When an organisation is operating globally, managing cultural diversity is significant, both in terms of overcoming cultural barriers and for leveraging diverse knowledge and perspectives for innovation and access to new markets. Global diversity efforts should include the development of Cultural Intelligence—a focus that may be overlooked in programs originating in the United States.
The imbalance in the supply and demand for culturally intelligent leaders necessitates the development of these skills within an organisation. However, despite the importance of intercultural competency for the success and longer-term growth and prosperity of today’s businesses, few companies understand how to cultivate this capability in their workforce. Cultural intelligence (CQ) develops either on-the-job or through formal training. On-the-job cultural learning is unstructured, spontaneous and incidental to everyday duties. It occurs as an employee uses trial and error to achieve their goals in diverse settings. Cultural intelligence develops socially as individuals engage in authentic exchanges with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Organisations that embrace a global mindset and engage in practices that promote authentic intercultural exchanges at work—global talent mobility, diversity and inclusion, cultural knowledge management, incentive systems that reward collaboration, international internships and formal training—support the development of a culturally intelligent workforce.
While unconscious bias training is a critical and necessary component of an organisation’s efforts to reduce unconscious bias, companies committed to reducing unconscious bias can also draw upon social psychological literature to design work settings that temper the automatic activation of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Workplace cultures that support self-worth, offer opportunities for positive intergroup contact, promote employee well-being and encourage and reward pro-equality norms support unconscious bias training and encourage the transfer of knowledge and skills acquired in training to the workplace.
Women face numerous challenges in their ascension to leadership positions. Improving gender diversity at senior levels requires supportive workplaces that nurture a pipeline of female talent. Organisations that scrutinise existing cultures and practices for institutionalised gender bias, implement work practices that give women a fair chance of success, offer support through mentoring and fair grievance processes, have a diverse senior leadership that promotes and models pro-diversity norms, use corporate communications to reinforce gender equality norms and that hold managers and employees accountable for achieving gender targets are best placed to attract and retain female talent.