Globalization is an outright reality in the 21st century and has resulted in an ever-growing social complexity arising from the increasing integration of culture, politics, and technology, social and business processes that lead to an unpredictable, ambiguous, and an ever-changing context that everyone needs to face. This global integration has necessitated the need to develop competencies within individuals to enable them to thrive in a complex, globalized environment (Mendenhall, Stevens, Bird, Oddou, & Osland, 2008). Educators have taken up the task to develop these competencies within their students since the learning institutions are a true reflection of the intercultural integration with students from different parts of the world. The business world has also embraced the development of these competencies within their organizations to give them leverage when conducting inter-border businesses. Considering the importance these competencies play in intercultural integration, this paper aims at evaluating individual intercultural effectiveness for competencies and how to strengthen them.
Competency is defined as the underlying ability of a person that enables them to portray effective and superior performance in a given situation. The Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) analyses three major dimensions of intercultural adaptability, with each of the dimension consisting of two sub-dimensions. The three main dimensions are, first, continuous learning which consists of sub-dimensions as exploration and self-awareness. Second is interpersonal engagement with a global mindset and relationship interest as the sub-dimensions. The third is hardiness with the sub-dimensions being positive regard and resilience. The six sub-dimensions are combined to generate the overall IES score. To examine the competency in each of the three main dimensions, the sub-dimensions are combined on the criterion of higher and lower scales, higher representing strength and lower weakness in the particular dimension. At the end of it all, each ones competency profile on strengths and weakness is unique depending on ones personality and other environmental contributions. It is these competencies that are responsible for peoples behavioral tendencies on how they respond to situations or interact with other people.
The combination of competencies largely determines an individuals ability on intercultural effectiveness in integration. Certain situations require certain means of approach which is determined by a particular combination of competencies. For instance, a student attending school in a foreign country for the first time would feel anxious about the new environment and people and would probably experience loneliness to some degree. In such a situation, competence in hardiness would be at test. The ability of the student to effectively come through the condition of anxiety will be determined by how he or she combines the aspects of positive regard and resilience within him. A possible combination of higher resilience and higher positive regard would bring out a competency that allows him to view the new situation not as a challenge that he has to deal with, but as a learning opportunity. On the other hand, a combination of lower resilience and lower positive regard would result in a weakness in competence since the student would be unwilling to venture into the new environment as this results in stress for them and are more comfortable in status quo. Similarly, the other combinations bring forth either a strong competence resulting from merging the two sub-dimensions or a weak competence and this dictates strengths and weakness in the IES evaluation.
The good news about competencies is that they can be developed and the weak ones strengthened to improve ones ability to cope. This is what educators and other management personnel should focus on in establishing an intercultural integration program for competence development. This can only be effectively achieved first through individual development which then will trickle down to the society. Individual development will be achieved through various means. These include experiential learning and reflection, an individuals willingness to learn and transform, exposure to challenging cross-cultural scenarios, engaging in extensive practice, and most of all, self-motivation. For students, the institutions offer many opportunities that can contribute greatly to the development of competencies. When engaging in group discussions, social activities such as games and other extra-curricular activities, one can grow his competence by exercising knowledge acquired through the development process. People can also form groups comprised of individuals from different cultural backgrounds with the sole agenda of improving intercultural competencies among them. Where there are willingness and self-motivation, development is assured.
The Intercultural Effectiveness Scale survey is an incredible tool for evaluating ones competence. The design contains some strengths and limitations in conveying survey results. One of the strengths is the ability of the design to combine different dimensions to bring out competencies that significantly defines the traits of people. The survey also utilizes dimensions that appropriately reflect the reality of an intercultural situation, such as exploration and self-awareness, positive regard and resilience. The survey also uses a sample of individuals from different backgrounds in education, age, gender, race, world region, and work experience making it all-inclusive. However, the survey has a weakness. This is in its limitation of other possible dimensions that determine competence such as talents.
Mendenhall, M., Stevens, M., Bird, A., Oddou, G., & Osland, J. (2008). Specification of the content domain of the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale. The Kozai monograph series, 1(2), 1-22.
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