While there is increasing recognition of the business case for culturally inclusive work settings, there is a critical lack of understanding about how to achieve this.
Cultural inclusion requires a different set of competencies to the ‘gender smarts’ required for gender inclusion. A culturally inclusive work setting requires a culturally intelligent workforce and leadership.
Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the collection of knowledge, skills and abilities that enable an individual to detect, assimilate, reason and act on cultural cues appropriately.
Cultural Diversity and Organisational Performance
The impact of cultural diversity on organisational outcomes may be magnified relative to other sources of diversity.
Cultural diversity is most likely to involve differences in perspectives, knowledge and experience necessary for optimal information processing, decision-making and innovation, and for understanding the needs and concerns of different consumer segments and diverse stakeholders at home and across borders.
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity at leadership level are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median, while companies in the top quartile for gender diversity at leadership level are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.
Challenges Managing Cultural Diversity
Cultural diversity enhances the potential for language and other communication barriers. It heightens the risk of ambiguity, value conflicts, reasoning and decision making differences, and stereotypes and other forms of bias threaten rapport and stifle the exchange of information and ideas. Those challenges can lead to failure in our dealings with individuals with backgrounds different to our own.
As cultural diversity is complex, its benefits for growth, innovation and talent optimisation will only be realised if your workforce has the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to manage cultural diversity.
Individuals with high CQ display four main competencies:
CQ Drive is your willingness to work with culturally diverse others.
CQ Drive involves your ability to overcome explicit or unconscious bias and your capacity to persist in challenging interactions – even when confused, frustrated or burnt out.
CQ Knowledge is your understanding of culture and cultural differences.
CQ Knowledge involves more than awareness of variations in language, customs and appearance. Core cultural di erences like values, assumptions and beliefs are often invisible but cause the most problems—and are frequently overlooked.
CQ Strategy is your ability to flex mentally.
With high CQ Strategy, you are not confined to a single worldview. You are open to new or integrative ideas.
CQ Action is your ability to flex verbal and non-verbal behaviour.
CQ Action decreases the risk of miscommunication and helps you to respond to diverse others in a manner that conveys respect and builds trust and rapport.
More About Cultural Intelligence
How CQ Differs from Other Intercultural Models
Since 2004, when the Harvard Business Review published ‘Cultural Intelligence’, a notable collection of established organisations across a variety of industries in more than 100 countries have embraced CQ as a tool for enhancing global effectiveness.
The four competencies that form high Cultural Intelligence are not abstract ideas. Social scientists have demonstrated that those competencies map to particular regions of the brain.
Studies show they predict important measures of performance in diverse cultural settings, including better problem solving and decision-making, improved well-being, and better task performance.
In fact, Cultural Intelligence is a better predictor of effectiveness in diverse settings than cognitive ability, emotional intelligence (EQ), personality, demographic characteristics, language fluency and international experience.
Cultural Intelligence is not a personality trait, nor something you are born with. Rather Cultural Intelligence can be developed with education, training, and experience. This malleability provides companies with an opportunity to create an enviable competitive advantage—a capacity for innovation and agility—that can drive sustainable global growth.
Cultural intelligence is not about becoming an “expert” in any one culture. Rather, CQ is a set of generic competencies that transcend national borders, rigid stereotypes, and particular cultural contexts. Cultural intelligence involves an inclusive mindset and adaptable behavioural repertoire that promotes cultural fluency across varied cultural contexts. By transcending rigid stereotypes, Cultural Intelligence accommodates for nuanced cultural differences, and that makes Cultural Intelligence a powerful tool for managing the complexity of cultural diversity and unlocking its potential.
The Competitive Advantage of CQ
Over 100 peer-reviewed studies on CQ have been published in academic journals since its conceptualisation in 2003. Collectively, this work supports the validity of CQ as a proven model of intercultural competence. In diverse cultural settings, CQ improves:
Individuals with CQ are better able to understand instructions and form effective relationships to achieve work goals.
