Blogs for Culture Vultures

Blears urges HR staff to attract more BME workers

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has urged human resources professionals to get out more to attract more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers.

Speaking exclusively to Personneltoday.com, Blears said the role for HR in attracting more BME people into work was to go to the places where different communities live, and encourage them to apply for positions.

Currently, the ethnic minority share of the working age population stands at 9.3% or 3.26 million people, according to 2004 Department for Work and Pensions figures. The latest Office for National Statistic figures (2002-03) state that the employment rate for white people working in the UK is 75.5%, compared to just 57.3% for non-white groups.

Read more> Hazel Blears 
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Working as an expat in France

Just getting set up in your new French office? Nerve-wracking, isn't it? Here are some tips from Expatica's Culture Coach Nathalie Kleinschmit to make sure you get off to a good start and read the signals correctly in your new environment.

Let's see if you recognise yourself in Jason's tale of his stay at his multinational company's head office in Paris:

“When I got to the front desk, they told me I had to wait because they hadn’t received my badge yet. Twenty minutes went by before my manager arrived to authorize my entrance. He then walked me to my new office and and told me that a meeting was scheduled with the team at 3pm that afternoon and that, until then, I could read through the files.

I had my own laptop but couldn’t get the Internet connection to work. For the next few hours, I could see people walking by peering into my office but not a single person came in to introduce themselves to me. I went to get a coffee and discovered that the machine wasn’t coin-operated and that I needed a card. For lunch, I had already eaten in the cafeteria on previous trips and had a voucher so I was able to get a platter together. But I remember feeling quite alone and wondering if I was ever going to fit in.

Read more > Expatica
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An expatriate child's view of Saudi Arabia

 

With all the attention given to the Middle East today, it is important that the Western public receives a complete picture in order that their opinions and sentiment toward Arabs and their homeland’s is a responsible one.

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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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Blears launches new integration strategy

Blears launches new integration strategy


Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has announced a £50m investment to help local authorities boost integration and the creation of specialist teams to tackle tensions in communities sparked by changing patterns of migration.

The money - up from £2m this year - is to be channelled over three years to groups which promote integration, rather than towards bodies which represent a single ethnic or religious identity. The change in approach is to be accompanied by guidance to local authorities that they should only spend money on translating documents into foreign languages where necessary, and put a much greater emphasis on teaching English.

Read more: Blears 
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Expat Life in Mexico

Expat Life in Mexico
The North American Free Trade Agreement (Weintraub, 2004) and lower labour costs in Mexico have caused many US companies to move their operations south of the border.  While the majority of the workers in the US-owned plants are Mexican, some of the employees are US workers on temporary expat assignments.


While not randomly selected from a large pool of expat workers, my ten interviewees did hold a variety of jobs.  Several of them were managers and engineers.  Others in the group included a US Air Force officer, an HR representative, a Director of Research and Development, and a missionary.  Two were female and eight were male.  For the vast majority of the group this was their first expat assignment and they considered the assignment a means of advancing their careers and providing their families with a rich cultural experience.  Half of the workers said that they would be interested in doing another expat assignment in the future.

Read more: Expatica 
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Cross Cultural Interviews

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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Welsh police call for more interpreting funds

A Welsh police authority yesterday called on the Home Office to provide extra funding to meet the spiralling cost of employing interpreters.

The demand came as it was revealed the amount being spent by some Welsh forces on providing translation services has risen by up to 200% in three years.

An influx of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and the Iberian peninsula has been blamed for the a sharp rise in costs for forces across the country.

Last week the Thames Valley Police Authority said the money it spent on interpreters had risen by more than £920,000 in a decade.

Read more: Wales 
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International assignments - six steps to success

In the book, “The World is Flat,” By Thomas L. Friedman, the author famously writes, “‘Honey,’ I confided, ‘I think the world is flat.’”

With the onslaught of rapid globalisation, high-quality executive mobility has become more critical than ever for the success of many US companies. Nevertheless, many companies continue to struggle to make their international assignments effective.

A well-developed global mobility program must cover a comprehensive range of complex issues, such as housing, children’s education, and income taxes. In addition, many companies now are investing in family counselling and in cultural and language training with good results. These issues offer many opportunities for continual improvement and, fortunately, experts and service providers now are available to help.

However, while these are important issues for success, in the end, these issues deal with administrative policy, process, and financial costs. They do not address the effectiveness of the assignment. Global mobility programs—and the managers responsible for them—must be aligned with the overall business goals.

Read more: Success Abroad 
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"Cultural pinpointing" and the multicultural consumer

The power of ethnic audiences is apparent in everyday life. But inherent risks exist when messaging previously meant for a minority group becomes part of the mainstream.

