Best Practice Cultural Intelligence Training

Best Practice Cultural Intelligence Training

by Felicity Menzies

Cultural Intelligence training develops four competencies necessary for effectiveness in diverse cultural settings:

CQ Drive involves the development of interest, self-confidence, and perseverance in intercultural interactions.

CQ Knowledge involves the acquisition of information about cultural differences and an understanding of the nature of culture and its implications for one’s own and others’ behaviours.

CQ Strategy involves the development of a flexible and well-developed mental capacity for detecting, understanding, and responding to cultural differences.

CQ Action involves the development of a repertoire of verbal and nonverbal behaviours that can be applied flexibly and appropriately across diverse cultural settings.

Best practice Cultural Intelligence training

Effective Cultural Intelligence training should include:

1. Needs assessment

Cultural Intelligence training should be tailored to meet the developmental needs of the participants. Consideration is given to:

  • CQ Assessment: this online questionnaire measures a person’s current overall Cultural Intelligence and strengths and weaknesses across the four main competencies and eleven sub-competencies.
  • Career development plans: CQ training for potential global leaders should begin early in their careers.
  • Nature of intercultural exchange: more intensive training is required for individuals who engage in frequent, critical (more at stake), and complex (greater cultural difference) exchanges with diverse others.
  • Propensity for Cultural Intelligence: individuals who are open to experience, are extroverted, are emotionally stable, have a low need for control, hold a minority status, or possess high cultural capital (for example, pro-diversity values acquired from their parents) respond faster to training and develop higher levels of Cultural Intelligence.
  • Attitude: some participants are enthusiastic and eager. Others feel they are already culturally sensitive or simply do not perceive cultural differences to be relevant. Members of dominant groups may be suspicious of Cultural Intelligence training, mistaking it as an accusation of prejudice. And members of marginalised groups may be concerned they will become the ‘subject’ of training. These concerns can trigger resistance or disengagement.
2. Activity-based instruction

The best learning occurs when a person practices and reflects on their use of newly acquired skills. Activity-based instruction is ideally suited for Cultural Intelligence training because it develops tacit skills. These skills include suspending judgement, alternative perspective taking, making culturally relevant attributions, checking assumptions, and responding appropriately. Activity-based instruction engages learners mentally, emotionally, and behaviourally, which aligns more closely with the realities and complexities of intercultural exchanges.

3. Real-life challenges

Learning motivation increases when training is relevant to the trainees’ life. Cultural Intelligence training must incorporate the real-life challenges of the trainees.

4. Collaborative learning

Cultural Intelligence develops with an intentional, critical, and unbiased examination of one’s worldviews. While private reflection can be useful, group reflection encourages a deeper analysis, a broader information search, and attempts to reconcile or synthesise conflicting viewpoints that lead eventually to a new understanding. Group dialogue also ensures that new concepts, information, and ideas are understood, and enhances outcomes by identifying areas or issues that an individual may have missed.

5. Exercises based on sociological theory

Early diversity programs have been criticised for heightening intergroup tensions, but the risks associated with diversity training have been linked to ill-designed programs. Cultural Intelligence training improves the effectiveness of diversity training by including social psychological theory and empirical research on intergroup relations into the program’s design.

6. A safe and inclusive environment

Some trainees worry they will be caught out or negatively judged for making a politically incorrect, racist, or ignorant comment.

Also, Cultural Intelligence training challenges self-identities core to self-esteem. Self-identities are rigid and resistant to change. When people feel their core belief system or identity is under attack or scrutiny they can become anxious, angry, and defensive.

Moderate anxiety is most conducive to learning: too much or too little is demotivating. The best learning outcomes occur when individuals are challenged beyond their comfort zones, but not so far that they panic.

Acknowledging up front that the content and activities in Cultural Intelligence training can be confrontational and anxiety-provoking helps to create a sense of safety. Setting ground rules for interaction can ease concerns of retaliation or of being on the receiving end of offensive statements. Emphasising the psychological and sociocultural nature of prejudice and discrimination can help by positioning negative intergroup attitudes and behaviours as a societal problem instead of a personality flaw.

The facilitator can also nurture safety by modelling respect, acceptance, honesty, personal disclosure, and introspection.

In addition, anonymous questioning can promote safety and can be phased out as group trust increases.

7. Inclusion

Cultural Intelligence training based on a broad definition of culture (rather than stereotyped groups) reinforces the complex, multifaceted, and overlapping nature of cultural identity and ensures that every trainee can relate personally to the program content.

Facilitators can foster inclusion and equality by actively encouraging all trainees to participate.