Individuals with CQ are better able to interpret the intentions and behaviours of others, improving judgment, decision-making and problem-solving.
Leaders and workers with high Cultural Intelligence can establish trust and rapport and build strong collaborative networks both inside and outside the organisation. They can build strong alliances across the globe to help them capture new opportunities. They are better at engaging with suppliers and collaborators and influencing policy makers and other stakeholders external to the organisation.
Cultural intelligence predicts the formation of diverse networks and the sharing and integration of information and ideas. Cultural Intelligence helps to foster an organisational culture where diverse viewpoints drive new insights. Cultural Intelligence encourages expansive and integrative new ways of thinking. This drives innovation, creativity, and experimentation.
Leaders with cultural intelligence inspire and unite diverse employees with a shared and well-articulated vision.
A workforce with high Cultural Intelligence possesses the dynamic competencies needed to continuously adapt processes, products, and services to capture new opportunities and respond to changing tastes and needs across diverse markets.
Cultural Intelligence improves organisational agility by preventing organisational silos and turf wars, and by encouraging customer centricity, challenging the status quo, and an increased willingness for change.
Cultural Intelligence & Inclusion
While social and emotional intelligence predict interpersonal effectiveness in culturally homogenous environments, CQ explains differences in interpersonal functioning outside one’s home culture. In diverse cultural settings, CQ improves:
Cultural intelligence disrupts negative stereotypes and enhances intercultural understanding and respect. Workplace incivility, harassment and discrimination are lower.
Cultural intelligence dismantles ‘us vs them’ social categorisations and is positively associated with workgroup cohesion, integration, and trust.
Workers with cultural intelligence experience higher levels of sociocultural adjustment and psychological well-being and lower levels of stress. Workers are more satisfied, engaged, and committed. All employees contribute fully to work processes.
Cultural intelligence allows for new leadership models. Companies are better able to win, develop, energise and promote top global talent.
The Cultural Diversity Advantage
- Enhanced Problem Solving
- Improved Judgment and Decision Making
- Creativity & Innovation
- Growth in New Markets
Challenges Managing Cultural Diversity
- Cultural Value Differences
- Language and Communication Barriers
- Cultural Stereotypes & Bias
- Leadership Models Across Cultures
- Covering and Cultural Dissonance
Understanding the CQ Model
- CQ Drive
- CQ Knowledge
- CQ Strategy
- CQ Action
- CQ Outcomes
Developing CQ Drive
- Learner vs. Judger Questions
- Letting Go of the Need to be Right
- Cultural Perspective Taking
Developing CQ Knowledge
- Self-Awareness (Cultural Values Profile)
- Other-Awareness (Cultural Clusters)
Developing CQ Strategy
- The Complexity of Cultural Identity
- Checking Assumptions
Developing CQ Action
- Flexing Verbal Behaviours
- Flexing Non-verbal Behaviours
- When Not to Flex
Applying CQ for Cultural Inclusion
- Best Practices for Managing Multicultural & Virtual Teams
- Cultural Knowledge Sharing
- Cultural Inclusion vs. Assimilation
Cultural Intelligence training transfers the foundation knowledge, skills and abilities required to manage any new cultural setting.
Workshop participants acquire an expansive worldview and flexible behavioural repertoire. This prevents rigid stereotyping and prepares employees for effectiveness across varied contexts.
Cultural intelligence training improves attitudes as well as knowledge and behaviours. Developing an inclusive mindset unlocks the strategic value of diversity.
Developing CQ leads to tremendous personal growth and enhances sociocultural adjustment and well-being.
Consistent with research on adult learning, we believe that the best learning outcomes result when participants engage holistically with program content. All Include-Empower learning and development programs incorporate experiential learning techniques, including opportunities to reflect on and apply learnings to the real-life challenges facing participants.
Leaders, people managers and individual contributors working in diverse cultural settings at home or across borders.
Developing CQ requires commitment. The recommended length of the workshop is one-day. The full workshop may be run over two half-days or condensed into a half-day introductory session.
Recommended workshop size is 12-24 participants.