Importance of Cultural Intelligence in Creating Truly Global Workplaces

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Organizations today can’t exist in silos. Technology has enabled a well-connected world that translates to global business opportunities for firms. Tapping into global markets requires hiring and retaining people from other cultural and national backgrounds. Before we look at the benefits of cultural intelligence, let’s look at its meaning.

Cultural Intelligence Defined

Cultural intelligence, also known as cultural quotient (CQ), refers to the ability of an individual to comprehend foreign cultural practices in a similar fashion as would persons from that culture. This intelligence, at a broader level, refers to the capability to work in different cultural contexts such as “ethnic, generational and organizational cultures.

According to Dr. David Livermore, who wrote The Cultural Intelligence Difference, CQ can be gained by first developing an interest in excelling in diverse cultural environments, understanding what makes cultures similar or different, progressing to analyzing one’s reactions or possible biases in culturally diverse experiences, and finally adapting one’s behaviour in different cultural situations by keeping true to oneself.

Some ways in which cultural intelligence can be practised is by interacting with colleagues from different cultures, modifying the pace of your speech to be understood by people from different language backgrounds, saying the names of customers or colleagues from different cultures correctly, and refraining from passing judgments on others’ appearance or way of speaking. Having gained a broad understanding of cultural intelligence, we can now appreciate its benefits in organizations striving to be global.

Budding Relationships

Looking at Millennials and Gen Z (the employees who will potentially lead the workplaces in the future), they are more likely to switch between jobs and workplaces than other generations, with 52 per cent of Millennials likely to have two to five employers in their lifetime, according to a poll by Gallup. Good relationships can boost engagement between employees. Measures for improved cultural intelligence will ensure the development of relationships between cross-cultural employees in hopes of better employee retention.

Improved Adaptability

Immersing oneself in multicultural environments provides opportunities to increase adaptability. Organizations with employees from different cultures can rely on CQ to present their employees with the chance to embody adaptability in their daily work lives. Knowing how to interact with a customer from a remote part of the world based on a cache of past behaviors is an example of adaptable behaviour.

Competitive Advantage

Firms that enhance cultural awareness and assimilation are on the right path of business success. According to a 2015 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 90 per cent of surveyed executives in top firms in 68 countries understood cross-cultural skills as crucial for gaining competitiveness. Teams with high CQ witness better communication, collaboration and resulting performance. SHRM also highlighted that Fortune 500 firms emphasized extending into emerging markets in the next decade as a key advantage in global business. High CQ firms are able to excel at innovation and new product development as they can incorporate varied perspectives and insights from a global workforce, thereby improving their profitability.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer

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