Intercultural competence in European international management

Author: Marian van Bakel

Following up on my previous blog about intercultural competence, I now would like to highlight some recent research that has been published on the topic in a special issue in the European Journal of International Management.

The European context
With 259 million immigrants worldwide [1], workplaces and societies are internationalising and more and more people need to be able to navigate this new reality – even when not living abroad themselves. This is especially relevant in the European context with its free movement of workers. In 2017, 8.8 million EU citizens worked in another EU country; this is an increase of 61% since 2007. This international flavour is permeating not only workplaces but society in general, and we need to develop the intercultural ‘competencies that societies and economies need, today and tomorrow’ [2].

Measuring intercultural competence: still a challenge
Many different ways of measuring (part of) intercultural competence have been designed [3] and are still being developed. Many of these approaches are quantitative in nature, but more qualitative approaches are starting to be introduced as well. The article by Vas Taras focuses on measurement approaches and instruments. A valid and reliable measurement of intercultural competencies is important for empirical research, yet also for business practice, for instance, when it comes to the selection of employees. The article I contributed to (by Richter et al.) focused on the newly developed extended version of the frequently used CQ scale. Our study shows that a more fine-grained measurement instrument can help theoretical advancement.

A bicultural background
Two articles in the special issue zoomed in on individuals with a bi-cultural background. First, the article by Szymanski and Ipek analyse creativity and leadership behaviour of football (soccer) players competing in the English Premier League. They show positive effects of a bi-cultural background, but they also introduce potential negative effects, such as the stress experienced by these individuals. Second, the article by de Waal and Born focused on Third Culture Kids. TCKs are people who, in the period between 0 and 18 years of age, have lived in another culture than the passport culture of their parents [4]. The authors compare TCKs to their non-cross-cultural counterparts in terms of multicultural personality as well as intercultural competencies and examine the effect of these on their preferred leadership style.

Future research in intercultural competence
More research is always a good idea, especially on such an important topic as intercultural competence. For inspiration, researchers – especially the ones newer to the field – can turn to the article by Yari et al. which generates an excellent overview of the research landscape, and it draws the attention to potential areas for future research.

[1] United Nations (2017) International Migration Report, New York.
[2] UNESCO (2015) Rethinking education: towards a global common good? Available online at:
[3] Fantini, A.E. (2009) ‘Assessing intercultural competence: issues and tools’, in Deardorff, D.K. (Ed.): The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
[4] Pollock, D.C., Van Ruth, E.R. and Van Reken, R.E. (2009) Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds, Nicholas Brealey Pub