Are you ready to take your hospitality business to the next level in this diverse, digital age? You may have recently hired a team of diverse individuals, hoping this would guarantee success, only to find that they're not getting along or innovating. If you're frustrated and wondering if all your efforts were in vain, don't give up just yet! According to Ritika Wadhwa, Head of the Cultural Intelligence Centre UK, your team might be missing one critical component: cultural intelligence (CQ).

“Team conflict is normal when businesses increase their diversity efforts, because simply bringing together a diverse team doesn’t guarantee success. That's where CQ comes in - it helps members understand and accommodate each other's differences, paving the way for true innovation and success” she says. Curious to learn more?

We sat down with Ritika to discuss the crucial role of CQ in fostering diverse and thriving hospitality teams. She shares valuable insights on how to develop your own CQ as a leader, and most importantly, how to increase your staff and guest satisfaction. Ready to unlock your team's full potential? Don't miss this enlightening interview!


How Did Cultural Intelligence Become Your Career Focus?  

Growing up in India, I was surrounded by a society that upheld patriarchal values. When I moved to the UK years later, I couldn't help but notice that I was a brown woman with a different name and face than the majority. Despite having worked in boardrooms across the public and private sectors in Canada, India, and the UK, I observed others' limiting perceptions of me. I took my 25 years’ of diverse cultural experiences and chose to make a real impact at the CQ Centre UK, driven by my passion for DEI.


What's the Importance of Cultural Intelligence in Today's World?  

Ethnicity and gender are different aspects of someone's cultural identity, along with their generation, sexual orientation, religion, profession etc. These facets of culture influence our values and behaviour. Understanding and unpacking them is crucial in developing CQ. 

Hotel businesses should not only focus on defining culture based on the worst behaviour tolerated, but should also take into account their teams’ and guests’ various layers of culture. Since the sector has both diverse teams and guests, it requires a high level of CQ to navigate cultural differences and appropriately respond to situations.


What Is Cultural Intelligence and How Is It Measured?

At the Cultural Intelligence centre, CQ is defined as an essential skill that helps you collaborate effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Similar to emotional intelligence (EI), it is a skill that can be learned and developed with intention.

The founder of the CQ centre, Linn Van Dyne, who has years of experience in HR, observed that some individuals adapt quickly to new environments and diverse cultures, while others struggle. To investigate this phenomenon, Van Dyne collaborated with Soon Ang and David Livermore and conducted 20 years of research, leading to the creation of the CQ Assessment and framework. This assessment measures skills in four key areas to determine an individual's CQ level, such as:

  1. CQ Drive: Your level of interest, persistence, and confidence during multicultural interactions e.g., Why are you (not) motivated to entrench yourself in another culture?
  2. CQ Knowledge: Your understanding about how cultures are similar and different e.g., What is it that's so completely different for you, yet makes you curious? 
  3. CQ Strategy: Your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions e.g., Do you research someone’s preferences for hierarchy, or direct and indirect communication etc. beforehand? 
  4. CQ Action: Your ability to adapt when relating and working in multicultural contexts. How do you adapt to the preferences and values that you encounter? What steps can you take to better accommodate others and work together? 

I highly recommend taking the CQ Assessment to all hospitality leaders and hiring managers out there. It’ll give you valuable insights into your own CQ levels, including your cultural values and areas for growth. Armed with this knowledge, you can truly make a meaningful impact on your DEI efforts, recognise your own biases when working with diverse teams, and ultimately enhance your guest experience. Moreover, you'll be able to foster a workplace culture that embraces diversity, promotes creativity, and encourages collaboration among team members from all walks of life.

Hosco’s blog subscribers get 15% off the CQ Pro Assessment with our discount code. This code expires on 31 December 2023. 


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How Can You Use CQ for Improving Hotel Performance?

Let’s take a moment to envision the success of your hotel business. If your aim is to elevate guest satisfaction, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of your customers. Who are they? What are their preferences and expectations? This is CQ knowledge. 

Assess your current policies and procedures to determine which ones lead to guest satisfaction and identify any business obstacles next. How do you prepare your staff for interactions with guests of diverse backgrounds? How do you cultivate a successful work environment for your diverse team? This is where CQ strategy comes into play. 

