Communities change with or without your observation or permission. Just because the services you offer were ideal for the community a decade ago does not mean they remain ideal today. The first step to being a Culturally Competent organisation is to know the culture of your community.
Usually this information is right at your fingertips in the form of data collected on a daily basis from visitors, customers, or patients. Simple analysis of this data can be revealing when it comes to the cultural and ethnic make-up of the community around you.
Another good idea is to establish a community outreach office or officer. This person or department would be responsible for being in touch with community leaders for the purpose of discussing the needs and preferences of your customers or patients. Direct, no-nonsense communication such as this guarantees that the needs of the community are made clear.
The Competency Plan
Once you have the information, the next step is to make a plan. A plan with a goal of cultural competence should have three broad categories:
1. Education. For both management and staff. This involves education about the types of cultural groups your organisation deals with and their individual beliefs or requirements as it effects both polite interactions and the specific services or products your organisation offers.
2. Linguistic Professionals. If part of the challenge to your cultural competence is a language barrier, the establishment of a bilingual staff program or the hiring of high quality translation professionals can be a great step. Cultural competence requires understanding and two-way communication, and having staff trained in document translation and interpreting skills can be a huge step forward.
3. Integration. Once the needs and concerns of the community’s cultural groups are explored and known, they must be integrated into your organisation in an organic way, as part of the day-to-day offerings and guidelines all staff are familiar with. Simply knowing what’s desired isn’t enough – this knowledge has to then be leveraged into appropriate actions.
Take this challenge today: find out if your organisation is culturally competent – and take steps if you find it is not.