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Cultural Awareness Training?

Why Cultural Awareness Training?

Your colleagues are being asked to work across the barriers of culture, language and geography as never before, as markets continue to globalise and technology opens up new international collaboration opportunities. What skills and knowledge should you be helping your teams to acquire to ensure they can take full advantage of the opportunities that result from a more open global economy?

Surely, global cultural fluency becomes an increasing ‘need to have’ rather than a mere ‘nice to have’. Most people have a real hunger to develop the ability to work seamlessly across cultural barriers, but these skills are not built through osmosis – people need structured, practical guidance to help them navigate a culturally complex global commercial environment.

Global Business Culture has been helping clients improve cross-border effectiveness and efficiencies for nearly twenty years and is the ‘go-to’ provider of cultural awareness training UK and consultancy for many of the world’s leading companies, professional service firms and higher education institutions. Plus our sister website provides cultural awareness training resources for over 40 trading countries around the world.

Many of our clients have been with us for more than ten years and rely on us for both learning and development input and market entry expertise.

How do you prepare employees for working across the barriers of culture, language and geography?

It is a fact of modern commercial life that a great many employees are asked to work across the barriers of culture and language but have never really had any significant exposure to or explanation of the fact that people simply ‘do things differently’ in different counties. A common misconception is that you only really encounter other cultural approaches to business when you go to work overseas for an extended period. This l cannot be the case – every time you pick up the phone or email a colleague in an international office you are dealing with cultural differences.

In most organisations, many people who have cross-border dealings never actually travel internationally. Most people have intermittent contact through email, phone or video conference and the sporadic nature of these interactions make it much more difficult to answer the questions around ‘what is a cultural dilemma and what is merely a business-as-usual problem?’

If we expect employees to work effectively cross-border, we need to train them to do so. Of course, you can learn through experience, but this can be a slow and costly experience. Practical, targeted cultural awareness training interventions can help ramp up awareness and knowledge quickly and give people the confidence to continue to build cultural fluency through their ongoing international business interactions.

How can you improve both internal and
external efficiencies when working cross-border?

Many things impact on effective and efficient international working, but it is undoubtedly true that one of the major factors contributing to cross-border inefficiencies is that unknown cultural differences appear from nowhere and slow everything down.

In fact, our experience shows us that the biggest impact of global cultural differences on any organisation is that they make getting to the end point more complex and time-consuming.

International cultural differences can impact on just about every facet of cross-border working:

  • Meeting styles differ enormously around the world and when people have differing expectations around how a meeting should be run
    and then converge on the same meetings, confusion ensues.
  • Decision-making is usually a product of attitudes to corporate structure. It is highly likely that the approach to decision-making found
    in countries which favour flatter structures will differ greatly from those countries which are strongly hierarchical.
  • Differing attitudes to risk can create tensions within organisations – how does a company from a risk-averse culture convince their
    colleagues in a more risk-based country to accept the advice of head office?

All of these key issues (and many, many more) are hugely impacted on by culturally differing mindsets and people need high levels of cultural fluency to help them navigate these difficult channels.

Good quality, targeted cultural awareness training can help to quickly ramp up levels of cultural fluency within any organisation.

How effectively are you able to communicate ideas
and strategy across cultures and languages?

Every time we run a cultural awareness training programme (and we have run hundreds of such courses all over the world) for one of our blue-chip clients, the most common challenge that people mention about working cross-border is around communication

People often assume that these communication challenges are the result of the fact that people speak different languages and, although this is undoubtedly an issue, it is only part of the problem. The problem is much deeper than that. It is not only that we all speak different languages which creates difficulty, but also that different cultures use language differently. What is considered good communication style in one country is very often considered to be very poor communication style in other.

If people are unaware of these subtle communication style differences, they can often lead to interpersonal problems where people assume colleagues from other countries are being rude or deliberately evasive. A better understanding of the subtleties of cross-border communication can help people work more effectively with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders around the world.

We always encourage clients to ask their employees to gain a better understanding of cross-border communication challenges and the cultural awareness training programmes which we run always contain a section which focuses on this key area.

Can greater cultural fluency boost profitability?

At Global Business Culture we strongly believe that improving levels of cultural fluency within the employee base can help boost efficiencies at any organisation which works cross-border. Although this might seem like a bold statement there are three key reasons why we are happy to make this assertion:

  • Unknown cultural differences often lead to internal inefficiencies as misunderstandings lead to mistakes, indecision and time lags. Anything that slows business down will lead to an increase in costs and therefore a loss of profitability.
  • The inability to fully understand the cultural expectations of clients in another country will make it much more difficult to service that client as effectively as possible. It makes sense that poor service to clients will inevitably lead to a fall in sales and a fall in sales will in turn impact on profitability.
  • Many employees join international organisations because they are enthusiastic about the possibility of working in a cross-border environment. However, the reality of working in a cross-border environment can often prove to be much more challenging than had been imagined. This can lead to decreased staff motivation and eventually even to higher levels of attrition. Both a lack of motivation and high levels of attrition will inevitably impact on profitability as well.

The cost-benefit ratio of any training programme is always difficult to evaluate but we strongly believe that targeted, effective cultural awareness training programmes delivered by experts in the field can deliver tangible and speedy results.