The Culture Learning Curve for Businesses Expanding into Global Markets | reesmarxGLOBAL
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Ericha Hartz

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The Culture Learning Curve for Businesses Expanding into Global Markets

From Spain to Australia, the United Kingdom to the America’s, businesses are rapidly expanding into high-growth and emerging markets.  There are so many advantages for technology-based businesses that prompt global expansion; not the least of which is access to emerging products, services and new innovative ideas.

But with all the growth opportunity that global expansion provides, there are also challenges that require agile planning for recruitment and hiring, personnel management and specialized training and support to help a business acclimatize to a new culture successfully.

What are some of the difficulties that businesses encounter after they have expanded operations into a new country?  We’ll discuss the cultural and communication learning curves that should be part of your strategic plan.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

Many organizations are rapidly expanding into Asian Pacific (APAC) countries that have not been accessible to foreign business investment in decades.  One of the great operational challenges that businesses may encounter are language barriers between English speaking and local staff, which can impact productivity and team building.

Many professionals in emerging markets that have attained post-secondary (college or university) education are fluent in both their native language and in oral and written English.  As the world continues to evolve into a global marketplace, bilingual and trilingual professionals are in high-demand, and readily available to integrate seamlessly into your new team.

For written language there are of course many options for language translation software, that make it easy to correspond in writing in whatever language is required.  But oral communication can be a challenge, and many corporations strategically hire individuals who can participate in meetings as a translator to assist.

Google Translate is an app that is available for Android and iOS smartphones.  The free app offers translation assistance in 100 languages, and you can also take a picture of a sign and have the app translate it for you (which is ideal for business travelers).  In conversation mode, the app also allows for two-way instant speech translation in 32 languages.

Holiday’s and Cultural Observances

Starting a new business venture in another country, where you are blending staff that have been sourced locally with other employees who are from your head office can be a challenge when it comes to holiday observances.

For instance, if your business is based in North America and you have expanded with a new office in the United Kingdom, social holidays are similar but may fall on different dates.   The United Kingdom has statutory vacation days called “bank holidays” that are part of the calendar year.  Thanksgiving also falls on a different date in October, rather than the American observance in November.

Adherence to the statutory holidays in the host country are required legally but celebrating all holidays may not be feasible depending on staffing and production needs.  Some pre-planning is required and a strategy that provides flexibility regarding vacation time for both native and foreign employees is required.

Social Nuances in Foreign Business Environments

Simple things like a firm handshake, or a pat on the shoulder might be common and acceptable in your corporate culture but may be unusual or even offensive to a foreign employee.   For example, in some countries it is considered rude and disrespectful for any employee to begin talking in a meeting, until the senior executive in the room has invited them.   This of course differs from North American business protocols, when colleagues may gather and chat until the meeting commences.

Now imagine that you are an American executive in a room full of people who are making eye contact, but not speaking.  It may feel awkward, but in many countries that is a sign of respect for the management team.

Sharing about your personal life also with colleagues, may seem awkward and uncomfortable in some foreign business environments.  Placing your hands in your pockets while talking to employees or colleagues in Japan for instance, implies that you are ‘disinterested’ or ‘bored’ with the conversation. 

In Germany, before a business meeting commences all participants engage in a short but firm handshake.  When the meeting ends, the handshake is repeated again before exiting the room.  If you are with a group of employees or business associates, the senior executive is the first hand you would shake if adhering to the country’s established business etiquette.

Consider hiring a local consultancy to provide business instruction and training for employees; it is valuable learning that can help improve productivity and avoid inadvertent social or behavioral miscommunication.

The Advantage of Local Recruiters

For the past twenty years, reesmarx has provided global consulting services to our business clients in thirty countries.  Through our network of dedicated recruitment professionals in each country, we are able to provide regional support from a native expert, who understands the cultural requirements to help foreign companies build a successful team.

Whether your organization is seeking a local C-Level executive or staffing in the areas of human resources, technology, marketing, sales, IT and development, or administrative support, reesmarx helps by mitigating many of the difficulties of hiring in a foreign market.

Contact our team for more information and ask about additional services provided through our Partnership Network.  

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