Cultural Intelligence – A Challenge for Corporate Relocations

01-Jul-2016: >>> Back to Articles

The ability to quickly move people around the world has enabled many companies to ensure that they have the right skills dedicated to help grow their business in many locations. Often this involves corporate relocations either on a temporary or permanent basis, but certainly involves taking a valued employee with one cultural heritage into another. The ease and speed that people transition into a new culture is a key factor in the success of the relocation.

IQ is commonly used to measure intelligence. EQ - Emotional Intelligence is a concept that was made popular by the groundbreaking book by Daniel Goleman in 1995. However, a rapidly growing concept is that of CQ or "Cultural Intelligence". Basically this incorporates the ability of a person to interact effectively across global cultures and diverse workplaces.

An excellent example of companies that have both the need and also advise on cultural intelligence are global removalists and interstate furniture moving companies with a broad range of settling-in and ancillary services. To provide a comprehensive service to their clients, they need multicultural teams in each location as their clients relocate staff. This means for their own business, worldwide movers often have teams comprising not just local staff, but from a number of different nationalities and cultures. Cultural intelligence is a major factor for them if they are to successfully relocate a variety of clients from a variety of cultural backgrounds. With firsthand experience, it is not too difficult to make that expertise and experience available to clients.

Here are some practical ways to increase your "cultural intelligence" when working overseas:

  • Approach everyone as an individual–don’t make assumptions based on a group identity 
  • Understand that cultural tendencies such as mannerisms are not necessarily indicators of a person's performance and capabilities 
  • Seek feedback to confirm the other person understood what you were really communicating 
  • Reconfirm your understanding by paraphrasing what you have read or heard 
  • Stay away from using jargons and metaphors defined by your own cultural background 
  • Give time out to your team to talk in their mother tongues so that your counterparts can explore and articulate what they really want to say 
  • Notice how something is said and be aware of patterns of speech, tone of voice, periods of silence 
  • Listen to silence–it means different things in different cultures! 
  • Find a cultural informant/interpreter to coach or guide you 
  • Use pictures, or diagrams or stories to convey your messages 
  • Make an attempt to learn the logic behind the new culture–the connection between appearances, behaviors and values 
  • Take part in intercultural training in the new location to gain insights into how your foreign counterparts communicate and behave.

Remember, it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that a corporate relocation is a success. The early days in a new country with new colleagues who may have completely different views on how to live and work are often the most important. This is the time when first impressions are important, relationships are developed and the first stages of trust are set in place. Following these tips will help set you on the right path to making your move a successful one.


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