8. Managing trainee diversity

Research suggests that multicultural classrooms can be a double-edged sword: trainee diversity can be a resource for cultural learning, but it needs to be carefully managed to avoid negative group processes that can lead to conflict. Unless classroom tensions are effectively managed, negative outcomes might include emotions such as frustration, fear, confusion, and the strengthening of stereotypes and prejudices.

Ascertaining the cultural similarities and differences in the group prior to training highlights areas of potential conflict or subgroup formation. This information can help facilitators establish effective learning partnerships or multicultural networks and teams for group activities and discussions.

9. Skilled facilitators

Cultural Intelligence trainers must have expert knowledge of cultural competency, diversity and inclusion, and the Cultural Intelligence model and assessment process.

They must have experience and knowledge in training diverse groups, training across cultures, adult learning, and coaching.

And they must display high levels of Cultural Intelligence across all four competencies: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action.

10. Organisational support

The successful transfer of learning outcomes back to the job will not occur unless the wider organisational environment supports, promotes, and recognises the new knowledge, skills, and attitudes acquired in training.

Organisational support for Cultural Intelligence can be demonstrated by linking Cultural Intelligence to the organisation’s strategic objectives; emphasising Cultural Intelligence as a critical human resource competency in communications, promotion, and selection; committing resources for driving, promoting, and rewarding diversity and inclusion and Cultural Intelligence development and achievements; and the modelling of high Cultural Intelligence by senior management.

11. Accommodation for differences in learning preferences

Culture should be considered when designing training programs. The best outcomes occur when there is congruency in cultural orientation and approach.

Successful implementation of training programs globally necessitates consideration of culturally bound learning habits and thoughtful adaptation. Individualist cultures are more receptive to diversity ideals than Collectivist cultures. In national cultures with high Power Distance and Collectivism, a top-down, lecture-style approach with strong management support and an emphasis on the benefits for the group and company is most effective. Yet in cultures with low Power Distance and high Individualism better learning outcomes occur when training is participatory and focussed on personal benefits such as career advancement. The Western technique of role playing is less effective in Asian cultures—in cultures with high Uncertainty Avoidance and greater concern for face (social reputation), role play can be intimidating.

At the individual level, there are four main learning styles. Some individuals are people-orientated learners who respond best to social interaction and discussions.  Others display a preference for learning via critical reflection. Other individuals prefer lecture-based analytical learning. Others learn best by doing (for example, simulation games or role-plays). Because of the likely diversity of learning styles in any training group, training should include activities that address all four learning modes.

12. Assessment and evaluation of outcomes

There are three layers of training assessment and evaluation:

