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Is Cultural Intelligence and Millennial Engagement Part of Your Leadership Arsenal?

In his book, The Science of Leadership: Lessons from Research for Organizational Leaders, Julian Barling (2014) asked a very profound question. “Do leaders matter? If so, in terms of what outcomes?” This discussion intrigued me. As I read the chapter, I contemplated, from an outcome perspective, how can organizational leaders continue to grow their leadership team, gain global influence, and maximize millennial contribution?

Based on training and research conducted at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University coupled with real-world experience, I propose two strategies. The first strategy alerts organizational leaders to cultural biases in global strategic planning. Lack of this awareness can invoke personal idiosyncrasies, create blinders, and prohibit productivity. The second strategy is critical to reducing the high millennial turnover rate in organizations.

1. Invest in Cultural Intelligence Awareness Training

Economic globalization is driving the need for leaders to understand multicultural differences in business operations. Since many businesses are establishing a global footprint, developing leaders with high cultural intelligence is a vital skill. Although there are many instruments available to aid in this training, I previously used the Globe Smart Five Dimensions of Culture Awareness Tool. By using this tool, I was better prepared to engage with a small management consulting firm in Cape Town, South Africa.

So, why is cultural awareness important in strategic planning? Several years ago, I worked with several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). My team and I were responsible for developing security-cooperation engagement activities for these countries. Since the United States’ goal was to eliminate safe havens for terrorists, especially on the African continent, we wanted to build trust and influence with our African partners.

Imagine if we had approached this engagement with a US-centric only mentality. Our efforts in this region of the world would have failed. Because we could not afford to allow our cultural differences to disrupt productivity, we invested tremendous time and research studying these countries. Our cultural awareness training enhanced our ability to collaborate and engage effectively with these global partners.

2. Maximize Investment in Millennial Contribution

How is your company measuring its investment in its millennial workforce? Are you allowing talent to walk out the door? In The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning over the Next Generation of Leaders, researchers cited, “More than 44 percent of millennials are now in leadership positions, but most believe they are receiving little to no development in their roles… Millennials still feel left out; only 28 percent believe their organization is fully taking advantage of their skills” (p.6).

As the host of a local television show titled, Leadership Table Talk, I recently interviewed several millennials regarding their perspective on leadership development in technology-driven organizations. Having spent over 35 years in the telecommunications and information systems technology business in both the military, government, and corporate America, I was curious about their perspective. The prevailing narrative from these interviews was “we just want a chance to contribute to the overall success of the organization.” What can we derive from this feedback? I purport that if organizations fail to engage effectively the talents of their millennial workforce, turnover rates will not decrease but increase – at an alarming rate.

In summary, economic globalization continues to drive corporate engagement with other countries. By developing a cultural intelligence awareness-training program, organizations can grow their leadership teams and global influence. Likewise, by strategically engaging the millennial workforce, organizations can maximize their productivity, and retain their expertise.

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