Why is cultural intelligence important?
Clodagh O'Reilly explains how the importance of understanding cultural differences can positivwely impact on your L&D capability.
- Power: The structure of organisations, and the distribution of responsibility and power, can vary a great deal. The two ends of the scale relating to the manifestation of power and structure are hierarchal, where power and control are clearly defined and usually centralised or flat, where power and responsibility are shared.
- Transaction: Varying degrees of priority are placed on interpersonal interactions in relation to professional transactions. There is a shared disposition towards others in one's environment. Whereas some cultures tend to prioritise closeness and connection with clients and colleagues, others favour practical, transactional relationships.
- Contribution: Cultures can be defined in terms of being individually- or collectively-oriented. These descriptors refer to the typical focus of an individual’s energy and ambition, whether it is directed for themselves or for the larger group.
- Trust: Varying degrees of trust are assumed in different contexts. This can be observed in the degree of openness or caution that occurs naturally in environments.
- Status: Groups differ significantly in their approach to granting of recognition, position, power or status. This can be done on the basis of ascription or achievement, or a combination of the two.
- Risk: There are differing views of the merit of risk taking and the associated outcomes. Some cultures encourage risk seeking whilst others are somewhat risk-averse.
- Rules: Rules and regulation are given varying degrees of priority, in relation to relationships, time and results. The relative priority given to rules determines the extent to which individuals are disposed to rule following or rule breaking.
- Time: Like rules (above), time can be given varying degrees of priority, in relation to relationships, rules and results. The relative priority given to time determines the extent to which individuals are single-minded in their focus on speed versus people, process and even quality.
- Past, present and future orientation: Most cultures have a particular orientation to think in terms of either the past, present or future. Some have the belief that the past is to be respected. They may see little value in change. They would rather keep things the way they've always been. Others live and work in the 'here and now'. They believe that only the present counts or matters. What works now is important now; what gets results in the present is what matters. Those who are future-oriented believe that the future holds potential to be realised. Investment of effort now is made with a view to longer-term benefits/advantage.
Clodagh O’Reilly is Leader, Assessment Consulting EMEA, at global human resources consultancy Kenexa, with expertise in large-scale recruitment, development and change programs. Kenexa is an IBM company