Building Culturally Intelligent Organizations

In China, companies are often asked to make sacrifices for the interest of the nation. That idea is strange for foreigners to grasp; however, you must be fully aware that if your organization decides to open operations in China, you must fully convince the government why your proposal is good for the nation, the economy and the Chinese people. You and your team will need cultural intelligence to manage entry into China as well as entry to any other foreign country, when it comes to conducting business effectively.

How Do You Go About Building a Culturally Intelligent Organization?

Below I give you a few best practices on building a Culturally Intelligent Organization that will not only educate your company, but that will also give you a return on your investment:

1. Leadership commitment: Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment to cultural intelligence by demonstrating through their actions the global strategic vision that they follow and live by.

Questions to explore this commitment include the following points:

  • How does culture influence your business challenges? Look at your operations and ask yourself how culturally diverse are your customers, as well as the markets in which you operate in? How culturally diverse are your teams? Do you have global leaders in different parts of the world or traveling to different countries to conduct business? If so, look at your expats on long-term and short-term assignments. Lastly, look at your home based employee pool and get metrics on how engaged your employees are. Are they attached and aware of how diversity and culture affects your business? These insights will allow you to look at innovative opportunities, which will allow you to expand into new global markets.

Do not isolate cultural intelligence to a few global leaders, engage the entire organization. A truly global organization will integrate cultural intelligence across all functions as part of the strategic plan.

2. Perform an Organizational Cultural Intelligence Audit. Conduct a cultural audit. The audit should focus on the organization as a whole, including divisions and teams, both in and out of your home country. Your audit should look to answer the following:

To what extent do the internal and external practices and marketing messages of the organization reflect a culturally intelligent approach?

What cultures represent the organization? Which ones stand out, and which ones fade into the background?

Do you have diverse cultural teams? How have you equipped them to represent themselves and their unique talents?

To what extent do your senior leaders demonstrate and promote culturally intelligent behavior?

Have you conducted studies as to how your organization hires and promotes diverse culturally intelligent individuals?

An audit can and should also be looking at your HR policies and practices, as well as input from customers and suppliers on how they view the cultural intelligence of the organization. Use these studies to organize and develop your organization into a culturally competent company.

3. Formulate a Cultural Intelligence Strategy. After the audit, it’s time to formulate the strategy for becoming a culturally intelligent organization. As in any strategic plan, this plan should include milestones, action steps and target dates. Look deeply at the following areas to see where cultural intelligence should become a required skill:

Those who market, sell products and services to different cultural groups, both domestically and internationally.

International leaders, managers, teams and project managers should all have developed cultural intelligence.

Leaders on global assignments, both short and long-term, living abroad or right here at home, but operate globally should know how culture impacts the organization.

Employees who travel internationally or take on global projects should all be savvy when it comes to handling diversity in the workplace.

Members of virtual teams need to understand themselves and other company teams before picking up the phone to discuss any business issue.

Specialists, who you may hire help internally, including external consultants must be globally savvy and internationally competent.

Your home office staff and support service employees that interact with branches and subsidiaries in other parts of the world must be able to communicate and work effectively alongside people of different backgrounds and cultural influences.

Don’t overlook support staff – they too are part of your organization, they may answer emails, return calls, teach, interact with newcomers, greet guests, etc., if they are not culturally educated, you may find big mistakes will consume their time and the company’s budgets.

Ask job candidates to describe their cultural intelligence and explain how they would resolve specific intercultural and cross-cultural situations that may arise in the daily operations of their work that could affect your organization.

Reward culturally intelligent behavior and knowledge. When your hire or promote someone who has experience working effectively across cultures, be sure to highlight that part of their talent when you announce the hire or promotion and include culturally intelligent behavior on performance reviews.

Organizations with employees who have high cultural intelligence can expect the following outcomes:

  • An organization that effectively expands into diverse markets.
  • High-quality service for customers and clients.
  • Effective operations that work with speed and efficiency.
  • Productive assignments that get completed on time and within budget.
  • To win the war for talent, by becoming the employer of choice. Believe it not, today’s talent is looking for companies who embrace diversity and understand cultural differences. Good talent wants to expand in the global arena and be part of the global stage.
  • To have diverse team effectiveness and synergy within and outside of the organization.
  • To become profitable while cutting back on expenses caused by serious cultural mishaps.

“Remember – you are a foreigner everywhere except in your own culture.” © 2017, Global Arrival, LLC

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