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Why Is Cultural Intelligence Important and What Does It Mean?


Given the rapid transformation of the global economy, a growing number of businesses seek to equip their staff with the abilities necessary to collaborate with a varied range of global populations. Cultural intelligence is essential for accomplishing this. Understanding this idea will help you see why it’s crucial and how it can enhance corporate culture and performance.

This article addresses cultural intelligence, its effects on the workplace, and strategies for fostering it within an organisation. 

What does workplace cultural intelligence entail?

The capacity for cross-cultural communication and good interpersonal relationships is known as cultural intelligence, cultural quotient, or CQ. Employees at big organisations adjust to their colleagues’ diverse cultures because they frequently conduct business globally.

Cultural intelligence necessitates contextualising the interests, feelings, and cultures of others, just like emotional intelligence does. This entails understanding that individuals from diverse cultures may have lifestyles, working styles, and socially acceptable attitudes that differ from your workplace.

Even though it’s challenging to quantify cultural intelligence, those with high CQs can recognize culturally specific behaviours.

Cultural intelligence components

Cultural intelligence is composed of three main elements:

  1. Mental abilities

Understanding the fundamentals of many cultures is helpful when interacting and participating in a multicultural society. If you want to do that, you have to use your cognitive skills to watch and assess how your coworkers behave.

This aspect of cultural intelligence is the capacity to identify and comprehend cultural differences before modifying one’s behaviour and strategy. By applying one’s cognitive abilities, one can also create new avenues for cultural research and understanding, many of which have applications outside of the workplace.

  1. Tangible indicators

This is the capacity to return gestures made to demonstrate your understanding of and ability to interact with the cultures of others. Different civilisations use distinct physical clues. You use the physical aspect of cultural intelligence when you return the favour. A good example of a physical clue would be creating and presenting a presentation with slides to someone from a different culture while considering their language, style, and audience.

  1. Emotional intelligence 

Cultural intelligence necessitates the ability to learn from one’s mistakes with persistence. This part entails engaging others by independent initiative and self-determination. The greatest method to ensure that you win in a business transaction or have an enjoyable conversation in an unfamiliar cultural situation is to practice your newly gained cultural understanding. The goal is to continue improving and gaining self-assurance after a difficult foreign experience.

Why does cultural sensitivity matter in the workplace?

The following are some of the main justifications for why cultural intelligence matters in the workplace:

  • It brings about harmony.

Team members with higher cultural intelligence are more understanding and perceptive to differing viewpoints. By being adaptable and able to blend into each other’s cultures, coworkers can create a culture of harmony and increase productivity in the workplace.

Furthermore, it could be simpler for leaders with high cultural intelligence to create a solid team dynamic. Team-building activities, for instance, can help participants recognise one another’s advantages and disadvantages and learn how to collaborate to solve issues.

  • It enhances dialogue.

Cultural intelligence is among the essential elements of good workplace communication, particularly in a large company with diverse cultural personalities.

In the workplace, communication encompasses how one’s behaviour is interpreted in a foreign environment. A team with cultural intelligence can communicate more efficiently and comprehend one another more readily, which reduces miscommunication.

  • It increases creativity.

Businesses rely on their team’s capacity to spot innovation opportunities, like creating and executing fresh approaches to market a product in a previously untapped market. Cultural intelligence can help people adapt to a changing population and foster an atmosphere where people feel free to express their views.

  • It fosters goodwill among investors and clients.

An individual with cultural intelligence is likelier to establish a solid rapport with global partners, clients, investors, and outsourced divisions. Possessing a high degree of cultural intelligence is advantageous when dealing with investors from various backgrounds, and it can assist in establishing enduring bonds with important business partners.

Understanding your clients’ and business partners’ cultural perspectives can facilitate trust building. Team leaders who possess higher levels of cultural intelligence are better able to manage staff, resolve outside disputes, and establish guidelines that foster a positive work environment for partners and team members.

  • It promotes constructive rivalry.

Organisations that embrace cultural diversity have a greater chance of drawing in clients and top personnel as globalisation creates a more vibrant and competitive economic environment.

Companies can improve their chances of hiring top people with a strong understanding of culture by encouraging submissions from international candidates instead of choosing solely domestic applicants.

This increased variety boosts confidence in contacts outside of the company’s home market, which helps the business perform better when competing in the global market.


Ways to foster cultural intelligence in the work environment

Everyone must exercise cultural intelligence if they want to create a workplace that is supportive, competitive, and caring. To promote a work environment that promotes cultural intelligence, do the following actions:

  1. Respect everyone’s viewpoints

Establishing a multifaceted connection with coworkers is simpler when you apply cultural awareness to observe and sympathise with them. High cultural intelligence individuals are also receptive to various recommendations, viewpoints, and counsel from varied individuals with various skills. To better comprehend cultural differences, consider being upfront and honest if you are unclear about someone’s actions or words.

  1. Make an effort to find out more

Enhancing your cultural intelligence is just as vital as gaining new abilities on the job, such as self-motivation, stress management, and emotional intelligence. You can put this into practice by observing, conversing with others, and taking a cultural intelligence test.

Gaining knowledge about and engaging with other cultural backgrounds might help you better comprehend and adjust to specific workplace behaviours. You can learn about and adjust to various cultures with the help of cultural intelligence by engaging in the following activities:

  • Gaining insight into the reasons for cultural differences in how things are done might help you make better decisions.
  • Using social media to observe behaviour and learning about other ethnic customs to better comprehend your coworkers
  • Maintaining a journal of your observations to consult when in doubt to make sure you’re consistently enhancing your cultural intelligence


  1. Create a procedure for resolving disputes.

Any team can have a conflict. Cultural intelligence can be helpful when devising ways to resolve conflicts and pinpointing the origins of disagreements.

Team members should constantly remind themselves of procedures intended to prevent conflicts arising from cultural differences. To reduce disputes before they start, you may also take preventative measures by offering culturally sensitive training programs.


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‘Soundlines’ has an office presence across 25 countries, making the process easier for employers and candidates. ‘Soundlines’ provides organisations access to their global experience while maintaining a local presence, ensuring it comprehends your brand, culture, needs, and future objectives.

Soundlines has been a leader in the HR recruitment industry for more than two decades, serving clients in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Poland, Russia, and Romania.

With a massive database of over 500,000+ candidates, our clients never lose hope in finding the “right fit,” With the best in-house specialty centers and qualified technical evaluators for every job trade, finding the “ideal candidate” is a breeze with Soundlines. 

As businesses continue to expand their horizons, partnering with a reliable RPO partner like Soundlines can make all the difference in building a workforce that propels your company’s success. Contact Soundlines today to embark on a journey towards streamlined, efficient, and top-quality overseas manpower recruitment. Your path to excellence starts here.


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