For business success in the international arena, intercultural competencies are indispensable. Today, knowing how to manage in culturally different business environments is crucial.

These five intercultural competencies should be a part of every employee’s skill set:

  • Intercultural sensitivity
  • Intercultural communication
  • Building commitment
  • Managing uncertainty
  • International orientation

Competence 1: Intercultural Sensitivity


The ability to recognize multiple perspectives of an event or behavior, to recognize one’s own cultural values and those of others, and to pick up on verbal and nonverbal signals.

Why is intercultural sensitivity necessary for working in an intercultural environment?

Intercultural sensitivity is necessary in order to understand that one’s own preferred way of doing things is but one of several possible approaches, and that other cultures may have different perspectives and preferences. The ability to recognize the needs of listeners through verbal and nonverbal signals in communication helps to empathize with culturally different others and to adjust to different ways of communicating.

Competence 2: Intercultural Communication

The ability to adjust one’s communication style to the communicative needs of people from other cultures.

We assume that intercultural communication is based on the understanding that the communicative needs of culturally different others are influenced by their culture-specific norms for expressing themselves and are thus likely to differ from one’s own cultural norms. Intercultural communication is furthermore based on the ability to foresee the expectations and evaluations of culturally different others.

Intercultural communication may show up in a number of ways: As the ability to effectively explain, describe and convey messages to people from other cultures, to modulate degrees of directness in face-threatening situations (e.g., when instructing and giving feedback), and to check our understanding of what others are trying to tell us.

Intercultural communication differs from Intercultural sensitivity in that it refers to actual behaviors in communicative situations. We call it intercultural communication to indicate that it depends on how flexible people are in adapting to communicative requirements that differ from those of their home culture.

Competence 3: Building Commitment


The ability to stimulate interaction and cooperation between people, and to take the lead while at the same time keeping others on board. It involves sensitivity to the dynamics within larger groups of people inside and outside the organization, an understanding of these dynamics and the ability to benefit from them.

Competence 4: Managing Uncertainty

The ability to manage the greater uncertainty of intercultural and international situations. The ability to respond flexibly and work effectively with new people in intercultural situations.

Preference for certainty refers to a tendency to avoid uncertain, unfamiliar and unpredictable situations and environments. Managing uncertainty is particularly related to the ability to adapt to new, uncertain and unfamiliar situations.

Competence 5: International orientation

The ability to see the world as a workplace. To accept extra efforts and set-backs when working in other cultures as a matter of course. To actively search for international business and explore international markets. The ability to secure business in various countries in a relatively short period of time.