  • Cultural Intelligence competencies. The development of competencies can be assessed by comparing pre-training CQ Assessment scores to post-training scores. Assessment at the level of the group is useful for tweaking future program design. Individual-level learning outcomes feed into professional development plans.
  • Trainee evaluation of the program. Trainees should be surveyed regarding their perceptions of the effectiveness, appropriateness, enjoyment, and usefulness of the facilitator, materials, and activities. Trainees should identify which elements of the course were most useful to them, most challenging, and least relevant. They should also be given the opportunity to explain their responses. Trainees should also be invited to offer suggestions on how to improve the program. Questionnaires should use open-ended questions that encourage feedback that is as rich as possible…yet not so onerous or time-consuming that respondents are put off from completing it.
  • Return on investment. An important part of justifying training and ensuring ongoing commitment from management is demonstrating that the learning from Cultural Intelligence training has added value at the organisational level.  If the return on investment is low, attempts should be made to understand what contextual factors might have inhibited learning transfer.
Abdul Malek, M., & Budhwar, P. (2013). Cultural intelligence as a predictor of expatriate adjustment and performance in Malaysia. Journal of World Business, 48(2), 222-231.
Alderfer, C. P. (1992). Changing race relations embedded in organizations: Report on a long-term project with the XYZ Corporation. In S. E. Jackson (Ed.), Diversity in the workplace: Human resources initiatives (pp. 138-166). New York: Guilford.
Al Noor, M., Rahman, M., & Uddin, M. I. (2011). Training in diversity management. European Journal of Business and Management, 3(4), 31-38.
Anand, R., & Winters, M.-F. (2008). A retrospective view of corporate diversity training from 1964 to the present. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(3), 356-372.
Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., & Koh, C. (2006). Personality correlates of the four-factor model of cultural intelligence. Group & Organization Management, 31(1), 100-123.
Au, M., & Yan Chong, C. (1993). Corporate culture and training: The Seibu experience. Journal of European Industrial Training, 17(5). doi: 10.1108/03090599310032808
Avery, D. R., & Thomas, K. M. (2004). Blending content and contact: The roles of diversity curriculum and campus heterogeneity in fostering diversity management competency. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 3(4), 380-396.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Barmeyer, C. I. (2004). Learning styles and their impact on cross-cultural training: An international comparison in France, Germany and Quebec. International journal of intercultural relations, 28(6), 577-594.
Baumgartner, L. M., & Johnson‐Bailey, J. (2008). Fostering awareness of diversity and multiculturalism in adult and higher education. New directions for adult and continuing education, 120, 45-53.
Bendick, M., Egan, M. L., & Lofhjelm, S. M. (2001). Workforce diversity training: From anti-discrimination compliance to organizational development. Human Resource Planning, 24(2), 10-25.
Bezrukova, K., Jehn, K. A., & Spell, C. S. (2012). Reviewing diversity training: Where we have been and where we should go. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(2), 207-227.
Branine, M. (2005). Cross-cultural training of managers: An evaluation of a management development programme for Chinese managers. Journal of Management Development, 24(5), 459-472.
Bunch, K. J. (2007). Training failure as a consequence of organizational culture. Human resource development review, 6(2), 142-163.
Caligiuri, P., & Tarique, I. (2012). Dynamic cross-cultural competencies and global leadership effectiveness. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 612-622.
Chao, M. M., Okazaki, S., & Hong, Y. y. (2011). The quest for multicultural competence: Challenges and lessons learned from clinical and organizational research. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(5), 263-274.
Chavez, C. I., & Weisinger, J. Y. (2008). Beyond diversity training: A social infusion for cultural inclusion. Human Resource Management, 47(2), 331-350
Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO PI-R: Revised NEO Personality Inventory and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Odessa, FL: Pyschological Assessment Resources.
Earley, C. P. (1994). Self or group? Cultural effects of training on self-efficacy and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39(1), 89-117.
Fischer, M. (2007). Diversity management and the business case HWWI Research Paper (Vol. 3-11, pp. 1-26). Hamburg: HWWI (Hamburg Institute of International Economics).
Gibson, J. W., & Kimis, C. (2011). Strategies for successful diversity training in corporate America. Journal of Business & Economics Research, 3(7).
Hanover, J., & Cellar, D. F. (1998). Environmental factors and the effectiveness of workforce diversity training. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 9(2), 105-124.
Harris, H., & Kumra, S. (2000). International manager development: Cross-cultural training in highly diverse environments. Journal of Management Development, 19(7), 602-614.
Hassi, A., & Storti, G. (2011). Organizational training across cultures: Variations in practices and attitudes. Journal of European Industrial Training, 35(1), 45-70.
Herring, C. (2009). Does diversity pay?: Race, gender, and the business case for diversity. American sociological review, 74(2), 208-224.
Hite, L. M., & McDonald, K. S. (2010). Perspectives on HRD and diversity education. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12(3), 283-294.
Holladay, C. L., Knight, J. L., Paige, D. L., & Quiñones, M. A. (2003). The influence of framing on attitudes toward diversity training. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 14(3), 245-263.
Holladay, C. L., & Quinones, M. A. (2005). Reactions to diversity training: An international comparison. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(4), 529-545.
Howe, I. C. K., Tseng, A. T.-p., & Hong, A. T. K. (1990). The role of culture in training in a multinational context. Journal of Management Development, 9(5), 51-57.
Jackson, L. C. (1999). Ethnocultural resistance to multicultural training: Students and faculty. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 5(1), 27-36.
Jayne, M. E., & Dipboye, R. L. (2004). Leveraging diversity to improve business performance: Research findings and recommendations for organizations. Human Resource Management, 43(4), 409-424.
Jones, J. M., Sander, J. B., & Booker, K. W. (2013). Multicultural competency building: Practical solutions for training and evaluating student progress. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 7(1), 12-22.
