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Cultural Intelligence and its impact on business

My recent experience while travelling on an international airline made me ponder the impact of cultural intelligence on business and customer service.

The team were from different countries and diverse cultures. Every time I made a request, a different person would return with the wrong drink or meal, I felt as though my requests were not been communicated effectively.

As a valued customer, it made me consider what other customers may experience on a regular basis. It was obvious that there was no synergy or cohesion amongst the team. In my opinion this business had missed a huge opportunity by not focussing on how different cultures can work together effectively to deliver exceptional service. In today's age we expect a seamless consistent premium service and value for money.

Globalisation and technology have fundamentally changed how business is conducted and created new opportunities for growth. One of the most remarkable aspects of this is the burgeoning interactions between people around the globe

Understanding cultures (cultural intelligence) and how they function both separately and together is key to survival in the globalisation age.

Imagine that a well-run company is like a long interconnected chain. Each link represents a different business function. Cultural intelligence is one such link. The company that ignores cultural aptitude does so at its own risk because any chain, no matter how mighty, is only as strong as its weakest link!

The "unseen" cultural misalignment has a huge negative impact on business and can result in:

  • Lost productivity
  • Lowered quality of service
  • Greater management costs
  • Lowered efficiency between workers - not receiving seamless service

Companies must take culture seriously and connect with people in a new way that fosters greater alignment. This will empower businesses to perform at a level greater than the sum of their parts. As the world's market places change and develop, we have to understand, keep pace, survive and thrive doing business with a multitude of nations. This not only requires, but demands, cultural intelligence.

Cultural intelligence (CQ) - is recognising and understanding the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviours of a group of people and the ability to apply that knowledge toward the achieving of specific goals.

The components of the cultural intelligence model are Skills (Perpetual, Relational & Adaptive), Knowledge (of what culture is, how it varies and how it affects behaviour) and Mindfulness (being perceptive).

The model enables us to understand the differences and similarities between different cultures. By applying the learning and integrating it into our day to day lives we can build effective professional relationships and succeed in business.

CQ is a critical capability - that enhances efficiency and effectiveness in cross-cultural exchanges between work teams, customers, and other stakeholders.

Benefit include:

  • Efficient multicultural workforce
  • Improved Team Dynamics
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased Client Satisfaction
  • Long term Engagement

CQ can be cultivated in organisations through training sessions that are geared to the specific challenges being faced:

C-level training on values, etiquette, decision-making, and negotiation for specific target markets.

Workshops and fieldwork for client-facing managers.

CQ inductions for new recruits

Workshops and face-to-face training supplemented with E-Learning

High CQ can help businesses make more powerful cross-cultural impact, promote collaboration, and improve levels of service and productivity.

CQ is also a powerful tool for customer retention because CQ helps businesses deliver more value. If customers don't feel valued, they won't return. Simple as that. This is exactly the case with me and that business I mentioned earlier. Low CQ has cost them my custom.

Kanan Thakerar is managing director at training firm Khrysalis