the

other areas on average for 9.9 years.

Over half used a combination of internal and external trainers to deliver cross-cultural training,

while one-third used only internal trainers and 10% used only external trainers. The external trainers

came mainly from private consultants, community organisations or other training organisations.

As noted earlier, several VET providers declined to participate in the survey as they did not

currently provide cross-cultural training in any programs or had not done so for years. For other

providers, the inclusion of cross-cultural training in accredited training programs is not necessarily

guaranteed even where it is recommended, as shown in the following quote from a respondent:

I have been working with [organisation] in relation to ways that cultural competence can be

addressed in training, particularly for in Certificates III and IV and the Diploma in Business-

Front Line Management, and I was frankly rather mystified by the fact that there is no

mandatory unit of competency currently in these qualifications that relates specifically to

working effectively with diversity. It seems that even offering such a unit from another

qualification as an elective is ‘not allowed under the packaging rules’. So I have assumed that

the only way to address this situation is to wait until the Business Services package is next

reviewed, which I gather may well not be for another couple of years.

Cross-cultural training practice

The responding training organisations mainly delivered cross-cultural training through classroom

teaching or specialised workshops. Around 40% also delivered cross-cultural training through

external projects or distance learning, while 30% delivered cross-cultural training through

mentoring and coaching (table D1).

Over 95% of respondents reported that the main learning objectives of cross-cultural training were

to improve customer service and workplace relations (table D2). For graduates, this was seen as the

main contribution of cross-cultural training to their workplace performance (see table 4). Around

60% listed the learning objectives of improving community relationships and compliance with

equal opportunity and discrimination laws and policies. Approximately 40% listed the objectives of

improving marketing and promotion to culturally diverse customers and improving capacity to

work internationally. Just over 10% reported other objectives, including confronting racism and

improving language and settlement skills.

The most common types of cross-cultural training were general awareness and working with

diversity (table 6). In many units of competency and in non-accredited programs there are

combinations of these types of training.

Table 6 Types of cross-cultural training included in units of competency or other training, expressed

as a percentage of respondents

Type of cross-cultural training % No.

General cultural awareness and communication 92.6 50

Working with cultural diversity 87.0 47

Managing cultural diversity 63.0 34

Culture specific: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander cultures 53.7 29

Specialised: e.g. customer service, health care, policing 44.4 24

Culture-specific: multicultural e.g. Sudanese, Chinese cultures 40.7 22

Working with interpreters and translators 29.6 16

Other: racism and privilege, adult language and literacy, settlement 7.4 14

Notes: Respondents could choose more than one option.

n = 54

26 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Evaluation and benefits of cross-cultural training

The majority of responding organisations evaluated cross-cultural training through post-training

feedback and evaluation questionnaires from students and, to a lesser extent, through informal

verbal feedback. About one-third of respondents received feedback, mainly verbal, from employers

of cross-culturally trained graduates about their ability to work with culturally diverse customers

and co-workers. The employers were reported to comment generally on the increased awareness,

sensitivity and skills of graduates and on receiving positive feedback from employees who had

completed cross-cultural training.

The training providers reported an average student satisfaction rating of 81% across all of the

above types of cross-cultural training. This average is just over six percentage points higher than the

overall satisfaction rating of 74.6% given by the graduates themselves. The types of cross-cultural

training receiving the most ratings of above average or excellent were general cultural awareness,

managing cultural diversity and working with cultural diversity. The highest reported student overall

satisfaction ratings were for culture-specific training (84.2%) and the lowest for working with

interpreters and translators (77.8%).

Eight in ten VET providers said that their students reported that cross-cultural training had helped

them to improve their workplace communication. Seven in ten said their students reported

improved customer service and cultural self-awareness. The percentages of VET providers and

graduates reporting a range of benefits from cross-cultural training is compared in table 7.

Table 7 VET graduates’ reported benefits of cross-cultural training

Reported benefit VET providers Graduates Difference

% No. % %

Improved workplace communication & relationships 80.5 33 73.1 -7.4

Improved services to customers from different cultural backgrounds 75.6 31 76.9 +1.3

Increased cultural self-awareness 70.7 29 71.4 +0.7

Improved community relationships 39.0 16 42.9 +3.9

Improved skills to work internationally 29.3 12 28.6 -0.7

Improved compliance with access and equity policies 26.8 11 37.0* +10.2

Improved compliance with EO and discrimination laws 22.0 9 37.0* +15.0

Improved marketing to culturally diverse clients/customers 14.6 6 26.9 +12.3

Notes: Respondents could choose more than one option.

* Graduates’ survey question combined the two compliance categories.

VET provider: n = 41; graduates: n = 134

While there are some differences between providers’ and graduates’ reports for improved compliance

and marketing, there are broad similarities across the other categories, indicating the general accuracy

of the training providers’ assessments of their students’ reported learning outcomes.

VET provider perceptions of workplace cultural

competence trends and practices

The VET providers rated the importance of cultural competence for working with culturally diverse

customers at 4.7 (on the Likert scale) and for working with culturally diverse co-workers at just under

4.5. These ratings were higher than the ratings given by both the graduates and responding

employers. Therefore, while there was general agreement that cultural competence is important to

workplace performance, VET providers and graduates both slightly overestimated its perceived

importance to employers.

