What's the fastest way to lose a business deal? Not understanding the norms and communication styles of the people you are working with.
The best companies know this and have already started programs that help their employees build the intercultural skills they need.
IBM, Accenture and Coca-Cola provide intercultural training for their employees. This training allows their employees to negotiate, attend meetings, make presentations and create successful business deals with people from different cultures.
Business Today recently published an article highlighting how these three companies are using intercultural training to gain the edge over their competitors. Keep reading to find out how they are profiting from it and how your company could profit too!
"The fastest way to lose a business deal is to ignore cultural differences."
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IBM has developed an online program that briefs employees on the norms of the cultures that they are about to enter and do business with. The program looks at different ways of examining culture including:
- Task versus relationship orientation
- Direct and indirect communication styles
- Decision-making styles and processes
Do we all make decisions the same way?
Want an example of how it works? With better knowledge of the ways in which a Dutch company made decisions and how that was different from an Indian company, Indian employees at IBM were able to use that knowledge in order to show the Dutch company that their organizations could indeed work together.
Could this have happened without an awareness of culture?
Coca-Cola brings in outside intercultural trainers to work with their employees when they prepare to relocate or to do a short-term assignment abroad.
The article gave an example of an employee who moved to Turkey and received an orientation training session with a local Turkish person and a professional intercultural trainer.
His wife also received the training. Training spouses is one of the most overlooked yet crucial aspects of the relocation process.
If the spouse is not happy, the family will not be happy. If the family is not happy, they are going home and they are taking your investment with them! It happens more often than you think!
An example of how it worked for Coca-Cola
One of the employees received training when he went to Africa to do business.
The employee used what he learned during the training to improve his communication with his client in Africa.
He had learned that while dealing with African professionals, he needed to express himself more rather than rely on logic to articulate his points.
With that knowledge in mind, he altered the way he communicated and was able to have a much more successful exchange than he would have had without that knowledge.
Accenture delivers cross-cultural training to their employees when they relocate abroad.
Even an issue as simple as small talk can be very diffferent in another culture.
Business Today reported that Rebecca Schmitt learned the important difference between small talk in the US versus small talk in India.
The key difference is that in India, people like to get to know you not just as a professional but they also want to know about your personal life. Do you have children? What does your husband or wife do? In the U.S., it is considered rude to ask about someone's personal life at work unless you know them relatively well.
What can you learn from your intercultural workplace?
If you are an international professional, living and working in the United States, you have an awesome opportunity to take advantage of your intercultural workplace and learn from experience first.
Making mistakes while interacting with people from different cultures might be the first step in gaining intercultural awareness and skills.
The next step is to take those experiences and mistakes and turn them into real skills that can help you move up in your career and help your company improve their bottom line.
IBM, Coca-Cola and Accenture are leading the way...what is your company doing to help employees build intercultural skills?
Source: Mithel, Manasi. Adapt to Conquer: Understanding other cultures in a globalised business world important. Business Today. (June 24, 2012).