When faced with a dissatisfied guest at the front desk, for example, a culturally and emotionally intelligent leader or front desk employee would be able to navigate the situation with ease. Rather than becoming flustered, they would be able to empathise, apologise, and come up with a solution. This is where CQ action helps. (note: You need CQ as well as EQ, because people from different cultural backgrounds may express their emotions differently). 

But CQ is not just useful for crisis management; it's also an essential skill for day-to-day hotel operations. How do you present yourself in a work or social setting? How do you pick up on non-verbal cues in a room, or adjust your language to accommodate different cultural norms? By leveraging your CQ, you can become more adaptable, hire the right people, and collaborate to achieve desired results. 



How Can You Leverage CQ for Hiring and Retaining Staff?

It's important to recognise and understand your own preconceived notions about candidates to avoid bias.  Aim to be open and flexible during the hiring process, and actively listen to candidates without letting your assumptions influence your perceptions. Additionally, unexpected situations can arise during the interview process that challenge your assumptions, such as a candidate with a name or voice that doesn't match their gender. By recognising and adapting to these situations, you can create a psychologically safe and welcoming environment for the candidate, while also gaining a non-biased understanding of their potential value to your business. 

From all the HR events I’ve recently attended, I’ve come to understand that Gen Z expects more than just tickbox exercises when it comes to DEI in the workplace. Instead, they want accountability from employers. This means transparency about your executive board, and policies and procedures that reflect who they are. Additionally, Gen Z candidates expect bonuses and talent pipeline initiatives to be in place even before they join.  So, if you want to be ahead of the curve, you've got to make accountability the forefront of your DEI policies and practices.  CQ can help you with this. 



What Signals High CQ in a Leader, and What Signals Low CQ?

To get a glimpse of your CQ as a hospitality leader, you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Can your staff bring their full selves and unique perspectives to work? 
  • Are you providing a psychologically safe space for your staff? 
  • Do you encourage different viewpoints and dialogue, and take their opinions into account? 

I recommend reading David Livermore’s article on the questions culturally intelligent leaders ask themselves each day, as well as Deloitte’s paper on the 6 signature traits of inclusive leadership. The latter mentions CQ as one of the 6 traits.

Low CQ is when you’re not curious or don’t care about the various cultural backgrounds your people come from. If you're not empathetic and respectful (by the other person’s standards), that’s also a sign.  


How Can You Develop CQ and Adapt to Different Environments?

The CQ centre has a lot of free resources and years of research worth exploring on its website, and there are plenty of books written on the subject. 

As a hospitality leader, you can choose to start by taking the CQ Pro Assessment. One of our facilitators can help you understand your CQ scores and cultural values, and how to improve and use them to your benefit afterwards. For those willing to take courses, we offer a one-hour, e-learning module, for a surface level understanding, and a three-hour e-learning module for a deeper understanding. Bespoke coaching and training sessions can be requested via

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Does the CQ Journey End With Taking the Assessment?

Research conducted by the CQ centre says that homogenous teams are more innovative than diverse teams. This is because they benefit from less friction, and everyone is in their comfort zone.  These teams have a lot of blind spots, however. On the other hand, when diverse teams are given the tools and resources to understand each other, they bring about extraordinary innovation. So, the next step after taking the assessment is working on your CQ as a leader, and training your hotel staff in CQ. Hotel employee onboarding should typically include CQ training, and not just focus on hospitality SOPs. 

CQ training isn’t focused on insights about every culture or religion. It teaches you how to flex and adapt to situations that are unfamiliar with curiosity, respect and empathy. By understanding your teams’ value structure (an outcome of the CQ assessment), you can help your teams collaborate and innovate. This is a constant process - the more you keep learning, the more your team and you can hone this skill. 

Ritika - bio (1)

Ritika Wadhwa

Ritika Wadhwa is the Chief Operating Officer at the Cultural Intelligence Centre. She is responsible for leading the Centre’s work in the UK and beyond. Ritika has over 25 years of extensive experience in client retention, marketing, business development, and project management, experience she has gained by working with senior stakeholders across continents, and the corporate and Government sectors. Born and brought up in India, Ritika has had the unique experience of living, studying and working in senior roles in several multicultural countries. She is passionate about Cultural Intelligence and is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion champion. Ritika is part of British Telecom’s Ethnic Minority Mentorship programme and also sits on the Independent Advisory Board for British Transport Police. She has recently been made a Fellow at the Society of Leadership Fellows at St George’s House, Windsor Castle.