NCVER 27

Some respondents commented that employers did not understand cultural competence or the

nature and aim of cross-cultural training and only wanted their staff to have training on specific

cultures. Other VET respondents were concerned that the majority of cross-cultural training

programs did not address issues of privilege and power in the workplace.

About 40% of responding training providers stated that employers in the industries they served

included cultural competence in their recruitment specifications, while over half did not know. These

industries were in community services, government, health and aged care, tourism and hospitality

and those engaged in international business. In the employers’ survey, 35% of respondents indicated

that they included cultural competence in recruitment specifications (table E2).

Nine in ten VET providers believed there would be increased or greatly increased demand from

employers for employees to be able to demonstrate cultural competence, compared with 70% of

employers. Regardless of this disparity, it is clear that demand will increase, with significant

implications for VET provider capacity and trainer capabilities.

Eight in ten responding providers expected that there would be demand for training in specific

cultures, general awareness, working in culturally diverse teams and managing culturally diverse

workforces. Seven in ten expected there to be demand for Aboriginal cultural awareness training.

Over half said there would be demand for specialised cross-cultural training in occupational areas

such as health and policing and for building cultural awareness into other training programs. Onethird

expected demand for training in working with interpreters and translators.

VET providers and employers both attributed predictions of increased demand to increases in

migration, international trade, international students, cultural diversity in the labour market,

recruitment of overseas skilled workers and higher customer expectations for culturally appropriate

services. Several respondents from the training providers attributed the heightened demand to

increased recognition of the need to foster and maintain social cohesion and to address issues of

racism and white privilege in the community.

Over 90% of public sector and 40% of private sector employers surveyed believed that cross-cultural

training should be a core component of VET programs relating to their industries, particularly in

international business, export services, community services, health, government and public safety.

In general comments, some respondents from the training providers expressed agreement that

cultural competence had become an issue of strategic concern and that cross-cultural training

should be a component of workplace training and development. As one commented: ‘Changes in

the workforce have hit us by surprise’. Another identified a need for organisations to move beyond

a ‘multicultural deficit model’ and address cultural competence in terms of key performance

indicators. Another manager remarked: ‘The challenge is to keep doing it [cross-cultural training]

and revisit and assess the contribution to our performance’.

Cross-cultural training facilitators

Given the current level of cross-cultural training activity and the predicted increased demand for

cross-cultural training revealed in this study and the earlier Standing Committee on Immigration

and Multicultural Affairs study, the supply and quality of training facilitators will be a critical issue

for the VET system. The second part of the survey of VET providers elicited 31 responses from

people who were currently or had within the past five years been directly involved in the design and

delivery of cross-cultural training.

Profile of cross-cultural training facilitators

Six in ten respondents were female. The average age of respondents was 53 years, with only two

being less than 35 years old. Just over two-thirds had six or more years experience in teaching

28 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

cross-cultural training, one-fifth having over 16 years experience. Three-quarters spoke English as

their first language and just over 40% were born overseas. (See appendix D for details.)

The facilitators worked across a number of cross-cultural training subject areas, with over threequarters

providing general cross-cultural training. Two-thirds taught working with and managing

cultural diversity and half conducted culture-specific training. Approximately 40% provided

Aboriginal cultural awareness training. A third worked in the areas of specialised cross-cultural

training, international business, language training and working with interpreters and translators.

Eight in ten cross-cultural training facilitators had a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification and

the remainder had a VET certificate IV or diploma qualification. However, only a quarter had

received formal training in cross-cultural training, mainly within bachelor or masters degree courses

or through workplace professional development programs. Three-quarters had received informal

training, typically through attendance at workshops, seminars and conferences and non-award or

non-accredited courses or training programs, including in-service professional development.

Respondents identified a range of professional and life experiences that had contributed to their

ability to teach cross-cultural training. These included language learning, working with culturally

diverse clients and colleagues, cross-cultural personal relationships, migration, overseas travel and

international business experience.

There was a strong sense of engagement and commitment among facilitators. Half reported passion

and commitment as their main motivations for working in the cross-cultural training field. Over

one-quarter reported being mainly motivated by interest, enjoyment and satisfaction. Fewer than

one-quarter worked in cross-cultural training because it was part of their employment

responsibilities. These responses are reflected in the public sector study (Standing Committee on

Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006) and in an international study of over 200 cross-cultural

training practitioners (Berardo & Simons 2004).

Training approaches and resources

Respondents employed a range of approaches to cross-cultural training, depending on audience and

context. One-third described their main approach as a balance of lecturing and interactive exercises,

a quarter favoured interactive exercises and discussions; about 15% favoured a balance of field

work and classroom learning. Other approaches included project work, individual coaching and

informal induction.

The most commonly used training resources or tools, in rank order, were case studies, simulation

exercises, models for understanding cultures, role plays, intensive group exercises, checklists and tip

sheets, instruments that profile groups or individuals, and assessments of cultural competence.

