We live in an interconnected world where multicultural teams have increasingly become the norm.
That means that today , even an home based organization recruits expatriates or sends some of his national staff on short or on long term mission abroad. Negotiating a contract, taking part to a trade show or managing a project in a foreign country… these are some examples of how business is conducted today;
For very long, that sort of interactions was referred to as ‘international’ and organizations were mainly focused on ensuring their staff got the appropriate languages skills to effectively working in the international arena.
Experience has taught that languages skills are just insufficient to succeed during internationalization. Surprisingly, even nationals from foreign descent appeared not to be better equipped than any other national when transferred in the country of their origin!
Learning has been painful in this field as it is through the analysis of failures that organizations have slowly realized how much cultural differences were under-estimated when approaching the job to be done.
Today most result-oriented organizations understand how critical it is to engage their staff into an intercultural preparation.
The perception of the needs is however still very poor with many organizations unaware of WHO needs to build intercultural skills.
Usually expatriates only benefits from an intercultural training. Yet, when I facilitate an intercultural session at the participants’ work premise, I often hear from their colleagues or managers. They often come to me with questions about their new foreign colleagues. In general they are not too sure on how to handle foreign colleagues’ unexpected attitudes or reactions. They are also demanding an intercultural training as they believe that it would enable them to work more productively.
It is a fact that sensitizing the whole teams to the existence of cultural differences would significantly reduce integration time and by and large everyone’s productivity.
Besides the challenge to identify WHO needs an intercultural training, there is another challenge that organizations face when dealing with multicultural workforce.
The challenge is related to the decision to know WHEN there is a need to build intercultural skills. The need is not easily perceived when people come from seemingly similar cultures such as these of Western Europe. In this case, the cultural differences are mainly invisible. Nor the Human Resource Department nor the employees themselves are aware of the expected cultural adjustment. As a result, the reaction is often to do abroad the same way as at home. Yet what is right, professional or even productive at home may not be so abroad....!
Would you, you the decision maker, wait until a deal fails or until a foreign talent leaves the company to understand the value of effectively handling the cultural differences?
How to enhance your performance across borders ?
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