Success in an overseas work assignment or the ability to drive business performance in others who differ culturally is directly correlated to having higher levels of cultural awareness, whether one has “boots on the ground” or is working virtually.
Today we have a radically different world than ten years ago. Today’s marketplace can be defined by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA). We live in a global whirlwind that is accelerating at the speed of light. Robert Safian notes, “We have grown up with certain assumptions about: What works in an enterprise; what the metrics for success are; and how we organize and deploy resources. The bulk of those assumptions are wrong now.” Eddie Obeng states that the pace, scale, and interconnectedness of change exceeds our ability to learn. In an age of information overload, ambiguity, and global misunderstandings, cross-cultural training gives us a competitive edge in understanding the global business context in which we find ourselves today.
What the Research Tells Us:
- An Accenture study in 2010 found that adopting cross-cultural training programs increases productivity by 26%, on average
- Cultural awareness training drives international business results by improving business making skills, resulting in increased cultural agility (Caligiuri)
- When over one thousand CEOs in more than fifty countries were surveyed, their top concern was, “managing diverse cultures” (PwC)
- A Vantage Partners study of 400 companies revealed that cultural differences could prevent both parties of an offshoring deal from achieving the full value of their international objectives; 64% of respondents say that the impact of cultural differences is higher than 10% of annual contract value and 35% say the impact is more than 20%.
- Cultural differences directly contribute to the difficulty of engaging in activities such as gaining buy-in from stakeholders, managing scope, managing performance, and generating innovation. (Vantage. 2010)
Where Cultural Training and Coaching Step in to Bridge the Gap:
Many international assignees do not realize the importance of cross-cultural training until they participate in a program. One of the critical pieces in developing cultural competency is perceptual acuity, the ability to accurately perceive one’s own behaviors and work style preferences. Cultural training, coaching, and competency assessment enable global professionals to go beyond compliance with confidence, effectively working in cross-cultural environments and ensuring optimum behavioral change and organizational success.
We do not know what we do not know. We tend to be more comfortable using our preferred communication styles and assumptions about the way global business works. The reality of today’s global business, now more than any other time in history, should cause us to examine our preferred communication styles, our assumptions, and how these variables are interpreted across cultural boundaries. Greater self-awareness and adapting our behaviors to become culturally agile requires an ongoing process approach to cultural competency development. These are not things we master overnight; they require lifelong learning and commitment. These attributes are indispensable to thriving and delivering stellar business results in today’s global economy.
Accenture. 2010. Miscommunication and cross cultural understanding hinders the effectiveness of global sourcing. From: http://newsroom.accenture.com/article_ display.cfm?article_id=4376.
Caligiuri, P. 2012. Cultural Agility: Building a pipeline of successful global professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
PwC, 10th Annual Global CEO Survey, January 2007, as cited in Caligiuri, P. 2012. Cultural Agility: Building a pipeline of successful global professionals.
Vantage Partners Study. Managing Offshoring Relationships: Governance in Global Deals. From http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/oursourcing-relationships-new-study-2509/.