In its fourth year, the just-released Yankelovich Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study points to the impact of the "commercialization of culture," or repeated use of certain cultural elements to reach broader audiences. In 2004, 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites thought Hispanics were influencing everyone's lifestyle; today, it's 44 percent.

The result may mean less authentic messaging for Hispanics and African Americans, the study reports, if the same marketing strategies are used to reach ethnic consumers. "We're calling it cultural pinpointing. It's about understanding that today there's a lot of borrowing going on from the ethnic marketplace," said Sonya Suarez-Hammond, vice president of multicultural insights for Yankelovich in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Read more: Cultural pinpointing 
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An expat's view on intercultural communication

Portuguese expat Elizabet Fernandes enjoys the international atmosphere in her multilingual EU company, but finds that people get 'lost in translation’ and inherit one another's linguistic mistakes.

Lost in translation

English is the current working language but too often people ‘get lost in translation’ because the level and the knowledge of language amongst us varies from person to person. We also inherit each other’s linguistic mistakes and end up speaking a kind of ‘Euro-English’. I like to speak as many languages as possible so I prefer to speak Spanish, French or Italian depending on the nationality of my colleagues. Besides, with this job I can also use and develop my skills as a translator and that’s perfect.

Unfortunately it’s too hard to use Dutch on a daily basis as the Dutch immediately respond in English to foreigners even to Flemish people!

Culture games

Although Eurojust is a very multicultural environment it is still not very intercultural. My colleagues often don’t understand each other or tend to ‘over-react’. I have been fighting for intercultural training because it helps you to realise that different people (from different cultures) may react differently in similar situations and to respect that. I followed this training myself in Portugal so I know the impact and the benefits.

Read more: Holland 
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Ramadan begins...

Imagine going without food or water for the entire working day, and several hours more. With Ramadan about to start, that's the challenge facing Britain's 1.6 million Muslims. How do they cope?

"Burgers. I crave burgers. I don't even like burgers normally."

Thirty-one-year-old Sumaya Amra is just one of the billion or so Muslims who takes part in the holy month of Ramadan by fasting in daylight hours, each day for 30 days.

Like many young Muslims, London-based Sumaya works in an office and has to fit the demands of a working day around her fast and her food cravings.

Read more: The BBC 
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HR costs soaring in Dubai

Dubai has attracted many international companies and employees over recent years, as it bids to become a global economic superpower.

Managing the UAE's HR Environment, a report by Mercer HR Consulting, showed that average salaries for expatriate staff rose by 6% last year. Daily allowances rose by more than 20%, and multinationals now pay an average of about £240 a day for executive expats on short-term assignments in Dubai - one of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

These soaring costs are leading companies to be more creative with their HR practices, according to Markus Wiesner, head of Mercer's UAE operations.

Read more: Dubai 
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Learn the language before coming to the UK

Gordon Brown is ruling that medium-skilled migrants from outside the EU must speak and understand English. The “highly skilled” already have to; the unskilled, it seems, may remain uncomprehending. The Home Secretary adds enthusiastically that it will help integration if we “expect people coming through the skilled and slightly less-skilled route to actually be able to speak English”.

Well, duh! This is good news (though met with whingeing from employers who fear for their cheap labour, and from Tories who find it not fierce enough). It would be even better news if there were some mechanism to put the same onus on EU citizens who plan to stay, but since that is impossible we could at least refrain from gratuitously featherbedding them by putting up diversion signs in Polish to prevent lorry drivers “coming into conflict with road workers”.

Read more: Language 
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Muslims, Ramadan and the Workplace – a Guide for HR

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week. Millions of people from Morocco to Malaysia will fast everyday from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. Among these will be significant numbers of Muslims working in offices in Europe and North America where Ramadan slips past unnoticed. This lack of awareness can and does cause inconvenience, stress and unhappiness to practicing Muslims in the workplace. Commisceo Global, a leading cross cultural communication training provider, has released a free guide for employers with Muslim staff to help them better understand the month and what it means to Islam’s adherents.

Depending on the sighting of the moon, the Islamic world will once again begin their annual exercise in spiritual and physical cleansing through fasting and other religious exercises next week. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia where the majority of the population will be fasting, the social cycle changes to accommodate people’s needs. Work may start later due to people praying late into the night, it will certainly finish earlier to allow people to prepare for iftar (breaking of the fast) and the general pace of life drops down a couple of gears, especially for the important last 10 nights.

