Blogs for Culture Vultures

Intercultural Teams



The complex work of modern knowledge intensive industries requires input from a variety of professions and skill sets, more than a lone worker can be expected to master. And since business is rapidly globalizing, managers can expect to work with teams whose members represent multiple cultural approaches to interpersonal relationships, work, and structures.

In such a situation, opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication abound, but the opportunity for magnifying the productivity of the group into deeper and more robust results is also great. What resources can a manager bring to the orchestrating of work in a multicultural team?


Approaches to Team and Group Work in Different Cultures

North American and Western Europe exemplify cultures in which individuals expect to compete, putting forth their own ideas forcefully in the expectation that others can be persuaded to go along with the one whose idea is most powerfully expressed. Such an approach to work in a group can be expected to generate a great deal of “noise”: conflict, debate and friction. Successful groups working within this paradigm will channel their competition into improving the work itself, but the obvious danger is that the conflict can become interpersonal, with emotional overtones interfering with the task at hand.

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India turns away from expats to home-grown talent

India turns away from expats to home-grown talent



Expatriate executives, who were the flavour of the season when India was riding high on a 9%-plus growth rate, are now becoming the first ones to get the pink slip as Indian industry, hit by the slowdown, starts looking within the country for inexpensive hires.

“Many of the expatriate executives, who have been asked to leave, are subject experts. Their value diminishes in a downturn as companies are no more expanding, and thus don’t need people to guide in a new venture,” says K Sudarshan, MD of executive search firm EMA Partners’ India unit. It's fair to say that Indian staff are naturally more effective within their position due to their understanding of Indian culture and business know how. 

Since October 2008, there has been a spate of replacements of expat executives with Indian professionals at the senior level. 

Read more > India

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Global Skills for an International Career

As an international careers adviser, I receive questions daily from people of varied backgrounds who hope to try their luck in the global marketplace. Many job seekers mistakenly believe that they can’t begin an international career until their feet are on foreign soil. They overlook their own backyard for resources and training opportunities.


The Most Sought-After Skills

What do international employers really look for in employees and what skills will be needed by professionals to perform successfully in the global marketplace?

A study commissioned by the College Placement Council Foundation surveyed 32 international employers and colleges to determine what international employers seek in prospective employees. They identified the following areas of required knowledge and skills:

Domain knowledge

Colleges in the U.S. are presently preparing their graduates well in domain knowledge, or knowledge in one’s academic discipline, although employers expressed concern that increasingly greater demands and higher standards may soon result in inadequately prepared graduates.

The three most important skills were cognitive skills, social skills, and “personal traits.” Problem-solving ability, decision making, and knowing how to learn are highly prized generic skills. Social skills were described as the ability to work effectively in group settings, particularly with diverse populations. Personal traits mentioned frequently included flexibility, adaptability, and the capacity to be innovative. Employers often mentioned that colleges do not adequately address this type of skill development.

Cross-cultural competence

Students must make a concerted effort to acquire the knowledge, skills, and traits gained through cross-cultural interaction because we are more geographically and linguistically insulated than most other countries. Cross cultural competence training is an essential consideration. 

On-the-job training and prior work experience. Employers seek applicants who have been successful in applying their domain knowledge or academic studies and generic skills in the workplace. They say that colleges do not place sufficient emphasis on work experience.

Read more >> By Debra Peters-Behrens

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Intercultural Skills are Crucial say HR Leaders



According to a survey of more than 100 senior human resource managers, 81 percent of companies agree that international work experience is a crucial criterion for leadership in a global organization.

The survey, "The Importance of Cultural Skills in Senior Managers," conducted by RW-3 LLC, an online intercultural training organization, and ORC Worldwide, a global human resource consulting firm, was designed to measure the importance of cultural competencies and global experience as criteria for senior management.

"During the current liquidity crisis, we've seen yet again how the global economy is entirely interconnected and how international cooperation is critical for the world's economic well being," said Michael S. Schell, president of RW-3. "Understanding and appreciating how things get done in countries around the world is crucial for success. That means gaining an appreciation and understanding of culture. This survey reinforces how important the global HR community believes those intercultural skills are for their leadership."

 

If you'd like more information about providing the very best online cultural training for your organisation then click here. 

 

Alternatively, click here if you woud like to explore the opportunity for live webinar training with one of our specialist intercultural trainers. 