Intensive group exercises and case studies were rated as the most effective tools for cross-cultural

training by over 80% of respondents. These rankings also compare closely with those of the public

sector and international studies (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

2006; Berardo & Simons 2004).

Respondents expressed a range of opinions about approaches to cross-cultural training, which

reflect the complexity and diversity of the field. Some objected to the term ‘training’ being applied

to what they did, preferring a broader view of cross-cultural training as a dialogue and a lifelong

educational process.

I don’t call it training. I don’t want to deliver structured packages or accredited training

modules … not my area! I like the opportunity to speak frankly and fluidly about what I have

learned and what I am constantly challenged by … and I have had really good feedback from

the sessions I have run. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for training … I just don’t think it’s

my forte!

NCVER 29

Others saw the need to address issues of power, privilege, racism, politics and policy in crosscultural

training and to adopt ‘strategies for recognising bias, preference, ethnocentric thinking and

speaking etc. for EVERYONE—not just Australian born’.

Across the cross-cultural training field there appears to be a widely held view that the best crosscultural

training is not in fact ‘training’ but a designed and facilitated conversation about identity,

diversity and social cohesion. The training component—the information, knowledge and skills of

cross-cultural communication—is important, but of very limited value without an underlying

educational experience that enables participants to recognise the pervasive influence of cultures on

perception and behaviour and to make meaning out of a lifetime of experiences.

Professional and resource development

Respondents undertook a range of activities to continue their professional development as crosscultural

trainers. Three-quarters reported working with culturally diverse communities and

facilitating training as their main forms of professional development. Over half listed reading and

attending conferences and seminars, networking, professional associations and travel. One-third

engaged in research in the cross-cultural training field. Only 7% reported undertaking formal study.

About two-thirds of respondents identified future professional development needs in the areas of

cross-cultural communication theory and practice, teaching and learning methodology and ethical

issues in cross-cultural training. Over half would like professional development in the areas of

learning about specific cultures and religions; socio-political issues, including multiculturalism,

diversity, racism and discrimination; and developing training resources for these areas. Most trainers

expressed a desire to interact with other cross-cultural training facilitators, to share ideas and

resources, to pursue professional development opportunities and to support each other in working in

a demanding and evolving field. Again, these responses closely reflect those of the previous studies.

Respondents identified the need to develop further tools and resources that more closely reflect

the Australian context. They recommended more interactive exercises and resources designed to

address specific issues and cultures and the development of a cross-cultural training resources

clearing house. They also recommended further research in the areas of: working in multicultural

settings; models for understanding culture in the Australian context; the organisational and personal

value of cross-cultural training; cultural diversity in the contexts of power, privilege, politics and

policy; and cultural competence in team-building and leadership.

Just over half of the respondents believed there should be an accreditation or other formal

recognition process for cross-cultural trainers, based on relevant experience and facilitation skills. A

few nominated a Certificate IV Training and Assessment as the minimum qualification. The most

commonly suggested approach was a registration process requiring demonstrated capability that was

similar to registration and membership requirements for other professions and consultancy areas.

Those who were unsure about or opposed to the idea of accreditation expressed uncertainty about

what standards or qualifications should be included. They questioned whether cross-cultural training

trainer competencies could be clearly identified and measured, and who would judge the judges.

One commented that the complexity, tensions and uncertainties of the cross-cultural training

learning experience would be impossible to define in terms of competencies. Several expressed the

fear that imposing a formal standard may exclude trainers lacking formal qualifications who were

otherwise effective facilitators. Others questioned the need for accreditation or specialist

qualifications, maintaining that qualified educators would have the professionalism to ensure that

they were adequately prepared to teach cross-cultural training effectively.

Challenges and issues facing the cross-cultural training field

Respondents identified a range of challenges for the cross-cultural training field and its future

development. Several referred to negative attitudes to cultural diversity in Australia in general,

xenophobia and stereotyping in the media and politics, and the failure of leaders and managers to

30 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

take responsibility for addressing the consequences of a society lacking cultural understanding

and competence.

A lack of consistency in approaches was identified as a challenge, as was the notion that there was

one right way to conduct cross-cultural training. There was seen to be a lack of clear policy by state

governments and the Australian Government, accompanied by a lack of resources to employ

trainers and provide cross-cultural training within relevant VET programs.

The continuing influx of people from cultural backgrounds relatively new to Australia—including

refugees, migrants, business migrants, students and overseas professionals—was also seen as a

challenge to trainers trying to keep up to date in their knowledge and understanding of diverse groups.

In their final comments, respondents expressed enthusiasm for the future of cross-cultural training,

but also concerns that the field needed to be professionalised and the hope that ‘something

authentic [would] be done with the information’ gained from this survey.

Comparisons with the public sector cross-cultural training

effectiveness study

The findings of this study regarding current practice in cross-cultural training delivery and the

public sector study (Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2006) were

similar in a number of areas, as they were for the evaluations and benefits of cross-cultural training.

The biggest difference between the provision of cross-cultural training in VET and in public sector

workplaces is the number of contact hours, the VET average of 31 hours being more than three

times the average 6.1 hours of cross-cultural training received in the workplaces by respondents to

the public sector survey.

