The Commisceo Global Blog

Keeping you up to date with all the news, articles, tools, opinions and press relating to the world of cultural understanding, in and out of business.

Organisations Failing in Cross Cultural Up-Skilling



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:

The directness of communication style
Language differences – especially when people are not communicating in their first language
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”.

Continue reading

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.

Read more > Teams

...
Continue reading

Expatriate Bankers Are Cut Loose



Losing your job anywhere is disorienting, but imagine being laid off when you work in a foreign country. Not only is your source of income, and perhaps a good part of your identity, suddenly yanked away, but often you lose your right to remain in the country.

Sandra Johnson, left, president of the Kensington and Chelsea Women’s Club in London, said membership was dropping. International recruiters like Sonamara Jeffreys in London, right, say that laid-off Americans with 30 days to leave Britain are looking for jobs back home.

Add to that urgent disruption the calamity of a collapsing industry and you have the life more or less of thousands of American expatriates in banking and finance.

The archetype of the young international banker cut one of the most dashing figures of the age of globalization. Well-educated and well-connected, able to take their pick of jobs, they skipped across employers like they did countries for weekend getaways.

As recently as last fall, financial professionals who lost their jobs as Wall Street bled could hope for new positions overseas. But layoffs have spread quickly from New York to Europe and now to the Mideast and Asia, leaving a growing number of jobless expats, as they are known, with few places to turn and either stranded or forced to return home.

A rhyming refrain among laid-off bankers a few months ago — “Try Dubai, Mumbai and Shanghai” — now seems hopelessly dated. Financial markets in all three cities have crashed.

Read more > Bankers
Continue reading

Ethnic Minorties to be protected during recession



People from ethnic minority groups could receive additional financial support as a result of government fears they will be hardest hit during the recession.

At Labour's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic annual general meeting in Leicester, work and pensions secretary James Purnell announced an initiative to ensure that no ethnic minority worker would be "left behind".

Purnell warned that employment levels among people from ethnic minorities fell by 10% in the last recession, and said it was important to ensure such mistakes were not repeated.

"In the past too many were left behind in bad times. Ethnic minority workers suffered most in the Tory recessions," he said.

Mr Purnell said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had agreed to work with the government to assess whether any groups were suffering disproportionately in the recession, and to advise ministers about corrective measures.

Read more > HR News
Continue reading

CILT research into Intercultural Skills



CILT is now entering the second phase of its research into an occupational and functional map for languages and intercultural skills and is currently consulting on the cross-sector applications of languages and intercultural skills in the workplace.

You can contribute to their research

If you are a employer involved in the management or recruitment of any roles using language or intercultural skills or if you are an employee using your language or intercultural skills in your job, they would like to hear from you. They’ve prepared a short questionnaire that should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete.

Your views are essential to this project. Please download and complete our questionnaire and return it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 27th February. If you have any questions or comments about the project, you can email those to the same address.
Alternatively, their research team are conducting one-to-one telephone interviews with employers, employees and key stakeholders. If you have a lot of knowledge with regard to a particular role, or roles, and its (their) use of language or intercultural skills, it would be very helpful to talk to you. Please contact CILT directly to discuss your particular perspective.
Continue reading