 

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Young Expats - what is being done to support them?


Michele Bar-Pereg investigates ways in which global mobility professionals can assist this group in making their assignments successful.

Transferees on their first assignments abroad— especially young, single expatriates—often are unaware of some of the more challenging effects of living life in a different culture without a support network of friends, family, and colleagues.


I have discovered a general feeling among global mobility professionals that, back in the 1980s and even 1990s, ambitious executives clearly did not discuss or influence their career prospects by talking about the separation of work and personal life. It was a far more macho society, where ambition was all that seemed to matter. Today, most singles on the global mobility career path have a far more balanced view of the segregation of work and personal life.


Single transferees often assume that they have a trouble-free paradise in front of them. They not only have their youth, but they are on the first step of the career ladder—often without some of the physical and emotional baggage of their counterparts—and appear to be able to function without the network of home, family, and other social associations.


On the surface, it sometimes appears that it is relatively easy for young people to recognise country cultures and deal with life accordingly. Younger people seem to be able to capitalise on similarities without being too bothered by the differences. This is, of course, to the good; however, our younger transferees often are caught off-guard when cultural differences emerge and suddenly get in the way of doing business.

Read more > Expatica

 

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Tricky feats of cross-cultural communication


A true story: when a US telecoms giant decided to replace its manager in Thailand several years ago, it chose an ABC - American-born Chinese - in the belief he would be more culturally attuned to doing business in Asia.

He was not shy about telling his colleagues how to behave and one evening berated a couple of European rivals who had been caught engaged in financial shenanigans.

They decided to play a joke on the new arrival. They told their driver to follow him and tell him he was going to be killed. A crude jest, but the young manager was panicked into ringing his head office saying his life was in danger.

The head office told him to stay calm, stick to the business district and take precautions.

What they did not tell him was that they had hired a security firm that uses ex-CIA agents - at some considerable cost - to watch his back.

When the security outfit made its report to the conglomerate a week or so later, it turned out the first-time-in-Asia manager was doing lots of cultural homework - spending every night in at least one bordello. His career wilted.

The conglomerate had made a mistake. The manager may have been competent, but - appearances notwithstanding - showed no special talent or experience for operating in Asia.

Read more > FT.com

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Medical staff require training on intercultural awareness

Medical staff require professional interpreters and specific training on intercultural awareness, a new study published in the open access journal BMC Health Services Research suggests. The authors reveal that doctors are dissatisfied with the treatment they provide to their non-native patients, and that they cite cultural differences and language barriers as the key factors causing the disappointment with the level of care that they provide.

Birgit Babitsch from the Berlin Institute of Gender in Medicine in Germany, and co-workers from Berlin and the UK, gathered the results of questionnaires completed by doctors working in the internal medicine and gynaecology departments of three Berlin hospitals. The responses were then narrowed down to those relating to native Germans and those of Turkish origin and analysed in conjunction with the patients’ medical records. Over 2400 doctor questionnaires and corresponding patient records were finally analyzed.

The researchers found that doctors’ dissatisfaction with the patient-doctor relationship was much greater with regard to their Turkish patients. The two main reasons given were communication difficulties and the doctors’ perceptions that the Turkish patients did not always require urgent treatment. Around 20% of doctors were dissatisfied with the course of treatment for Turkish patients, compared to 10% for German patients. Minor differences were found in doctors’ satisfaction with regard to the patient’s gender.

Dr Babitsch states: “The use of professional interpreters for improved communication and the training of medical staff for improved intercultural competence are essential for the provision of adequate health care in a multicultural setting.”

Read more > EurekAlert

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Charity calls for business leaders to take up diversity challenge

A charity that campaigns to provide a "secure base for Britain's minority ethnic communities" has called for effective leadership to promote diversity, after a poll revealed that almost nine in 10 recent graduates have experienced some kind of discrimination at work.

The Ethnic Minority Foundation, called for leaders to be held accountable for discrimination which, it says is "ruining the life chances of young people".

It follows a survey of 200 graduates by recruitment site Milkround.com which found that 86% of had faced discrimination while working.

Race discrimination affected two in five respondents, with age discrimination affecting 14% and gender 12%. Other reasons for unfair treatment included sexual orientation and height.

One respondent said: "People like me coming from a different country or continent to study and then try to get a work placement here are very vulnerable, particularly if they are unfortunate enough to have employers or managers as ignorant as the one I [worked for]."

