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This blog highlights the importance of Cultural Intelligence when it comes to valuing cross-cultural experiences in the workplace.

It is the follow-up to Ruth-Anne Eghan’s first piece about her cultural identity, and is part of the blog series, ‘My Cultural Identity’ that has been designed for Global Inclusion Week. Its focus is to learn about the different cultural identities of the Inclusive Employers team, or our people within our member organisations, and how they impact their experience in the workplace.

Ruth’s first blog explores her journey as a ‘Second-Generation Black British Woman’s Journey to Cultural Intelligence.’ In this follow-up, she uses her experience working cross-culturally to share best practice for putting Cultural Intelligence into action.

Why is it important to confidently navigate cross-cultural interactions?

Research by the Harvard Business Review highlighted that:

“Employees from 90 countries found that 89% of white-collar workers’ “at least occasionally” complete projects in global virtual teams (GVTs), where team members are dispersed around the planet and rely on online tools for communication.”

This research highlights the reality of our interconnected world and the necessity to navigate cross-cultural interactions successfully. The quote below, from Mother Teresa, brings this to life for me. By working together and using our contrasting skills and knowledge we can achieve great things:

“I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot. Together, we can do great things.”– Mother Teresa

How to overcome the challenges of working cross-culturally?

As the project resourcer for an Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB) recruitment initiative that spanned the UK, USA, and EMEA regions, I encountered initial cross-cultural challenges. Below I share some of the methods I used to overcome these challenges.

Listening sessions

These challenges were enhanced by differing views towards EDIB across countries. To foster cultural adaptability, I facilitated active listening sessions, where team members could share and understand each other’s perspectives, empathetically. These sessions played a role in bridging cultural gaps and creating mutual respect among team members.

Cross-cultural mentorship programmes

I organised cross-cultural mentorship programmes to facilitate deeper conversations. Team members were paired with colleagues from different regions to learn from each other. This learning supported colleagues to effectively navigate cultural differences and allowed me to effectively implement the EDIB recruitment initiative.

The culture iceberg shows the surface of the iceberg: flags, festivals, holidays, arts and crafts, etc. Versus the deep culture: communication styles and rules, notions of courtesy and manners, attitudes and approaches.

 

Make sure decision-makers understand cross-cultural differences

What makes up a culture is impacted by many different factors, as the Cultural Iceberg model above demonstrates. When we look at all these factors, we can start to appreciate the scale of different experiences that people have across different cultures. And, how important it is to understand and respect them when colleagues are brought together through work.

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for  everyone.” – Sundar Pichai.

A PWC Global Culture Survey, highlighted that 72% of employees and leaders believe that culture helps successful change initiatives to happen. The importance of culture to drive change cannot be underestimated. In order to make decisions about progressing and improving the workplace we have to understand the culture we are operating in.

Being a consultant at Inclusive Employers has allowed me to work with some global member organisations. There are different attitudes and approaches within other regions, contexts, and countries, when it comes to EDIB. Conducting a workplace culture project does not just have an organisational impact; it also affects the people.

Marginalised individuals go through varying degrees of pain; this can be worsened in places where they may not have the same protection by law, creating cultural relativism. In the UK, understanding multiculturalism and cultural knowledge is crucial for creating an inclusive environment free of implicit bias.

I prefer conducting thorough research before making decisions. I give myself that grace if I make the wrong decision, and I hope it will be communicated to me if I am unaware. I take accountability and responsibility and try to make amends by genuinely apologising if it does impact people negatively.

We will all make wrong decisions from time-to-time as human beings. The most freeing thing to do is to own that and, when it happens, move in the right way to build bridges toward inclusion.

A PWC Global Culture Survey, highlighted that 72% of employees and leaders believe that culture helps successful change initiatives to happen. The importance of culture to drive change cannot be underestimated. In order to make decisions about progressing and improving the workplace we have to understand the culture we are operating in.

Being a consultant at Inclusive Employers has allowed me to work with some global member organisations. There are different attitudes and approaches within other regions, contexts, and countries, when it comes to EDIB. Conducting a workplace culture project does not just have an organisational impact; it also affects the people.

Marginalised individuals go through varying degrees of pain; this can be worsened in places where they may not have the same protection by law, creating cultural relativism. In the UK, understanding multiculturalism and cultural knowledge is crucial for creating an inclusive environment free of implicit bias.

I prefer conducting thorough research before making decisions. I give myself that grace if I make the wrong decision, and I hope it will be communicated to me if I am unaware. I take accountability and responsibility and try to make amends by genuinely apologising if it does impact people negatively.

We will all make wrong decisions from time-to-time as human beings. The most freeing thing to do is to own that and, when it happens, move in the right way to build bridges toward inclusion.

“In order to successfully navigate cross-cultural relationships in the workplace it is important to make space to learn, respect and understand them.”

Sign up to Global Inclusion Week to embed cultural intelligence into your workplace culture
A diverse group of co-workers enjoying a workplace event

Building Bridges: Fostering Inclusion through Global Perspectives

“When creativity melds with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together”

—Virgil Abloh.

My professional journey has been enriched by experiences highlighting the transformative potential of inclusive practices globally.

One particularly stand-out moment occurred while consulting on a project for National Inclusion Week, with a European-based organisation. I realised that only a few had a positive experience with inclusion. Therefore, I decided to create a safe space for individuals to share and express their emotions about their experiences, and this formed how we progressed the project, ensuring that we keep track of colleagues’ experiences with a culturally sensitive approach.

Through cultural mindfulness and open dialogue, we got essential insights into the challenges faced by the employees and the support they needed from the subtle nuances of language barriers.

Cultural Intelligence is necessary for conflict and crisis resolution. People were intrigued, and this project snowballed into another around ‘Everyday Inclusive Behaviours’. Moreover, acknowledging and rewarding their input, this initiative’s ripple effects extended far beyond our project’s outcomes, inspiring meaningful conversations and tangible change.

Recognise and respond to cross-culture needs

In order to successfully navigate cross-cultural relationships in the workplace it is important to make space to learn, respect and understand them. I hope that some of the examples I have shared above can support you to do this.

Build on your learning during Global Inclusion Week

Global Inclusion Week is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the importance of inclusion in the global working environment. The theme for 2024 is Cultural Intelligence: Inclusion Across Cultures. If you have been inspired by Ruth’s blog there is still time to sign up and access the free webinars and resources that are available during this week.

Grow your team

When you become an Inclusive Employers’ Member you grow your I&D team.

Your account manager works with you to understand your goals, your challenges and achievable next steps.

Do you need more support for your inclusive culture to thrive?

Learn about membership today

Sign up for Global Inclusion Week webinars