Improved technology has enabled many corporations to operate internationally. As these companies have entered foreign markets, the need for cultural sensitivity among workers has increased. This need has driven many businesses to include cultural intelligence as a qualification for promotion and employment. In response to this growing need, professionals in organizational psychology have developed ways to measure and improve an employee’s cultural intelligence quotient (CQ).
CQ is generally evaluated using written assessments similar to intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. These tests measure an individual’s desire to be culturally sensitive as well as his or her knowledge of situations in which extra care may be required. CQ testing also measures the effectiveness of an employee’s plans for dealing with sensitive situations as well as that person’s ability to put those tactics to practical use.
Unlike IQ, which is largely unalterable, cultural intelligence may be improved with training. The most successful candidates for training score highly on the portions of CQ testing that measure drive. These individuals are generally accepting of belief systems other than their own. Those with ethnocentric and provincial ideologies may be able to learn about other cultures, but generally, they lack the respect needed to apply that information.
Improving cultural knowledge is generally considered to be the easiest way to increase CQ. For those with only occasional contact with members of a certain group, one night of reading may be enough to learn the basics of polite behavior and the major taboos of that culture. Those employees who will be making frequent trips, or those relocated to different regions, may need to do more in-depth research. Online reading, conversations with people from the vicinity, and visiting museum exhibits featuring art from those areas are good ways to improve cultural intelligence.
After learning about cultural differences, those with high CQ often develop plans to apply that knowledge to social interactions. Often, these individuals examine their typical behaviors and compare them to the norms of another culture. For example, a person who usually greets business associates with a handshake and a clap on the back would attempt to predict the effects of that behavior with members of a society that is more protective of personal space. A culturally intelligent person would then plan to modify his or her behavior accordingly.
The final measure of cultural intelligence is the ability of a person to implement his or her tactics successfully. To extend the previous example, the employee realizes that an enthusiastic handshake may be uncomfortable to the visitors and makes plans to be more reserved during introductions. At the meeting, he or she stands farther away than usual and waits for each visitor to extend a hand. The resulting handshake is much briefer than normal but comfortable to all parties involved.