Jones, K. P., King, E. B., Nelson, J., Geller, D. S., & Bowes‐Sperry, L. (2013). Beyond the business case: An ethical perspective of diversity training. Human Resource Management, 52(1), 55-74.
Joy, S., & Kolb, D. A. (2009). Are there cultural differences in learning style? International journal of intercultural relations, 33(1), 69-85.
Kalev, A., Dobbin, F., & Kelly, E. (2006). Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American sociological review, 71(4), 589-617.
King, E. B., Gulick, L. M., & Avery, D. R. (2010). The divide between diversity training and diversity education: Integrating best practices. Journal of Management Education, 34(6), 891-906.
Kissack, H. C., & Callahan, J. L. (2010). The reciprocal influence of organizational culture and training and development programs: Building the case for a culture analysis within program planning. Journal of European Industrial Training, 34(4), 365-380.
Kolb, A. Y. (2005). The Kolb Learning Style Inventory—Version 3.1: 2005 Technical Specifications. Boston, MA: Hay.
Lievens, F., Harris, M. M., Van Keer, E., & Bisqueret, C. (2003). Predicting cross-cultural training performance: the validity of personality, cognitive ability, and dimensions measured by an assessment center and a behavior description interview. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(3), 476-489.
Littrell, L. N., & Salas, E. (2005). A review of cross-cultural training: Best practices, guidelines, and research needs. Human resource development review, 4(3), 305-334.
MacNab, B. R., & Worthley, R. (2012). Individual characteristics as predictors of cultural intelligence development: The relevance of self-efficacy. International journal of intercultural relations, 36(1), 62-71.
McGuire, D., & Patterson, N. (2012). Diversity training in organizations: An introduction. In C. Scott & M. Byrd (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Workforce Diversity in a Global Society: Technologies and Concepts: Technologies and Concepts (pp. 273-287). Harisburg, PA: IGI Global.
McLaughlin, J., & Clemons, L. (2004). Diversity training: The often-forgotten but necessary ingredient of any employment training program. Public Management, 86(5), 32-35.
Miller, F. A. (1998). Strategic culture change: The door to achieving high performance and inclusion. Public personnel management, 27(2), 151-160.
Mor-Barak, M. E., & Cherin, D. A. (1998). A tool to expand organizational understanding of workforce diversity: Exploring a measure of inclusion-exclusion. Administration in Social Work, 22(1), 47-64.
Ottewill, R., & Laughton, D. (2001). East meets west: Using multi-cultural groupwork to develop the cross-cultural capability of tomorrow’s international managers. Journal of Teaching in International Business, 12(1), 1-22.
Paluck, E. L. (2006). Diversity training and intergroup contact: A call to action research. Journal of Social Issues, 62(3), 577-595.
Pendry, L. F., Driscoll, D. M., & Field, S. C. (2007). Diversity training: Putting theory into practice. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 80(1), 27-50.
Prieto, L. C., Phipps, S. T., & Osiri, J. K. (2011). Linking workplace diversity to organizational performance: A conceptual framework. Journal of Diversity Management, 4(4), 13-22.
Ramburuth, P., & Welch, C. (2005). Educating the global manager: Cultural diversity and cross-cultural training in international business education. Journal of Teaching in International Business, 16(3), 5-27.
Roberson, L., Kulik, C. T., & Pepper, M. B. (2009). Individual and environmental factors influencing the use of transfer strategies after diversity training. Group & Organization Management, 34(1), 67-89.
Roberson, Q. M. (2006). Disentangling the meanings of diversity and inclusion in organizations. Group & Organization Management, 31(2), 212-236.
Rynes, S., & Rosen, B. (1995). A field survey of factors affecting the adoption and perceived success of diversity training. Personnel Psychology, 48(2), 247-270.
Shen, J., Chanda, A., D’Netto, B., & Monga, M. (2009). Managing diversity through human resource management: An international perspective and conceptual framework. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(2), 235-251.
Stewart, M. M., Crary, M., & Humberd, B. K. (2008). Teaching value in diversity: On the folly of espousing inclusion, while practicing exclusion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(3), 374-386.
Tan, J. S., & Chua, R. Y. (2003). Training and developing cultural intelligence. In P. C. Earley & S. Ang (Eds.), Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures (pp. 258-303). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Tay, C., Westman, M., & Chia, A. (2008). Antecedents and consequences of cultural intelligence among short-term business travelers. In S. Ang & L. Van Dyne (Eds.), Handbook of cultural intelligence: Theory, measurement, and applications (pp. 126-144). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Thomas, K. M., Tran, N. M., & Dawson, B. L. (2010). An inclusive strategy of teaching diversity. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12(3), 295-311.
Tregaskis, O., & Dany, F. (1996). A comparison of HRD in France and the UK. Journal of European Industrial Training, 20(1), 20-30.
Von Bergen, C., Soper, B., & Foster, T. (2002). Unintended negative effects of diversity management. Public personnel management, 31(2), 239-251.
Wentling, R. M., & Palma‐Rivas, N. (1999). Components of effective diversity training programmes. International Journal of Training and Development, 3(3), 215-226.
Yang, B., Wang, Y., & Drewry, A. W. (2009). Does it matter where to conduct training? Accounting for cultural factors. Human Resource Management Review, 19(4), 324-333.
Yerkes, R. M., & Dodson, J. D. (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit‐formation. Journal of comparative neurology and psychology, 18(5), 459-482.
Zweig, D., & Webster, J. (2004). What are we measuring? An examination of the relationships between the big-five personality traits, goal orientation, and performance intentions. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(7), 1693-1708.

Felicity Menzies is CEO and Principal Consultant at Include-Empower.Com, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with expertise in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, cultural intelligence and inclusion, gender equity, empowering diverse talent. Felicity is an accredited facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre and the author of A World of Difference. Felicity has over 15 years of experience working with and managing diverse workforces in blue chip companies and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand. Felicity also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.