A comparison with the findings of the public sector study (table 8) shows similarities for most

objectives, except that of improving workplace communication and relationships, which was less

frequently identified by the exclusively public sector respondents to that survey.

Table 8 Learning objectives of cross-cultural training, expressed as a percentage of respondents and

compared with percentages of respondents in the SCIMA study

Learning objective % No. SCIMA %

To improve service to culturally diverse customers 98.2 54 91.6

To improve workplace communication and relationships 94.5 52 64.2

To improve community relationships 60.0 33 54.7

To improve compliance; equal opportunity/discrimination 58.2 32 45.3

To improve marketing to culturally diverse customers 41.8 23 33.0

To improve capacity to work internationally 32.7 18 21.0

Other: confront racism, improve language and settlement 12.7 7 N/A

Notes: Respondents could choose more than one option.

n = 55

Seven in ten respondents to the survey of employers believed there would be increased demand for

cross-cultural training, compared with 74% of public sector employers responding to the 2006

survey. These predictions are lower than those of the VET providers, 90% of whom predicted

increased demand. However, all three groups agreed that the demand would grow in response to

globalisation and increased cultural diversity in the workplace and the community.

Regarding the introduction of an accreditation process, the public sector survey responses were

almost the same as in this study. Similar concerns were expressed. However, in the 2006 study, 70%

of employers were in favour of an accreditation process.

NCVER 31

Developing cultural competence

through VET

Implications of the research for VET

Employers and educators alike have identified a growing need to develop workforce cultural

competence in response to major drivers that include increased workforce and customer cultural

diversity, global labour market mobility and competition for skilled employees. Clearly, crosscultural

knowledge is seen to be highly valued among VET graduates. Given the positive views of

the value of cultural competence among graduates and employers, the VET sector can, and should,

expand current cross-cultural training provision in the policy, curriculum and quality frameworks

already in place. Capability and capacity can be improved using models of good practice and by

engaging experienced cross-cultural training facilitators across the sector.

The results and benefits of cross-cultural training can be largely described in competency terms;

they meet the required learning outcomes of the relevant units of competency within national

training packages. However, while the results and benefits of developing cultural competence

through cross-cultural training are demonstrable in quantitative terms, the research findings also

point to the deeper sociological and psychological dimensions of the training experience.

It is highly significant for the future provision of cross-cultural training in the VET sector that

training participants ranked increased cultural self-awareness almost as highly as improved

customer service and workplace relationships, cultural self-awareness being a critical element of

cultural competence. It is also noteworthy that a relatively few hours of cross-cultural training can

result in the gains attributed to it by participants. This highlights the potential of cross-cultural

training to crystallise participants’ previous experiences of living and working in a multicultural

society and to contribute to positive attitudes and effective behaviours vis-a-vis cultural diversity.

Developing cultural competence through VET

The process of developing cultural competence through VET has recently been described and

outlined in a guide to cultural diversity management resources (Department of Immigration and

Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 2005). The guide identifies linkages between diversity and most

of the key competencies or employability skills, particularly those of communication and teamwork.

It also describes learning pathways that begin with diversity awareness at certificates I and II,

progressing through the development of knowledge and skills for working with and managing

diversity in teams at the certificate III and IV levels, and culminating in the development of higher

management and leadership knowledge and skills at the diploma and advanced diploma levels.

As the findings of this study illustrate, VET students in a range of industry qualifications may

complete two or three units of competency that include diversity elements during their courses of

study. An incremental approach to developing cultural competence that is articulated with the

learning pathway outlined above and closely related to the needs of their target industries would be

ideal. Cultural competence and diversity-management skills could also be further developed by

incorporating both with closely related topics such as customer service, negotiation, problemsolving,

conflict management, compliance with legislation and giving and receiving feedback.

32 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

As discussed earlier in this report, VET national strategy objectives call for VET providers to adopt

best practice in managing diversity in service delivery and to prepare learners for employment in

situations characterised by workforce and customer diversity. Achieving best practice in diversitymanagement

requires, among other things, that VET employees are trained and resourced to do so.

Given the cultural diversity of the VET student body and the workplaces for which they are being

trained, the obvious implication is that all VET workers should possess appropriate levels of

cultural competence.

Another implication of the research findings is that cross-cultural training should be part of core

curriculum in qualifications for industries in which customer and client service is a critical skill.

The design and delivery of cross-cultural training programs within VET qualifications should also

recognise that the development of cultural competence is a lifelong process. This implies dialogue

with industry to ensure that the VET curriculum is attuned to organisational needs and to the

development of strategies to ensure support for graduates and their managers to enable them to

continue their learning and to apply it in their workplaces and communities. As one senior VET

teacher commented:

Insist on application in a real world context. Link cultural awareness training to mainstream

learning areas, not for awareness for its own sake, but for the effect that changes in attitude

and flexibility in practice can mean better outcomes for all parties.

