What Is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is a set of practices, attitudes and procedures that enable agencies, organizations and businesspeople to effectively interact with other cultures. Components of cultural competence include cross-cultural skills, personal worldview of one's own culture, view of cultural differences and knowledge of other cultural practices.

The practice of cultural competence is especially prevalent within the fields of health care, education and human resources and in nonprofit organizations. The concept was first promoted by health care professionals who recognized the importance of being able to communicate effectively with migrant workers, immigrants and refugees in order to administer life-saving care. In the education field, cultural proficiency is vital for communicating with students and their families and helping students from different cultures succeed academically.

In the workplace, cultural competence is closely related to an emphasis on diversity. Valuing diversity includes acknowledging the different ways in which members of various cultures communicate, think and behave and integrating those differences in a way that makes underrepresented members feel valued and included within an organization. Practicing cultural competence creates better communication despite speech barriers and fosters culturally aware motivation strategies and a better understanding of others' perspectives and behaviors, according to the author of "Bridging Cultural Barriers for Corporate Success," Sondra Theiederman.