Read more > Diversity 
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"Cultural cloak of sensitivity" is preventing human rights

"Cultural cloak of sensitivity" is preventing human rights


A "cultural cloak of sensitivity" is preventing figures in authority, including police, teachers and social services, from protecting basic human rights for fear of upsetting certain ethnic minority communities, David Cameron warned yesterday.

In his strongest attack on multiculturalism, which he said had created a "cultural apartheid" by allowing communities to lead separate lives, the Conservative leader claimed that society was caving in to "extreme elements" who should be sidelined. Cameron cited two examples:

· authorities often turn a blind eye to forced marriages - schools in Derby have recently refused to put up posters about the issue - amid fears that they might be perceived as racists;

· Victoria Climbié, the eight-year-old who was tortured to death by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend, was not properly protected by social services because they did not want to offend a family that had recently arrived in Britain.

Read more > Cameron 

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Movies to help expats settle in Korea

Three Korean films and a cartoon have been translated for immigrant workers and foreigners married to Koreans to help them understand Korean culture.  About 10 immigrants from Southeast Asian countries participated in the translation project to help people settle down in Korea more easily.

Three movies, ``Wolf Daddy,'' ``Stand by Me’’ and ``Walking in the Rainy Day’’ and a cartoon cooking guide were translated into four languages, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese and English. The cartoon contains recipes for various Korean dishes and is already popular among foreign workers.

``My Filipino friends asked me to translate a Korean cartoon and movie into Tagalong and I did the job for almost three months from September last year,’’ said Maria Judids Bublacion, 38. Maria is married to a Korean here. ``It is my pleasure to help them. I hope to get more opportunities to do this kind of job for immigrants here,’’ she added.

Cultural Action (CA), a non-profit civic organization, organized the translation project, which it pursued in cooperation with a cartoon company and the Association of Korea Independent Film & Video funded by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.


Read more > Korea 

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Top 10 trends in business and cultural training

This blog was originally written in 2008.  Revisiting this in 2021 makes for interesting reading. It's fair to say that HumaNext certainly got it right as everything they mentinoned came to fruition and these topics - particularly cultural competency for leaders, are still trending training topics!

 

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Expat Life in Malaysia

Christopher Boyd says sitting in your 50th floor office, mobile phone in hand, reading about the problems of tigers eating the local livestock is but one of the many contrasts which makes life in Malaysia a long journey of discovery.



I am a long-term expat in Malaysia, having been here since 1974. My nationality is British, but I have permanent residence in Malaysia. By profession I am a Chartered Surveyor and a partner in Regroup, which is a firm of property valuers and agents. My wife is Malaysian and runs a nursery school.

Malaysia: Malaysia for the expatriate was once regarded as the "poor cousin" ranking well below Hong Kong and Singapore in importance and amenities. Increasingly it is the regional location of choice for foreign companies. Expats seldom have much problem settling in, and many plan to return here in retirement.

It is useful to think of Malaysia as really being three countries - the very cosmopolitan Klang Valley surrounding the capital Kuala Lumpur has every facet of a big city with modern buildings, hotels, parks and traffic jams.

Never very far away is the exotic countryside with its mountain ranges, endless plantations, jungle and coral beaches. Then, across the South China Sea, are the states which make up East Malaysia.

Read more> C. Boyd 

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Muhammad & the teddy bear: a case of intercultural incompetence

Muhammad & the teddy bear: a case of intercultural incompetence

Every now and again we get an international story that demonstrates the importance of cultural awareness in the modern age.

Examples include the Israeli tourists kissing in a Hindu shrine, the movie poster that offended Buddhists and sparked protests in S.E. Asia or the now infamous Prophet Muhammad Cartoons.

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Cross Cultural Interviews

At this moment in time, the increase in cross border human traffic has meant that companies are no longer dealing with a homogenous native community from which they recruit their staff. Companies are now facing cross cultural challenges in how they recruit, manage and develop a multi-cultural staff. One area of note where HR and management are finding difficulties is in the interview room.


With companies recruiting from a pool of candidates from different nationalities, cultures and faiths the cross cultural interview is an area that must be analysed properly if recruiters wish to capitalize on the potential available to them. This is necessary to ensure that candidates in cross cultural interviews are not discriminated against through misperceptions and poor judgements.

Read more: Cross Cultural Interviews 

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