Recommendations

The findings of this study show that the provision of cross-cultural training in the VET system is

diverse, covers a wide range of qualifications and industries, and is well regarded by students and

appreciated by employers. The research also indicates a potentially large increase in demand from a

range of industries for VET graduates who are culturally competent, with implications for capacity

and capability in the provision of cross-cultural training. VET teachers of cross-cultural training

have also expressed the need for professional development and the capacity to develop resources

and address important social issues.

The findings of this study point to areas for improvement in policy and planning, industry

engagement, curriculum and program development, capacity- and capability-building and

professional development.

The following broad recommendations are made with acknowledgement that VET organisations

and systems and their client industries are at various stages in the delivery of cross-cultural training

and in the development of cultural competence and that the policies and strategies to guide and

legitimise the implementation of the recommendations are already in place.

VET policy, planning and program quality assurance

􀂗 Organisations responsible for VET policy development and implementation should review the

extent of cross-cultural training provision through the VET sector, in terms of its contribution

to meeting the relevant objectives of the current national strategy for VET.

􀂗 Individual VET organisations should formally review their current practices for providing crosscultural

training, in terms of the student and industry needs identified in this study.

􀂗 Individual VET organisations should ensure that their equity and diversity policies and strategies

include assessments of the levels of cultural competence required by managers and staff who are

required to comply with and implement these policies and strategies.

􀂗 Where the need has been identified, VET managers and staff should receive professional

development in cultural competence, including cross-cultural training relevant to their roles

and responsibilities.

NCVER 33

􀂗 VET organisations should establish benchmarks for the quality of their cross-cultural training

programs based on the criteria used in this study.

􀂗 Longitudinal evaluations of the contribution of cross-cultural training to VET graduates’

workplace performance should be encouraged.

Industry engagement in cross-cultural training program planning

􀂗 VET organisations should consult with their client industries and enterprises to assess their

requirements for the cultural competence of VET graduates in order to determine whether

adjustments are needed in current programs or if new programs are required.

􀂗 Industry skills councils should be engaged in reviewing industry needs for cultural competence

and cross-cultural training in order to advise future VET policy and planning.

􀂗 VET organisations, state and territory training authorities and industry skills councils should

develop and promote information and advice for employers on cross-cultural training options

and the business case for cultural competence.

Cross-cultural training curriculum and program design

􀂗 The need for cultural competence should be considered in all planning processes related to

curriculum and program development, teaching and learning, and student services.

􀂗 Cross-cultural training program design should address the recommendations of participants

regarding the interactivity, duration, relevance, and modes and styles of teaching.

􀂗 Curricula should recognise that the development of cultural competence is a lifelong process

and include descriptions of learning pathways appropriate to VET qualification levels.

Capacity- and capability-building

􀂗 Where industry consultations confirm increased demand for culturally competent VET

graduates, VET organisations should plan to increase their capacity to provide cross-cultural

training at appropriate levels and to ensure that teaching staff are capable of conducting crosscultural

training.

􀂗 Registers of qualified and experienced cross-cultural training facilitators should be established

and promoted by state and territory VET authorities.

Professional development and resources

􀂗 Introductory train-the-trainer programs should be developed and promoted to VET teachers

and students interested in becoming cross-cultural training facilitators.

􀂗 Professional development programs addressing the areas identified in this study should be

developed and provided for existing cross-cultural training facilitators.

􀂗 A national database or clearing house of existing professional development opportunities and

training resources should be established and maintained by an appropriate government

department or research organisation.

􀂗 Training resources reflecting the Australian context should be developed in the areas identified

in the study.

34 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

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NCVER, Adelaide.

NCVER 35

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36 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Appendix A

Organisations participating in the survey of VET

current practice

Australian Capital Territory

Institute for the Nations, Australia

ACT Corrective Services

New South Wales

National College Australia

YWCA NSW

BCA Training Group

Centrelink

TAFE NSW North Coast Institute

TAFE NSW Hunter Institute

Northern Territory

Arnhemland Progress Association

Employee Assistance Service

Queensland

Academy of Career Training

Mt Isa Community Development Association

NCCL Nova Community Care

Queensland Corrective Services

Training Australia Unlimited Pty Ltd

Diversicare

Royal Brisbane International College

Australian Institute of Management—Qld & NT

South Australia

Department for Families and Communities

TAFE SA South

Personnel Employment

Learning Potential International

Access Training

Cultural Diversity Services Pty Ltd

Equals International

Relationships Australia

Victoria

Box Hill Institute of TAFE

William Angliss Institute of TAFE

Australian Vocational Learning Institute

Kangan Batman Institute of TAFE

International Design School Pty Ltd

Australasian Lawrence Aged Care College

Haley College

Western Australia

Central TAFE

Swan TAFE

Challenger TAFE

Department for Community Development

Diversitat

NCVER 37

Appendix B

Organisations participating in the survey of employers

Service Industries Skills Council

Centrelink Queensland

Electranet

BHP Billiton

Schefenacker Vision Systems Australia Pty Ltd

WorkCover Corporation

Ribloc

Insurance Australia Group

Australia Post Dandenong

Angus Clyne Australia Ltd

Schneider Electrical

Eastern Health

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd

Southern Cross Care

Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council

Elders

Dept of Immigration and Citizenship

St John’s Ambulance

North Metro Area Health Service

Brightwater Care Group (WA)

