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By Kimie Tonge  


How ‘The Way Things are Done Around Here’ Can Affect a Workforce Project 
We often hear “it’s the way things are done around here” when entering a space with a group of people who live in the same place or with similar characteristics, this common phrase can be viewed as an obstacle or an advantage.  

It describes culture in a nutshell.  Culture is the thoughts of the people, their values and beliefs in politics, race, gender, religion, and economics. This is why cultural awareness plays a significant role in any human-centered or people focused project.  

Consider rewording to something like: In projects centered around workforce, the human aspect is typically a primary consideration during both the planning and implementation stages, playing a crucial role in determining the project's success. By considering aspects of the community - including its language, how it receives its information, who influences its people, barriers, or simply what is taboo - may be the deciding factor between a project’s failure or its success.  


Getting the Word Around 

A workforce project’s goal usually involves a set number of participants or clients to be served, it must discover the most impactful communication medium to engage with clients. This determines how information is shared or received between the project team and clients, or potential clients.  

How do you reach your target audience within their local culture? To effectively reach the target audience and ensure the success of a workforce project, it is necessary to identify the target audience and utilize the most influential communication channels within their local cultural context, the morning news may be where most people receive their updates, or the local radio talk show, radio ads, billboards, flyers the newspaper, or social media.  


The Expression of Culture  
Language is often considered the most important aspects of culture. It is how people communicate with each other and build community. In the context of a workforce project, where information sharing is vital, the choice of language(s) used becomes critical. Some communities speak multiple languages, the language spoken may vary by area.  In areas where communities speak multiple languages, mass communication should appropriately mirror this diversity.  

The staff for this project would also need to emulate this aspect of the culture, especially the frontline staff. It may be a requirement that they speak the language(s) of the community. How the frontline staff is perceived may have another significant influence on the project. A workforce project’s success optics matter.  

The individual who represents the project, especially those who are not a part of the culture, should be cautious in their use of slang to prevent any semblance of imitation.

The attire that an individual wears must also be considered, according to Why we can’t all get away with wearing designer clothes written by Rucker and Cannon, persons observing individuals who wear luxury brands are viewed more negatively and often perceived to be 'cold' or 'seeking to show off to impress others.' This aspect of personal presentation must be considered to ensure positive engagement with the community.


The Community’s Unspoken Norms and Rules 
Learning about a community’s history may sound like an afterthought, until an issue arises where historical context would have explained the community reaction. Gaining a general idea about the community’s unspoken norms and rules can inform individuals on how an area’s history drives its community’s emotion towards a specific subject.  

A community’s history that has involved racism and economic exploitation would not respond well to a specific race being representative of a project. The hiring of the employees who reflect the community it serves helps to build trust between the client and project, encourages local perspectives, community partnerships, and increases community representation and engagement.


The Power of Influence 
Political culture is seen as the set of attitudes, practices, beliefs, and values that shape political behavior and judgment.  It should reflect the type of government and incorporate key elements of the history and traditions of previous regimes.  

Local governance refers to the way local decisions are made and implemented, as the project begins to take action, it will begin to impact more people. There are individuals who will have power and influence on the project and those who people look to drive their decisions. A project's success can be adversely affected if influential individuals speak negatively about it, or if there is a spread of conspiracy theories. It is important to identify community members who could be supporters or who could impede the project.

Project stakeholders could be electives, the press or interest groups. The stakeholders can provide benefits as an advisor would such providing input on how to better the project, gain resources, and inclusivity. They could advise on the cultural aspects of the culture that are important and need to be considered when planning and implementing the project. They can advise on language often used in culture, the community’s preferred mass communication, a community’s mistrust of an employer (based on what employer is known for), other projects with duplicative goals, and when to schedule major outreach or training so it does not conflict during local celebrations.  


Transportation is Accessibility to Opportunities  
According to the report, Transportation: A Community Driver of Health written by Atherton, Schweninger and Edmunds, access to transportation plays a direct part in allowing vulnerable populations to have access to resources, including those in communities of color, older adults living independently, veterans, people living with disabilities, and low-wealth rural, urban, and tribal communities.  

In a workforce program social and financial equity plays a major role, access to transportation is a way to reach equity when providing services and increasing opportunities. A service location should be at a geographical location where commuting is possible through public transportation.  Setting up services in remote areas may be at a disadvantage to individuals who do not have personal motorized transportation.

*The opinions expressed in this editorial are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CYAI, ICF, or their affiliates.*