Have you ever been in an intercultural dilemma on business? Been presented with some strange looking dish at dinner and not known if it’s acceptable to say “no”, just got stuck into it and regretted it later as you’ve spent the whole night tossing and turning with stomach cramps?
Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. International business can be tough and it’s not just language that can be a barrier– very often it’s behaviour and values that are different and can lead to a whole variety of miscommunication.
Fortunately help is at hand, we asked our trainer and expert on this subject – Vanessa Paisley – to list six areas where intercultural and diversity training can help organisations in today’s modern global business world:
- Intercultural communication skills – are you born with them or can they be learned? Well, we pick up our cultural values from a young age: from family or peer groups such as school and then from our workplaces, which all have their own sub-cultures very often unique to a particular industry. Our own culture will always be a significant part of us as it is deep-rooted, but intercultural communication skills can definitely be learnt – thank goodness!
- Teambuilding in multicultural teams – teambuilding is essential in mono-cultural teams and even more so for teams working across cultures, especially in virtual teams where the risk of miscommunication and lack of trust increases tenfold due to lack of face-time. Get it right at the beginning of a project – be timely and financially smart.
- Cross-cultural marketing/advertising/presentation techniques – do you really know the culture you are selling to? Make sure you prepare yourself with someone who knows the target culture as every nation is different. Some countries like factual presentations full of statistics for example and other nations prefer stage show performances with plenty of storytelling to lighten up standard presentation slides.
- Intercultural conflict resolution – If everything goes wrong in an international project, what do you do? This is when intercultural conflict resolution is needed. It may be that language training is required for some staff members or that team members need to look at behavioural issues and their cultural intelligence – i.e. what cultural information and what behaviours do I need to adopt to fulfil the task effectively?
- Relocation and repatriation training – If I have to move abroad because of work what help can I get beforehand to make the transition easier? Relocation and repatriation training is a brilliant way of alleviating culture shock for employees and their families in their international assignment.
- Diversity training – a diverse workforce creates a space for all of the dialogues mentioned above as well as looking at other gender and age-related issues. A diverse workforce is bursting with creativity and innovation. However, diversity should receive more recognition at work – every manager should ask themselves the question: “Are we getting the maximum potential out of the different members of our workforce?”
All of this makes ‘working interculturally’ sound exhausting and troublesome but don’t worry, everyone is capable of becoming culturally intelligent! In fact, once we realise how deeply culture influences all of us and totally understand the values of our own culture, working across borders becomes a great experience, and can really change our mindset.
It’s so easy to stereotype, however intercultural training makes you stop and ask why? Where do these stereotypes come from? National values are often interpreted negatively although they are just part of the DNA of a culture.
Embracing the world of diversity is a great way of training ourselves to be mindful about how we communicate and to see things from a different perspective, which inevitably pushes our universal communications skills to another level.
Vanessa Paisley is a Motiv8 associate trainer specialising in intercultural communication and English as a foreign language, she has lived abroad for 23 years and is now back in the UK currently going through the motions of reverse culture shock.