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 worldbusinessculture.com provides cultural awareness training resources for over 40 trading countries around the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.