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A Home for Culture Vultures

Businesses Failing to Provide Cultural Training

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Leading research and workplace innovation company, Career Innovation (Ci) has today published the results of its latest study, Cross-Cultural Development Conversations.

Carried out across 45 leading companies worldwide, the new study has found that although organisations are aware of the need to skill up their leaders to manage the cross-cultural workforce, few have acted to make this a reality.

At a time when the pace and scale of globalisation has never been higher, competition for the best talent remains intense. The effectiveness of development conversations in organisations is known to play a significant role in engaging and retaining key talent.

Factoring in the complexity of a diverse and dispersed workforce makes it even tougher to ensure that these conversations are at their most effective.

According to the 45 organisations interviewed (Sept-Nov 08), the business importance of working effectively across cultures is high and rising. Most are already operating complex organizations across multiple regions and almost all (91%) indicated they expect cultural diversity in their organisations to increase over the next 3-5 years, with nearly 50% expecting a “significant increase”.

The study revealed three top factors that impact cross-cultural development conversations:

1) The directness of communication style
2) Language differences – especially when people are not communicating in their first language
3) The need to establish high levels of trust across cultures, in order for development conversations to be effective

Differences between Asian and Western cultures were consistently reported as a particular challenge by respondents with 50% of organisations reporting this as an issue.

Companies identified many key employee development processes that are impacted by these cultural hurdles. For example, 60% of organisations said that coaching relationships can be much tougher to establish in some cultures than in others. Giving feedback can also present challenges, with one company finding that its Chinese employees quit after receiving challenging feedback.

“This issue has a big impact on global organisations”, says Ci’s founder Jonathan Winter. “Although they are increasingly aware of the need to encourage meaningful dialogue with employees about their careers and development, only a few have really taken on board the additional complexities overlaid by the cross-cultural dimension. Left unresolved the cross-cultural conversation gap hits the bottom line in a way companies can ill afford in today’s tough times.”

Organisations who are placing the strongest focus on building their employees’ cross-cultural competence report significant benefits including improved attraction and retention rates.

Following on from this study and Ci’s previous Conversation Gap research, Ci will be developing its existing career tools and approaches to encourage more leaders to develop cross-cultural thinking as part of their everyday style. Winter offers an example of how this will be incorporated, “Our Engaging Conversations multi-rater tool is already helping mangers around the world improve their staff dialogue skills and habits. We’re going to take that to the next stage and incorporate the cross-cultural dimension”.

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India turns away from expats to home-grown talent

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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 > Execs in India

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What Skills do I need for an International Career?

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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.

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Intercultural Skills are Crucial say HR Leaders

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

Why? Because international leaders cannot lead global teams without the necessary intercultural skills and insights. 

The survey, "The Importance of Cultural Skills in Senior Managers," conducted by RW-3 LLC, an international 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.

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When a Cross Cultural Joke Goes Wrong!

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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.

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Why do Medical Staff Require Training on Intercultural Awareness?

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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.

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Charity calls for Business Leaders to take up Diversity Challenge

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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]."


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


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Translated Movies to Help Immigrants Settle into Life in South Korea

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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.

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Top 10 Trends in Business and Cultural training

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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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Muhammad & the teddy bear: a case of Intercultural Incompetence

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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 who got into trouble for kissing in a Hindu shrine, the movie poster depicting someone sat on the head of the Buddha that offended Buddhists and sparked protests in S.E. Asia and the now infamous Prophet Muhammad Cartoons.

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An Expatriate Child's View of Life in Saudi Arabia

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Despite all the attention given to the Middle East today, it's fair to say that stereotypes and misconceptions still make a lot of noise!

The perception of one country in particular, Saudi Arabia, is clouded by mystery and stereotypes due to the country's strict adherence to the Islamic faith.

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Cross Cultural Interviews

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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.

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