Public Transport Authority of WA

Codan Pty Ltd

Alzheimer’s Australia (SA)

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

Newmont Mining

Government Skills Australia

Telstra

Primary Industries and Resources (SA)

City of Charles Sturt

Innovation and Business Skills Australia

Maroochy Shire Council

Health Insurance Commission

SA Metropolitan Fire Service

Queensland Police Service

38 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Appendix C

Findings of the survey of VET graduates

a) Profile of survey respondents

Total respondents: 134

Female: 73.1% (98)

Male: 26.9% (36)

Average age: 38 years

Australian born: 65.7% (88)

Overseas born: 34.3% (46)

Born in non-English speaking country: 58.7% (27)

First language English: 84.3% (113)

First language other than English: 15.7% (21)

Employer: Private sector 34.3% (46)

Public sector: 52.2% (70)

Community organisation 10.5% (14)

Other (i.e. student, volunteer) 4.5% (6)

Position: Staff 79.8% (107)

Manager/supervisor 17.2% (23)

Volunteer 3.0% (4)

Works with customers/clients from culturally

diverse backgrounds: 94.8% (127)

Works with culturally diverse co-workers: 87.3% (117)

b) Cross-cultural training experience

Average completed units of competency

including cross-cultural training: 2.5

Average contact hours per unit of competency: 12.6

Average contact hours per survey respondent: 31.5

Recency of cross-cultural training:

Less than 1 year ago 39.1% (50)

1–2 years ago 35.9% (46)

3 years ago 12.5% (16)

NCVER 39

4 years ago 2.3% (3)

5 or more years ago 14.1% (18)

Status of cross-cultural training units:

Core unit or part of a core unit 72% (85)

Elective unit or part of elective unit 16.1% (19)

Special workshops 46.6% (55)

Group projects 11.8% (14)

Work experience assignments 7.6% (9)

Through RPL .07% (1)

Training delivery styles

Combination of lecturing and interactive

discussions and exercises 52.9% (65)

Interactive discussions and exercises 39.0% (48)

Combination of field or project work

and lecturing 22.8% (28)

Table C1 Subject areas included in cross-cultural training programs

Subject area % No.

General cultural awareness and communication 89.3% 117

Working with cultural diversity 72.5% 95

Managing cultural diversity 43.5% 57

Culture-specific: Indigenous 38.2% 50

Culture-specific: multicultural 24.4% 32

Specialised cross-cultural training: e.g. health,

policing, customer service 19.9% 26

Working with interpreters and translators 16.8% 22

Other: teaching English, training diverse groups 4.6% 6

Notes: n = 131

Respondents could choose more than one option.

Table C2 Other experiences contributing to understanding of cultural differences

Experiences % No.

Working in Australia with people from different cultures 78.3% 94

Having friends from different cultures 72.55 87

Having family members from different cultures 41.7% 50

Living overseas 30.2% 47

Learning a language 30.0% 36

Working overseas 27.5% 33

Migrating 26.7% 32

Notes: n = 120

Respondents could choose more than one option.

c) Graduates’ evaluation of cross-cultural training

Respondents rated six key aspects of the cross-cultural training undertaken. A comparison with

the ratings of six identical questions from the 2006 Standing Committee on Immigration and

Multicultural Affairs study (2006) shows similar results for all questions.

40 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Table C3 Comparative evaluations of cross-cultural training programs

Survey question Average SCIMA

rating average

1 Over all, how would you rate the effectiveness of the cross-cultural training trainers? 74% 80%

2 How much did cross-cultural training improve your understanding of workplace

policies and issues regarding cultural diversity? 72% 70%

3 How much did cross-cultural training increase your awareness and knowledge

of the ways in which your own culture influences your thoughts and feelings? 74% 74%

4 How much did cross-cultural training increase your knowledge and understanding

of cross-cultural communication skills? 74% 74%

5 How much did cross-cultural training increase your knowledge and understanding

of the customs, values and beliefs of other cultures? 72% 72%

6 How much did cross-cultural training increase your confidence in dealing with

people from different cultures? 70% 72%

Note: n = 124

Table C4 Comparative satisfaction ratings by mode of training delivery

Mode of cross-cultural

training delivery

Respondents % rating 4 No. % rating 5 No. Total %

Core unit or module 55 45.4% 25 23.6% 13 69.1%

Part of core unit or module 30 40.0% 12 20% 6 60.0%

Elective unit or module 15 33.3% 5 46.6% 7 80.0%

Part of elective unit or module 4 75.0% 3 0 75.0%

Specialised workshop 55 34.5% 19 21.8% 12 56.4%

Notes: n = 124

Respondents could choose more than one option.

Table C5 Comparative satisfaction ratings by style of training delivery

Style of cross-cultural

training delivery

Respondents % rating 4 No. % rating 5 No. Total %

Classroom lecturing 24 37.5% 9 33.3% 8 70.8%

Classroom interactive exercises 48 39.6% 19 33.3% 16 72.9%

Comb. lecturing & interactive 65 38.5% 25 30.8% 20 69.2%

Field work/project work 17 29.4% 5 29.4% 5 58.8%

Comb. fieldwork & classroom 28 21.4% 6 53.55% 15 75.0%

Notes: n = 124

Respondents could choose more than one option.

