It is no longer sufficient for us to be merely outstanding on the traditional measures of literary, computational and conceptual intelligence. And while high emotional intelligence goes a long way to promote the importance of communication, empathy and customer-centricity, there is another important dimension.
With the globalisation of organisations, products and services, readily accessible international travel and burgeoning cultural diversity within the Australian population, it has never been more important to function effectively in different cultural contexts. In short this defines Cultural Intelligence or CQ.
Professor Echo Yuan Liao from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain identifies three inter-connected components of CQ – Cultural Knowledge, Cross-Cultural Skills and Cultural Mindfulness1.
Cultural knowledge, in addition to factual and experiential knowledge, comprises the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of other cultures. Examples include the causes of misunderstanding and disagreement, and power relationships in the work environment.
Cross-Cultural Skills refers to inter-personal skills, tolerance, adaptability, empathy and perceptual acuity – the ability to understand others’ feelings and potential interpretations that may lead to misunderstanding.
Cultural Mindfulness means the ability to anticipate and plan for effective cross-cultural interaction. It requires the skills of observation, analysis and reflection on interactions and the outcomes of those transactions.
Many organisations in Australia’s public sector already recognise the importance of CQ and often insist upon cultural competence training for front-line staff.
But these skills are not just essential for individuals. Organisations across the commercial and public service spectrum also need to more fully understand the bigger picture of their effectiveness. Whether the goal is profit, equitable delivery of service, or optimising workforce diversity, there is a wealth of evidence to demonstrate returns from understanding the extent of cultural engagement and focussing on appropriate actions.
We previously highlighted how workplace cultural diversity is positively correlated to profitability. Attraction and retention of culturally diverse talent and consciously managing those resources in an appropriate way, will lead to more productive and effective workplaces.
In a B2C context, more effective engagement with Australia’s culturally-diverse consumer segments, based on an informed appreciation of their values, attitudes and beliefs creates stronger bonds, leading to brand allegiance, increased sales, greater profits and, in the case of government services, a better chance to deliver on access and equity targets.
A first step to assessing the cultural competence of an organisation is to understand the extent to which the organisation currently engages with the cultural diversity of its consumer and labour markets. This requires some form of cultural audit to establish a benchmark of the current level of diversity engagement.
But how many organisations measure the extent of cultural diversity within their customers and their employees?
Our experience demonstrates there are few situations where cultural background is not diagnostic of differential behaviour, value and opportunity for an organisation.
OriginsInfo offers name analysis as a way doing so. With practical benefits of speed, accuracy and cost-effectiveness, this is an important first step in gaining insight before working out how best to engage through appropriate written messages, images, offers, and the best times for doing so. Please contact to arrange a no-obligation discussion to find out how we can help your organisation become more culturally competent.