Candidates with intercultural skills have an advantage in the jobs market, global research finds

Intercultural skills are now as valued by employers as formal qualifications, according to research by the British Council and Ipsos Public Affairs.

The survey of employers in public, private, and non-profit organisations in nine countries found that candidates who can demonstrate intercultural skills and formal qualifications have a distinct advantage in the jobs market.

It discovered that companies see a clear value in having staff that can work effectively with individuals and organisations with different cultural backgrounds to their own.

Organisations whose employees lack intercultural skills are more exposed to a variety of risks, according to the study.

When asked, the employers defined intercultural skills as the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints; demonstrate respect for others; and offer knowledge of a foreign language.

They said that employees with those skills were of value as they were more likely to bring in new clients, work well in diverse teams, and positively support their organisation's brand and reputation.

Employees without those attributes were thought to leave organisations susceptible to risks including loss of clients, damage to reputation, and conflict within teams.

However, despite the demand for these skills, most respondents said that there is not sufficient focus on intercultural fluency in education in their country.

Employers also admitted that they inadequately screen for intercultural competence when they are looking for new workers, despite its importance.

The researchers concluded that candidates who can demonstrate to interviewers they have intercultural skills, as well as formal qualifications, have an advantage when applying for jobs.

Clifford Young of Ipsos Public Affairs said: "In an increasingly globalised world, the market is demanding more than hard skills.

"The three Rs - reading, writing, and arithmetic - are just the necessary condition to enter into the workforce. Now employees need to know how to work in teams, communicate, and most importantly as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, they need to have the skills to negotiate different social and cultural environments.

"Our research shows a clear demand for these skills amongst employers globally."

Copyright Press Association 2013