Cultural awareness in today’s global workplace

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We live in a globalized world environment where we can instantly connect and communicate across borders at the touch of a button. Even if we never travel, our team members, customers and suppliers are increasingly international, from diverse cultural backgrounds, and for us to be successful, we have to know how to be effective with our cross cultural communication, to understand others’ point of view and their approach.

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Why cultural awareness matters

Globalisation and cultural diversity have made the importance of cultural awareness clear and how it is a critical part of effective communication and collaboration in the everyday life of today’s workplace.

Cultural awareness is relevant whatever your business or role, and is not only for people who are relocating for their job role.

Whether your business is expanding into new markets, you are working in virtual cross-functional teams, you are interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds in one location, or building customer relationships across borders, cultural awareness is a critical success factor.

The benefits of cultural awareness - why is it important

Cultural awareness in the workplace is not only a soft skill, but a skill that delivers important benefits to your people and organisation, as well as tangible, measurable outcomes such as project delivery and sales. The benefits for teams and individuals include:

  • Creating a more inclusive, connected workplace.
  • Building stronger relationships with your international customers and partners.
  • Growing your business and sales in culturally diverse markets, by helping you navigate differences in business practices, communication styles, and customer preferences.
  • Collaborating efficiently and productively in virtual, global teams through effective and improved communication, so you don’t end up in frustrated conversations, with project delivery errors and wasted meeting time.
  • Inspiring high-energy teams that can develop more creative, innovative solutions, especially with a diverse team of people from different cultures.

What is cultural awareness and how is cultural intelligence (CQ) different

First of all, we have to start with what cultural awareness is. It’s sometimes called cultural sensitivity, cultural competence, and intercultural awareness or cross cultural communication.

At Culture Cuppa we prefer to focus on the idea of cultural intelligence, otherwise known as CQ, which is an approach to understand, communicate and interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Awareness is definitely a part of this, however, not the only aspect that makes the difference in whether you are successful in international business, and it involves more than learning a few words in a foreign language.

In fact, the Cultural Intelligence Center shares this definition:
‘Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the capability to function and relate effectively in culturally diverse situations.’

This description works well as it puts the focus on cultural intelligence as a capability that we can measure and develop to improve, and that it impacts not only how we operate and work, but also how we build our connections and relationships with others.

The key components of CQ, cultural intelligence

There are many aspects of developing cultural intelligence, including understanding our own cultural norms and values, as well as those of the people we work with; recognising our assumptions, potential biases and pre-formed stereotypes; and how to adapt our behaviours and communication styles to working with different cultures.

Have you ever experienced working in global teams, where you thought what others were saying or how they were behaving, was surprising and unexpected?

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Knowing when and how to adapt communication and behaviour is the key to successful relationships and delivering results.

Cultural intelligence (CQ) training can make the difference, going beyond cultural awareness to measurable capabilities to help you function and relate effectively in culturally diverse situations.

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Cultural values

Cultural values shape our preferences for how we like to live and work, and we can use these to recognise the similarities and differences in approach to communication and interactions with our colleagues, co-workers, customers or partners.

There are many different frameworks for mapping cultural values, and we prefer to use the framework used by the Cultural Intelligence Center in our training and coaching, which is based on the work of Ronen and Shenkar and includes 10 cultural value dimensions.

Cultural understanding through exploring our own values and how we and others prefer to work is helpful, however it does not predict our success when working across cultures. That’s when cultural intelligence capabilities come into play. 

Strategies for building CQ, cultural intelligence

The key cultural intelligence capabilities that we can measure through assessment and develop to improve include:

  • CQ Drive: your level of curiosity, having an open mind, resilience and confidence in challenging an unfamiliar situations.
  • CQ Knowledge: your awareness of how cultures are similar and different.
  • CQ Strategy: planning, observing and capturing learnings through our interactions with others in culturally diverse contexts.
  • CQ Action: adapting our verbal and nonverbal communication when it matters, knowing how and when to adapt.

There are a variety of ways that you can develop cultural intelligence competencies among employees, including team cultural awareness training programmes, individual coaching support and cross-cultural mentoring.

CQ cultural intelligence training with Culture Cuppa

In our Culture Cuppa training and coaching, we first complete a CQ Assessment with you, so that we can give feedback on your personal culture intelligence capability scores today.

We then explore your individual working preferences with the cultural values framework, exploring similarities and differences with the teams, customers and partners you work with.

Next, we look at how you can develop bespoke CQ strategies for your business context, building your confidence in knowing how and when to adapt your communication style and behaviours to get better connections and improved results.

Finally, we support you to create your personal CQ development plan to take your actions forward after the training.

We also offer assessments with 360 feedback and with the option to repeat the assessment at a later stage to measure your progress.

Our cultural intelligence training can be delivered flexibly in a series of workshops, half-day or full-day, virtually, or face to face in person.

The cultural intelligence journey

Cultural intelligence is a capability which we are always developing and improving. It’s a journey we go on to discover more about ourselves and how we interact with the world, and an exploration of what motivates others’ behaviours and communication. It can make the difference between success and failure in how we work globally.

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