By Maria Collar

Diversity and cultural competence is at the core of high-quality customer-centered services and directly impacts effectiveness. When we realize the value of challenging disparities, our efforts are focused on enabling equality and, as a result, outcomes recognize the diverse needs of our unique customers.

In times of higher accountability standards and economic uncertainty, developing result-driven practices effective at addressing the increasingly diverse needs of customers has become more important than ever before. Navigating through the different challenges requires creating powerful strategies appropriate for serving the increasingly diverse needs of a multicultural population. How else would leaders reach their customers if not through culturally and contextually appropriate customer-centered services? To successfully identify the increasingly diverse needs of the multicultural populations served, leaders must develop diversity and cultural competence.

However, diversity and cultural competence is often disregarded or discounted when, in fact, it holds considerable potential for influencing effectiveness. Most leaders ignore the fact that diversity and cultural competence is necessary for business to thrive. When leaders choose to view differences as resources rather than obstacles, efforts are concentrated on integrating rather than polarizing values, which results in better business decisions. By eliminating disparities, leaders drive transformational change throughout the entity and better respond to the needs of customers.

Developing diversity and cultural competence in our multicultural world implies a heightened awareness of cultural factors that have an important significance. It involves an ongoing process of continuously striving to work effectively within diverse contexts by integrating cultural awareness, cultural knowledge, and cultural skills into the business process.

Today, given the nature of our melting-pot society, the term diversity encompasses initiatives that are less affirmative action-oriented in that they value and manage diversity. Valuing diversity acknowledges and recognizes the uniqueness of each individual, whereas managing diversity emphasizes inclusion through the development of strategies, policies, procedures, and objectives that invite and support the unique contributions of every single individual.

An understanding of each person’s unique needs and contributions allow us to take into account the broad personal fields across ethnic and cultural lines. Effective implementation of both diversity and inclusion strategies requires an effort to change corporate culture and attitudes. Workplace inclusion recognizes the distinct values of and therefore effectively manages, the ethnic, socio-economic, and gender variety within and between entities. Indeed, acknowledging our unique differences opens the door for inclusion while equality demands diversity.

To help meet the needs of equality:

  1. Promote cultural sensitivity initiatives throughout the entity. Advocate for programs that help advance cultural competence and sensitivity throughout the entity.
  2. Promote bilateral communication and collaboration. Seek to communicate using the language of diversity. Establish strategies designed to empower diverse individuals with unique needs to gain a robust voice, regardless of differences.
  3. Promote and support diversity within the workforce. Programs and efforts should ensure diversity. Pursue appropriate supporting services uniquely tailored to address the increasingly diverse needs of multicultural individuals.
  4. Promote practices, policies, and procedures that include an understanding of others’ worldviews. Develop an understanding of cultural values in a way that appreciates the importance of multicultural identities in the world today. Stimulate multicultural knowledge through educational training and experiences that improve everyone’s understanding of cultural differences.
  5. Promote an environment in which differences are respected and included. Develop approaches that reflect an understanding of multicultural values in the business process. Actively seek to empower diverse individuals with unique needs by creating a nurturing environment in which all members feel authentically valued and integrated.

Mastery of appropriate techniques and strategies is a purposely results-driven process designed to better support the business process through cultural competence. Entities that embrace diversity and inclusion provide superior services for their customers. When diversity and inclusion are present, trust is enhanced, customers are more willing to seek services, and employees benefit from a highly engaging work environment.

Maria Collar is Chief Consultant of Serendipity Consulting Services and is the author of “Acting as One: Unleashing our Collective Creativity.” To learn more about her work, visit