However, in Europe and North America the pace of life continues as normal. Although many Muslims will be going through the same rigours as people in Syria or Singapore, Ramadan can be that little bit tougher. This is mainly down to the lack of cultural awareness within businesses nowadays. Although people may know who a Muslim is they may not appreciate what a Muslim does. Unawareness of aspects of the religion such as food & drink, interaction between genders, moral obligations, prayers and holidays is widespread.

As a result there are always stories of Muslims being invited to business lunches, not being provided with time or space to break their fasts at sunset or expected to work on the Eid holiday following Ramadan.

“We know of Muslims working in organisations that had no idea what Ramadan was and what it entails. Stories include buffets being set up next to someone’s desk at work who was fasting, a manager insisting on a Muslim colleague attending a working lunch and adequate time not being given at the time to break the fast to drink and eat properly,” explains Commisceo's Managing Director, Neil Payne.

Respecting cultural diversity in the workplace is simply best practice. If staff feel that they are being taken care of and understood on a personal level, a business will experience greater retention, morale and ultimately productivity.

In order to provide businesses with access to timely cultural knowledge on Muslims, Islam and the month of Ramadan, Coomisceo have released a free downloadable file that offers employers a summary of the main issues. These include looking at what Ramadan is, what it means to Muslims, the impact it has on their daily lives for a month and how in turn this impacts their working lives.


“The future is culturally diverse and if we are all to have a successful future, then cultural awareness is critical,” adds Payne.

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Australia puts migrants to culture test

Migrants hoping to become Australian citizens will soon have to take a test examining their knowledge of the country's history and institutions, and endorse national values including "mateship".

While Australia prides itself on its multicultural heritage, the government wants newcomers to "integrate" more fully. From later this year, prospective citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of the English language. They will also be obliged to answer 20 questions, from a potential bank of 200. Anyone who gives fewer than 12 correct responses will not receive a passport.

Read more: Australia 
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The perfect expat?

Changes in the world economy have made many companies change their businesses in an international context. Expatriates are used to share the knowledge from their country and make these businesses a success. Expatriates cost a lot of money, and because of this it is necessary to know who is and who isn’t suited to work abroad. Research has been done to which personality characteristics are important for a good performance by an expatriate, but does this theoretical background suit the reality?

At first four variables used in this research are four of the ‘Big Five personality dimensions’ (Costa & McCrae, 1992): extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Extraversion can be seen in two different dimensions: ambition and social capability. There are different intra individual factors that can be indicative for the emotional stability of a worker. Examples of these are concern, being depressed, anger, embarrassment, emotionality, anxiety and insecurity. Examples of characteristics following agreeableness are courtesy, flexibility, reliability, helping others, soft-heartedness and tolerance. Conscientiousness can be described with thoroughness, responsibility, being organised and the quality of plans.

Read more: Expats 
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NHS HR staff accused of ignoring racism and bullying of Asian doctors

eading figures have told Personnel Today how HR teams are allowing a minority of racist line managers to make working life tough for migrant medics.

Their comments come after a General Medical Council (GMC) report showed that doctors trained overseas were twice as likely to face formal disciplinary hearings once a complaint had been made as those who graduated in the UK.

Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, told Personnel Today: "There is no doubt that bullying of Asian doctors goes on.

"The small minority of racists in the NHS take complaints [about foreign doctors] to HR. HR needs better training in handling these issues."

Read more: Doctors 
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Global Teams - A Guide For Multinationals

For global corporations, the borderless world offers a glimpse of what's to come. International success once meant having bodies and factories on the ground from São Paulo to Silicon Valley to Shanghai. Coordinating their activities was a deliberately planned effort handled by headquarters.

The challenge now is to weld these vast, globally dispersed workforces into superfast, efficient organizations. Given the conflicting needs of multinational staff and the swiftly shifting nature of competition brought about by the Internet, that's an almost impossible task. And getting workers to collaborate instantly—not tomorrow or next week, but now—requires nothing less than a management revolution.

Complicating matters is the fact that the very idea of a company is shifting away from a single outfit with full-time employees and a recognizable hierarchy. It is something much more fluid, with a classic corporation at the center of an ever-shifting network of suppliers and outsourcers, some of whom only join the team for the duration of a single project.

To adapt, multinationals are hiring sociologists to unlock the secrets of teamwork among colleagues who have never met. They're arming staff with an arsenal of new tech tools to keep them perpetually connected. They include software that helps engineers co-develop 3D prototypes in virtual worlds and services that promote social networking and that track employees and outsiders who have the skills needed to nail a job. Corporations are investing lavishly in posh campuses, crafting leadership training centers, and offering thousands of online courses to develop pipelines of talent.

Read more: Global Teams 
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