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Effective Working beyond Borders and Culture
Cultural issues revolve around the cultural vision of each individual. One should possess a solid understanding of your own culture and then try to become familiar with that of others in that context. There are many kinds of theoretical, practical and legal issues in any working environment. These include differences in perception concerning the roles of authority, individualism, negotiation, lifestyle, security, competition and much more. These issues can only be managed correctly through an in-depth awareness of behavioural patterns, approach and attitudes involved in the target culture or cultures.
The manner in which firms conduct business varies significantly from one country to another. As an example, Americans generally dislike long periods of silence during negotiations and in conversation and business cards are not usually distributed or exchanged unless there is a definite intent to make contact at a later date; the dress code in Danish business culture is informal when compared with the rest of Europe and North America. Each country follows different business etiquettes. Your organisation thus needs to be aware of the protocols in each country in which it intends to do business.
Customer tastes vary enormously from one country to other. Business strategy applied in each geography should thus cater to local tastes and habits. A perfectly viable strategy applied in Japan may not suit the market in Australia unless products and services are marketed and provided in a different way.
As organisations enter new markets, they quickly discover that hiring and managing an entire team in a new culture is a significant challenge. Learning local values, leadership approaches and identifying attitudes, styles of communication, the concept of time and identification of self is essential. The same knowledge is vital for staff considering relocation to another market and for corporate marketers wishing to design marketing strategies for a given country. Designing and operating multidisciplinary teams is complex enough in its own right but this can be further compounded by the diverse perceptions born of cultural and language difference. It is thus vital that the organisation achieves a common purpose in the minds of staff in all disciplines by actively managing change and cultural integration.
Cultural training programmes may prove to be useful for organisations considering entry to new markets or geographies or for those where some level of friction has been identified emanating from differences in personal culture. These programmes are usually tailored to the specific needs of an organisation and can provide a detailed insight into the ramifications of a new culture ranging from workforce recruitment and management through to market perceptions, business attitudes, etiquette and a great deal more.
European countries use the colour black to represent mourning. This colour has an entirely different meaning in other locales – in some it has religious significance whereas in others it is simply worn as an everyday colour. Cultural differences span everything from the smallest detail through to issues of strategic significance. Organisations entering new markets; experiencing a lack of workforce cohesion or even suffering from unexpectedly poor market acceptance in a new geography may benefit from a cultural training programme in developing the insight necessary to take the next step.
About the Author: Suzanne Schiller is the Business Development Manager at Communicaid.
Communicaid is a Culture and Communication Skills Consultancy and a global leader in the design and delivery of Cultural Awareness Programmes