IQ or EQ? Managing company cultures in foreign countries

These employees are better in picking up complex patterns in a different environment

IQ or EQ? Managing company cultures in foreign countries

When sending employees overseas, it’s important for employers to carefully select the person they’re going to deploy. But how exactly should employers choose who among staff is the best suited for an expatriate role? New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology said that organisations should seek out employees with high implicit aptitude than those with high IQ.

Based on a series of seven experiments, the researchers found that people with higher implicit aptitude were much better in learning complex cultural customs and norms, which is important when working overseas. Krishna Savani, an associate professor at Nanyang Business School, said in a statement that while people with higher IQ were better in learning information through conscious effort, "people with higher implicit aptitude are better able to automatically pick up complex patterns in the environment without conscious effort."

It helps amid the "complex and noisy regularities" overseas that make it difficult for employees to explicitly learn local norms, which can ultimately influence work performance, according to Michael Morris, a professor at Columbia Business School.

Read more: Shanghai offers expat workers COVID-19 vaccine

This also suggests that explicit instructions may only play a limited role in helping expatriates overseas, according to the research.

"Instead, expatriates would be better off exposing themselves to the local culture, such as by eating and socialising with locals, and just letting their implicit knowledge system figure out cultural norms through everyday experience," said Jackson Lu, the Mitsui Career Development Professor.

In the past, a separate study also said that these are the qualities of a successful expatriate, as also cited by Chris Pardo of Plus Relocation Services:

  • emotional stability
  • openness to change and an ability to adjust/adapt to different customs, perspectives, and business practices
  • cross-cultural interest and sensitivity
  • very strong interpersonal skills
  • flexibility
  • resiliency
  • respect for diverse viewpoints
  • a high level of autonomy
  • a sense of humour

A number of tests can be carried out by employers to find who among its staff have a high implicit aptitude for expatriate assignments, according to the latest research, which was conducted by professors from the MIT Sloan School of Management, Nanyang Business School, and Columbia Business School.

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