Magazine article Talent Development

Cultural Competence: Borders Are Quickly Blurring, So Cross-Cultural Training Must Become an Integral Part of All Management Programs

Magazine article Talent Development

Cultural Competence: Borders Are Quickly Blurring, So Cross-Cultural Training Must Become an Integral Part of All Management Programs

Article excerpt

Borders are quickly blurring, so cross-cultural training must become an integral part of all management programs.

Like it or not, it is a global economy and borders are disappearing. Your customers and resources are scattered across the globe: products await parts from a manufacturer in another country, customer service is handled elsewhere, some employees are located in remote locations, your suppliers and business partners are from unfamiliar countries, you are reporting to someone who does not speak your language or speak it the way you are accustomed in your business interactions, and your company is owned by a company from another country.

Everyone in the organization needs to understand how to interact with subordinates, peers, supervisors, clients, suppliers, and other key constituents from different cultures. Many organizations, both small and large, have outsourced parts of IT, customer service, manufacturing, telemarketing, and many other services to suppliers around the world for financial reasons and availability of specific talent.

So, to offer cultural awareness training as a separate program is ignoring the presence of culture in every fiber of human interaction in the business world. The talent development team cannot ignore the need to prepare the organization for this global economy.


Consider this situation: A manager is confident that the two-hour cultural awareness session she attended has prepared her for her job, until she starts working in a multicultural setup. How does this manager apply the cultural awareness training in meetings, marketing, negotiations, supervising, and every other touch point in the business value chain? That was not part of the training.

Culture influences behavior in all aspects of workplace interactions. How well you play in this global economy is a function of your cultural competency. However, technical and professional competencies sometimes take a back seat.

Thus, it is a strategic imperative that every management training program address the question: How do you employ the techniques and learning content, which work well in your culture, if you are sitting across the room from people raised in other cultures? Take this quiz and see why:

* Is the person in the next office from Germany, France, or Japan?

* Are all your team members from your country?

* Have you been in a meeting with someone who has an accent you could not understand?

* Do you wonder why a co-worker stands up when you walk to his desk?

* Are you confused by the outcome of a negotiation with an Asian partner?

If you answered yes to more than half of these questions, you should understand why it is critical to know how to work with people from other cultures.

Culture touches every part of the business

Making the product and marketing, selling, and servicing it can happen anywhere in the world. Making assumptions, judging, and drawing incorrect conclusions when interacting with people from other cultures can cause project delays, poor business deals, customer defection, and major financial losses.

Let's face it: A country's culture influences the behavior of its people, whether they remain in the country, travel, or migrate to another country. It affects family, social, and work place behaviors. National culture supersedes corporate culture. Culture manifests itself in a person's purchasing habits, approach to projects and problems, participation in meetings, negotiations, recruiting, management style, and every other aspect of the job or business.

Cultural Mix-Ups

Examples of business scenarios where culture has direct application:

* Selling to a global customer-likes, dislikes, offensive communications, decision-making process.

* Marketing-packaging products, branding, advertising, and public relations. …

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