As the credit crunch continues to bite with vengeance, business across the globe are assessing how to use 2009 in order to be prepared for a possible up-turn in 2010. For many the answer will lie in working more internationally. However, a survey released today shows that businesses not only need to pay attention to costs, business processes and the like but also to the cultural awareness of their personnel.
Most analysts and business leaders acknowledge that 2009 will be a difficult year. With the flow of credit at an all time low and government policies needing months in order to take any affect, people and businesses are gearing up for a rocky year. However, businesses worldwide are approaching the downturn with a strategic response and analysing how to consolidate market positions in order to take advantage of the awaited up-turn. One strategy being implemented is to look abroad.
Looking beyond national borders offers many advantages in terms of reducing costs, finding new revenue streams and increasing market coverage. However, although going global seems an attractive proposition businesses must be aware of potential pitfalls. Apart from red-tape, local business conditions and the complexities of setting up operations, cultural awareness is critical for personnel working in foreign countries.
A survey released to today by the cross-cultural communications consultancy Kwintessential reveals at a whopping 88% of their internationally-savvy respondents agreed that cultural awareness training would have been of benefit to them prior to doing business in a foreign country. The results clearly demonstrate that businesses and their decision makers are not considering the impact sending their personnel into different cultural climates can have on the success of their operations. It could be assumed that a “we all do business the same” mentality guides such decisions.
The survey asked visitors to the Kwintessential website: “If you have worked abroad before, do you think cultural training would have helped you?” The question was posed in a manner that would only elicit responses from people who had actually been abroad for work in the past, and now using hindsight understood whether or not cultural differences had an impact on their trip.
Cultural awareness (or intercultural) training at a personal level is about helping people understand how their own values, assumptions, perceptions and ways of working can be challenged when working in another culture. Cultures differ in many ways whether it is in communication styles, how trust is built, how meetings are conducted and how people are motivated. By helping people understand themselves better as well as appreciating the culture(s) they are about to work in/with the result is greater synergy, better success rates and stronger relationships.
Cultural awareness training is a simple, cost effective and long term solution and something businesses should invest in for 2009. As part of a properly prepared international business strategy the provision of such training to staff can reap excellent rewards.
“Now is the time to invest in a business and invest in its people. Looking internationally is vital now and we all need to make sure that cultural awareness is at the top of our list as this is what can really give you a competitive advantage as well as improve chances of success,” commented Neil Payne, the company’s Director.