The Importance of Cultural IQ in Life Sciences

By James Hochreutiner, Vice President, Global Solutions at KellyOCG

In an increasingly globalized scientific world, cultural intelligence has never been more important. James Hochreutiner takes a closer look at the impact of cultural awareness in Life Sciences, below.

The world is getting smaller. Not only in Life Sciences but in every area of our lives. Leaps forward in technology mean that we can collaborate with people around the globe in just a few clicks. However, though the impact of geographical distance may be shrinking, the cultural differences between us can still be vast. Going into an office in Japan and trying to do business in the same way as you might do in Germany is unlikely to lead to the results you want. In Life Sciences, we are seeing industry leaders putting down roots in emerging markets, while tech pioneers are disrupting the status quo around the world. This increased pace of change, coupled with intense M&A activity, means that building cultural IQ is no longer optional – it’s essential to scientific progress and organizational success. 

Culture is at the heart of the people business

Life Sciences is about people. From patients accessing treatments and medical devices to live healthier lives to the thousands of people who work every day to drive life-changing scientific breakthroughs. This means that culture has a huge impact on the work being done and how this work influences the wider world. Culture has to be a consideration at every step of the Life Sciences journey, from clinical studies to marketing and talent engagement strategy.

Cultural understanding needs to be baked into the sales journey

When it comes to talent sales journeys (or any sales journey for that matter…) cultural sensitivity has to be baked in from the start. There is no one size fits all when it comes to solving organizational challenges in Life Sciences and, from the way you greet a room full of decision-makers to the language used as part of a sales pitch, cultural understanding is vital to the success of the process. By taking the time to research cultural norms and expectations, you can improve your ability to effectively communicate your values and solutions.

A new generation are fuelling cultural exchange

The good news for Life Sciences is that the next generation of talent are more mobile than ever before. A study carried out by Boston Consulting Group found that 59% of US millennials would move abroad for a job. While a 2019 report from HSBC found that those that move abroad before 35 enjoy the biggest career and financial benefits. The days of a job for life are fading fast, and, as younger workers begin to build a bespoke collection of working experiences, their ability to communicate cross-culturally is growing.

How can we build cultural IQ?

No one can have a complete knowledge of all the cultural norms and practices across the world, and, of course, culture is highly complex and diverse even within geographical boundaries. However, what we can all do is to add cultural awareness to our business toolkit. A few minutes research online or a conversation with a colleague from that part of the world can usually reveal information around greetings and generally accepted forms of behavior in a particular area. This preparation demonstrates respect towards colleagues, partners, and prospects that can be invaluable. It can also help us to be effective and culturally aware leaders, wherever our Life Sciences journey takes us. The key is to remain culturally tuned-in and respectful, however alien the situation and environment is to our own cultural expectations.

Science is a universal language and cross-border collaborations can yield impressive results. However, without cultural understanding, these valuable partnerships can fall flat. Increase cultural IQ across your organization to drive success and outpace the competition.