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The Lack of Cultural Intelligence is Damaging Our Enterprises and Our Economy

05/28/2015 12:00AM

By Glenn Llopis

More and more leaders are scared for their business. Not because their products and services are not innovative or relevant, but because they just don’t connect naturally with the changing face of America’s consumers.

The rapid rise of Asian, Hispanic and African-American populations in America is forcing companies to change their business models and their entire business approach. This shift became quite apparent during a recent meeting with a financial services Senior Executive who said, “Today, I am scared for the future of our business because our employees don’t relate to or with the emerging client base. We are losing business to Mom and Pop shops that are owned by Hispanics and Asians. In fact, we are losing the diverse members of our workforce to these same competitors because we lack the cultural intelligence to keep them.”

If you were asked about your Cultural IQ, what do you think it would be? Did you know that Hispanics, Asians, African-American and other multicultural groups think, act and innovate differently? Did you know that they are wired in ways that the traditional workplace continues to ignore? As a business leader, are you actively encouraging your diverse workforce to be their natural whole selves in everything they do and how they do it? Do you even know what this requires – or how it can be beneficial for enabling new types of business growth for your organization?

In today’s global marketplace, you must be culturally intelligent. It’s a business imperative. America’s corporations are becoming more aware of this need. However, they still don’t know what to do and how to do it. Instead they supplement a real strategy by supporting diversity associations, donating to non-profit service groups, and increasing their advertising dollars to target the changing faces of their customers. But when it comes to being authentic in how they integrate cultural intelligence into their business model, this is where the executives begin to get uncomfortable.

This lack of cultural competency also pervades politics. As the 2012 presidential campaigns begin to unfold, the most pressing concerns amongst candidates is how to relate to and with Hispanic voters. In fact, recently I was asked to meet with a prominent politician who told me that his political party was culturally ignorant about Hispanics. This person’s team wanted me and my organization to support their political agenda with the hopes of using my reputation amongst Hispanic professionals in the public and private sectors to lure votes, money and influence.

Our leaders can’t buy cultural intelligence. It’s not for sale. You must live it in order to authentically be it.

In the weeks ahead, I will be starting a conversation around why diversity and the need for cultural intelligence will represent the new strategy for sustainable business growth.

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The cultural demographic shift™ in the United States is about the workplace and marketplace telling us that it is becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business. This is exactly why Hispanics – both entering the workplace in search of the right employer who will allow them to be their authentic selves as well as those professionals who have been battling the gulf between assimilation and authenticity – are now ready to advance as 21st century leaders by activating their immigrant perspective; that is, the influence their cultural values have on the natural ways they think, act and are motivated to perform at work.