The Effect of Cultural Intelligence on Expatriate Performance

October 16, 2018 11:32 am Published by

Global mobility offers so much to businesses, including substantial growth in new and existing markets.

Indeed, Fortune 500 companies expect that their greatest revenue streams over the next decade will come from emerging markets and research highlights that organisations with culturally intelligent staff are more likely to accomplish their goals in today’s multicultural, globalised world.

With this increase in global presence, comes the need for businesses to move talent and their expertise as well as knowledge to foreign locations; where they will experience unprecedented levels of diverse cross-cultural interactions in their everyday business dealings.

However, the simple fact is that no matter how much globalisation and modernisation is making the world feel smaller and as one, there will always be cultural barriers that go well beyond learning the local language; there is a need to learn and understand the local customs and nuances that make a culture truly unique.

Therefore, understanding cultures, cultural intelligence is one of the most important elements to surviving and indeed thriving in a truly global marketplace, especially for expatriates who can experience lower levels of productivity and efficiency and ultimately the failure of the expatriate assignment without it.

Ultimately, businesses who focus their energies on making the right cultural intelligence selection for expatriate assignments, where they select a candidate with cultural intelligence will be rewarded with greater success.

So, what is cultural intelligence and why does it matter so much?

Cultural intelligence (CQ)1 is the ability to recognise and understand the values, behaviours, attitudes and values of people in culturally diverse situations and then, being able to harness that knowledge towards achieving specific goals and outcomes.

Awareness is the basic step, but it’s not sufficient. A culturally intelligent individual is the one who can effectively connect and work with people and projects from different cultural contexts.

Research1 on cultural intelligence, which to-date spans 98 countries and over 75,000 individuals, demonstrates those with cultural intelligence have skills in four capabilities:

CQ Drive – your level of interest, persistence and confidence during multicultural interactions.

CQ Knowledge – your understanding about how cultures are similar and different.

CQ Strategy – your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions.

CQ Action – your ability to react when relating and working in multicultural contexts.

These interpersonal connections built can help influence and educate their colleagues and bosses and drive innovation and success through bringing together the diverse multicultural workforce found in businesses all over the world today.

Therefore, it is essential for businesses to consider CQ when selecting employees for foreign assignments and not just technical competence and a willingness to relocate, to maximise the chances of the success of the assignment, especially, as international assignments can be costly and there is a lot at stake for all parties involved.

The effects of cultural intelligence on expatriate performance are significant and those who possess high levels of cultural intelligence can often be the link that reduces divides in a business through their ability to build interpersonal connections.


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