Intercultural/Valuing Differences Approach

This type of training is the most common approach to inclusiveness training in the workplace. It addresses individuals' cultural identities and relationships between cultural groups. It also stresses the importance of people within cultural groups learning to identify differences among cultural groups. Some trainers ask trainees to look at beliefs and behaviors of specific groups; others explore general tendencies of groups to be biased, prejudicial, and/or discriminatory toward other groups. In many cases, the focus is not only on identifying cultural differences but also on valuing those differences. (See Bibliography: Shapiro)

The Spring Institute describes intercultural training this way: "Participants attending a cross-cultural training seminar will develop an increased awareness of cultural values and norms and their impact on the workplace; understand the impact of culture on companies, both in the U.S. and in other countries; [and] build skills to help meet the challenges of communicating across cultures and working in different cultural environments." (See Bibliography: DeRosa)

Most intercultural approaches start with individuals identifying their own cultural backgrounds and exploring their personal, cultural histories as a tool for better understanding how culture affects interpersonal relationships. If time allows, the intercultural approach will typically evolve into discussions about cultural identification and similarities and differences among groups. Some intercultural programs then progress into discussions about valuing cultural differences.

This approach is not monolithic in how it approaches the question of whether to focus on similarities and/or differences. Some intercultural trainers emphasize similarities between cultures and downplay cultural differences. They tend to do so in much the same way that people who believe in the "American melting pot" emphasize that the most important aspect of identity in the U.S. is that all citizens are Americans and not "African Americans" or "Native Americans" and so on. Other trainers focus on cultural differences as well as similarities. Importantly, they emphasize that cultural differences are normal and, when managed effectively, can greatly enhance an organization's workplace and productivity.


Overview: Training Approaches

Anti-Racism Approach

Prejudice Reduction Approach  

Benefits and Limitations of Training Approaches

Selecting a Training Approach