With more than 200 ethnicities and record high migration, New Zealand workplace is also becoming more diverse than ever. How do we adapt to a diverse workplace to start with? And more importantly, how do we harness the benefits of a diverse workplace regardless?

In this article, I explored the notion of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) with Shireen Chua, Director of Third Culture Solutions who is one of the very few people in New Zealand certified to use CQ Tool to unleash the synergies of workplace diversity.

Eric: “What is Cultural Intelligence or CQ?”

Shireen: Cultural Intelligence is the capability to work effectively across culturally diverse settings. Culture has an effect on our behaviour and responses. Through learning and coaching to understand different perspectives, we can grow in our ability to interact meaningfully in culturally diverse settings. We can learn to interpret settings and adjust our interaction and communication to ensure that we understand each other.

Eric: “Why is CQ important these days? Particularly from a New Zealand perspective?”

Shireen: The world is becoming increasingly diverse, and ours with each other will require the ability to understand and communicate in a way that both understand each other. This growing diversity is a challenge and an opportunity. Businesses are faced with a growing diverse market due to globalisation and a diverse workforce. Cultural intelligence is the key to maximise the opportunities that diversity brings.

New Zealand, and Auckland in particular is now considered Superdiverse. Over 40% of the population in Auckland were born overseas. This will require cultural intelligence to work, live and play in our diverse communities.  It not only makes sense economically but socially as well, it provides an opportunity to have meaningful interactions with others who are different from us.

Eric: “We always hear the notion that leaders need to have a good balance of IQ and EQ. Who is CQ for?”

Shireen: CQ follows on from IQ and EQ. As the world becomes more complex, CQ enables leaders, individuals and organisations navigate the complexities that diversity brings in all facets of work and living in the 21st Century. CQ equips each one of us to understand how culture may influence our behaviour and responses. Everyone that interacts with anyone else who is different will need CQ for meaningful interaction.

Eric: “Can CQ be applied outside a workplace? Such as a friends or social settings?”

Shireen: Yes… CQ is essential for everyone who finds themselves living in a Global Village of the 21st Century. In our schools, communities and with our friends too. As we develop our CQ, we will also make friends from different cultures to our own.

Eric: “Can CQ be measured? If yes, then how can one improve their CQ level?”

Shireen: CQ can be measured with the CQ Tool. This is a scientifically validated tool that measures one’s interest, knowledge and ability to navigate culturally diverse settings. Everyone can improve their ability to develop their CQ through a variety of ways from increasing their exposure to different cultures and gaining new knowledge of different cultural settings.

© CQ Cultural Intelligence Centre 2016

Shireen is running an introductory workshop on CQ in Auckland. She specialises in facilitating cultural intelligence growth in staff teams, managers, leaders, and individuals through training, coaching and consulting.


In my 3 years here in New Zealand, I hardly hear about CQ in the corporate sector but I believe it’s time to explore CQ and embrace the potential it can bring to a diverse workplace. Having internal staff diversity groups is only part of the equation. New Zealand companies need to include cultural dividends as part of the diversity conversation and growth strategy.

If you have any other suggestions or links, please share them in my LinkedIn comments. Thank You.

Eric Chuah was the Head of Migrant Banking for ANZ and the founder of Cultural Connections, which is a social enterprise that helps migrant community groups to flourish together with business in New Zealand through multicultural research and consulting.