Table C6 Comparative satisfaction ratings by recency of training completion

Recency of crosscultural

training

Respondents % rating 4 No. % rating 5 No. Total %

Less than 1 year ago 50 28.0% 14 24.0% 12 52.0%

1–2 years ago 46 47.8% 22 17.4% 8 65.2%

3 years ago 15 20.0 % 3 40.0% 6 60.0%

4 years ago 3 66.6% 2 0 66.6%

5 or more years ago 13 38.5% 5 23.1% 3 61.5%

Notes: n = 124

Respondents could choose more than one option.

Best aspects of training

Interaction and discussion 83.3% (100)

Content 65.8% (79)

Trainers’ attributes (style, knowledge and enthusiasm) 52.5% (63)

Guest speakers and panellists 15.8% (19)

NCVER 41

Duration of the cross-cultural training

Appropriate 75% (96)

Too long 2.3% (3)

Too short 22.7% (29)

Recommended ways to improve cross-cultural training

Increase time 49.5% (54)

Decrease time 1.8% (2)

Increase interaction 48.6% (53)

Increase content 46.8% (51)

Provide different content 24.8% (27)

Different training approach/style 23.9% (26)

Different course structure 22.0% (24)

Better trainers 12.8% (14)

d) Contribution of cross-cultural training to workplace performance

The following table compares the importance placed on cultural competence by respondents to this

study and by respondents to the Standing Committee on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

(SCIMA 2006) study.

Table C7 Comparative ratings of the importance of cultural competence

Survey question Average rating SCIMA average

1 How important is it in your work to be able to work effectively

with co-workers from different cultures? 86% 88%

2 How important do you think it is to your manager/s that you are able to

work effectively with co-workers from different cultural backgrounds? 88% 82%

3 How important is it in your work to be able to deal effectively with

customers/clients from different cultures? 90% 88%

4 How important do you think it is to your manager/s that you are able to

work effectively with customers/ clients from different cultural backgrounds? 90% 84%

Overall rating of the contribution of cross-cultural training to job performance: 71.6% (3.58 on 5-point

Likert scale)

Percentage rating overall satisfaction as above average or excellent 57.5%

Percentage rating overall satisfaction as below average or poor 12%

Rating of extent of ability to transfer cross-cultural training learning 61% (3.05 on 5-point

to co-workers: Likert scale)

Percentage rating this as above average or excellent 36.2%

Percentage rating this as average 37.8%

Percentage rating this as above below average or poor 26.1%

e) Demand and recommendations for future cross-cultural training

Would like further cross-cultural training 68.3%

Would recommend cross-cultural training to others 85%

Would not recommend cross-cultural training to others 10%

Are not sure if would recommend cross-cultural training to others 5%

Believe cross-cultural training should be compulsory for all employees 81%

in organisation

Believe cross-cultural training should be compulsory for all employees in

organisation who are in customer or client service positions 89.3%

42 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Appendix D

Findings of survey of current practice in cross-cultural

training in vocational education and training

a) Profile of respondents

Responding VET organisations: (See appendix A) 38

Individual respondents:

Responses to Part A: Survey of current cross-cultural 61

training practice in VET organisations 57

Responses to Part B: Survey of cross-cultural trainers 31

Location: Australian Capital Territory 3.5%

New South Wales 26.3%

Northern Territory 3.5%

Queensland 17.5%

South Australia 33.3%

Tasmania 0

Victoria 8.8%

Western Australia 7.0%

Size of workforces: 25 or less employees 32.1%

26–100 8.9%

101–500 6.1%

501–1000 1.8%

1001–5000 26.8%

5001–10000 10.7%

20 000 or more 3.6%

Position of respondents: Manager 75%

Teacher, coordinator, project officer 25%

b) Cross-cultural training practice

Table D1 Modes of cross-cultural training delivery

Mode % No.

Classroom teaching 74.8% 41

Specialised training workshops 65.4% 36

External projects e.g. field work 43.6% 24

Distance or e-learning 38.2% 21

Mentoring 29.1% 16

Coaching 23.6% 13

Informal workplace learning/induction 10.9% 6

Notes: n = 55

Respondents could choose more than one option.

NCVER 43

Table D2 Learning objectives of cross-cultural training compared with SCIMIA study

Learning objective % No. SCIMA %

To improve service to culturally diverse customers 98.2% 54 91.6%

To improve workplace communication and relationships 94.5% 52 64.2%

To improve community relationships 60.0% 33 54.7%

To improve compliance, equal opportunity/discrimination 58.2% 32 45.3%

To improve marketing to culturally diverse customers 41.8% 23 33.0%

To improve capacity to work internationally 2.7% 18 21.0%

Other: confront racism, improve language and settlement 12.7% 7 N/A

Notes: n = 55

Respondents could choose more than one option.

