New technologies provide greater opportunities in globalization for businesses of all sizes, but this international growth requires sending employees to foreign countries, either temporarily or permanently, to oversee the operation, administration, and marketing of international negotiations. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacles in International business are problems caused by cross-cultural differences. When cultural differences are not respected, appreciated and noted, negotiations can fail. By training employees in cross-cultural differences before sending them abroad, you can resolve many of these misunderstood issues.
1. Teach future international employees a little of the language used in the country they will work in. The foreign business associate will not see it as insulting or embarrassing when a foreign associate mispronounces a word. To the contrary, it is a sign of respect and recognition to attempt to speak the foreign language.
2. Search for a native cross-cultural trainer from the country the employee will work in. Use foreign in-house training personnel or contact your local Small Business Administration to find businesses specialized in this type of training. You can also locate this specialized training from online businesses like InterCultural Group, People Going Global or Interchange Institute. Ask for training in cultural practices in business, and in body language and facial gestures for the country you are doing business in. Many foreign countries emphasize hand and body gestures. Learning to identify these can help the negotiation run smoothly.
3. Train the employee to slow down. Most Americans and Canadians are trained to work on a schedule. They live fast-paced lives and stick to set times faithfully. Other cultures are not as defined in their daily schedules. Help the employee understand these different perceptions of time and be a little more flexible with scheduling meetings and other work related events. Understand that the negotiating partners may be more interested in the long-term relationship rather than just closing the deal in a week.
4. Train the employees in local culture, art, history and politics. This will give them topics of conversation not related to business to help remove the stress from the business negotiation. Explain the importance of complimenting a culture and country, without comparing it unfavorably to that of their native country. Allow the employee to demonstrate pride in their country without demeaning the foreign country.
5. Define the country’s cultural standing when referring to power, individualism, collectivism and masculinity vs. feminism. For instance, some countries put more emphasis on group communication rather than individual decisions. Teach employees to respect these differences even if they don’t coincide with their personal beliefs.
6. Train the employee to be aware of culture shock and its possible interference in the work environment. Explain the three stages of culture shock, which are initial optimism, followed by a period of frustration and gradual improvement of mood and satisfaction.