44 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Appendix E

Findings of survey of employers

a) Profile of respondents

Respondents: 34 (see appendix B)

Private sector: 18

Public sector: 16

ANZSIC (Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification) industry classifications

represented: agriculture, mining, manufacturing, electricity and water supply, wholesale trade,

transport, communication services, finance, government and health and community services.

Head offices: South Australia 10

New South Wales 5

Victoria 5

Western Australia 5

Australian Capital Territory 4

Queensland 2

Tasmania 1

Germany 1

France 1

Size of workforce: Fewer than 500 20%

501–10 000 55%

20 000 or more 25%

Position of respondents: Senior executives 25%

Middle managers 50%

Training or HR managers 25%

b) Importance and perceived benefits of cultural competence to employers

Importance of employee cultural competence for

working with culturally diverse clients and customers: 86% (4.3 on 5-point Likert scale)

Public sector rating: 90% (4.5)

Private sector rating 78% (3.9)

Importance of employee cultural competence for

working with culturally diverse co-workers: 80% (4.0 on 5-point Likert scale)

Public sector rating: 85% (4.25)

Private sector rating: 76% (3.8)

NCVER 45

Table E1 Comparison of ratings of importance of employee cultural competence for working with

culturally diverse customers and co-workers

Importance VET VET graduates Employers SCIMA employers SCIMA participants

Customers 4.7 4.5 4.3 4.2 4.3

Co-workers 4.4 4.3 4.0 4.1 4.3

Note: Ratings on a Likert scale of 1–5

Table E2 Inclusion of cultural competence in human resource management practices

HR practice Private sector Public sector Total

% No. % No. % No.

Cultural competence included in

recruitment specifications 44.4% 8 25% 4 35.3% 12

Cultural competence included in

career development strategies 77.8% 14 62.5% 10 70.5% 24

Cultural competence included in

performance appraisal 44.5% 8 50.0% 8 47.0% 16

Note: n = 34

Table E3 Workplace benefits attributed to graduates’ cultural competence

Workplace benefit No. %

Improved customer service 14 41.2%

Increased cultural self-awareness 10 29.4%

Improved workplace communication & relationships 9 26.4%

Improved compliance with EO & discrimination laws 9 26.4%

Improved compliance with access & equity policies 8 23.5%

Improved community relations 5 14.7%

Improved marketing to culturally diverse customers 3 8.8%

Improved skills to work internationally 3 8.8%

Note: n = 34

c) Current and planned cross-cultural training activity

Organisations conducting cross-cultural training for employees: 27 (79.4%)

Private sector: 66.6%

Public sector: 93.7%

Types of cross-cultural training provided to employees: Percentage of organisations

General cultural awareness 50%

Multicultural culture specific training 47%

Indigenous cultural awareness 32.4%

Specialised e.g. customer service training 32.4%

Working with interpreters and translators 29.4%

Managing cultural diversity 26.4%

46 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

Table E4 Organisational estimates of demand for job applicants and existing employees to be able

to demonstrate cultural competence will increase or decrease over the next five years

Private Public Total % private % public % total

Greatly decrease 0 0 0 0 0 0

Decrease 0 0 0 0 0

Stay same 5 5 10 27.8 31.3 29.4

Increase 10 9 19 55.5 56.2 55.9

Greatly increase 3 2 5 16.7 12.5 14.7

Total 34 100.0 100.0 100.0

Table E5 Organisations planning to provide cross-cultural training to employees in the next five years

Private Public Total % private % public % total

No 1 0 1 5.6 0 3.0

Don’t know 0 1 1 0 6.25 3.0

Yes 17 15 32 94.4 93.75 94.0

Total 34 100.0 100.0 100.0

Table E6 Other employer strategies for developing employee cultural competence

Strategy % of employers No. of employers

Building cultural awareness into other training 58.8% 20

Providing mentoring or coaching programs 44.1% 15

Recruiting more staff from culturally diverse backgrounds 52.9% 18

Developing policies & procedures for culturally inclusive work

practices

38.2% 13

Other: e.g succession planning, improved use of language

services, helping clients deal with overseas customers.

20.6% 7

d) Positioning of cross-cultural training in VET and the workplace

Table E7 Comparison of percentages of employers and VET graduates who believe cross-cultural

training should be mandatory for all employees in their organisation

Private Public Total % private % public % total % VET

graduates

Av. %

No 10 4 14 55.6 25.0 41.2 9.1 25.1

Don’t know 2 2 4 11.1 12.5 11.8 9.9 10.8

Yes 6 10 16 33.3 62.5 47.0 81.0 64.0

Total 34 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 99.9

NCVER 47

Table E8 Comparison of percentages of employers and VET graduates who believe cross-cultural

training should be mandatory for all employees in their organisation in customer contact roles

Private Public Total % private % public % total %VET

graduates

Av. %

No 3 0 3 16.7 0 8.8 5.7 7.3

Don’t know 3 1 4 16.7 6.3 11.8 5.0 8.3

Yes 12 15 27 66.6 93.7 79.4 89.3 84.3

Total 34 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 99.9

48 Cross-cultural training and workplace performance

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