No matter the industry or type of activity, communication is always a key to an organisation’s success. With IT business environments expanding at fast speeds and embracing various geographies, it has become vital to adapt to new cultures and find common ground with people pursuing a different way of life and business initiatives.
For example, Americans would prefer having small talk over the phone before building business relationships. On the flip side, the British will often use jokes. On the contrary, Chinese entrepreneurs and executives prefer checking your background with the board of directors before setting up a call or responding to email. Or another example with presenting the same product to Americans and Japanese: while the first would love to see the benefits of the product, the latter will focus on researching your company’s achievements, short and long-term goals.
To achieve excellence in cross-cultural communication, business leaders must dive deeper into understanding various communication models of partners, employees, investors, and other relevant audiences.
Patty Goodman, an associate teaching professor at Northeastern University and faculty lead for cross-cultural communication, has stated that “effective cross-cultural communication is essential to preventing and resolving conflict, building networks, and creating a satisfactory work environment for everyone involved”.
Moreover, according to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research, culture greatly influences productivity. Thus, it is critical to know the cultural peculiarities of people you work with to react to their communicative models correctly.
The value of effective cross-cultural communication is undeniable. However, let’s go step by step and define the real benefits it can provide for businesses.
It helps to enhance employee engagement. According to Ragan, leadership communication is the main indicator that directly correlates to the level of employees’ engagement. Companies must have internal teams responsible for supporting communication initiatives and reminding managers and top leaders of the importance of communication. For example, Innovecs, a global digital transformation tech company, has a Project Management Office (PMO) aiming to promote effective communication across teams and departments.
It minimises email overload. It is estimated that an average employee dedicates over 25 per cent of their workday to reading and filtering out his or her email inbox. However, only a small part of all emails deserve instant attention. As such, messages that carry real value can be missed among others. This is why it is preferable to communicate all critical tasks and topics to avoid missing urgent messages.
It encourages better communication with distributed teams. Remote work format is a new normal in the IT world with teams distributed around the globe. Global Mobile Workforce has researched that by 2022, 40 per cent of the employed population will turn work on a remote basis. This is clear that tech companies must consider new management, leadership and communication approaches to adjust to this trend. An advanced communication strategy will help overcome such challenges as cultural barriers, time zone coordination, and data silos.
It boosts transparency in the organisation. Transparently communicating all new ideas and initiatives to employees or partners is the way to achieve their trust. For instance, Buffer, a social media management company, promotes transparency by displaying all information such as revenues, how they spend finances, what the plan to do, etc. Joel Gascoigne, Buffer’s CEO, defined transparency as their core value and states that “transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork”.
It opens up new business opportunities. Tech companies focused on providing services to global markets have to be involved in communication with representatives of different cultural layers. The ability to adjust to business values and select the right communication approach attracts potential partners and promotes new business opportunities. To succeed in this, one can turn to the PIP approach introduced by McKinsey, well-known in business communities. PIP stands for Purpose, Importance, Preview, as the three main steps in communication with partners and stakeholders. First, the speaker determines the purpose of the conversation, then claims its importance, and finally comes up with solutions. Investigating the business acumen of your dialogue partner may be of great help.
How to achieve success in cross-cultural communication? The inability or unwillingness to learn new cultures and adapt is the biggest barrier in learning how to effectively communicate. Become more agile and develop flexibility in communication with people from various regions.
Respect of opposing points of view is also essential. Closed-mindedness should be eliminated. In turn, the ability to understand other people’s visions should come into the game. Be open-minded. Be ready to negotiate, but never neglect different opinions.
Become aware of the peculiarities of your own culture. Self-learn and find points of interconnection with other people. Dr Goodman from Northeastern University College recommends first audit your company’s internal communications and analyse them, which can help in understanding other corporate cultures and communicating more effectively.
Effective communication is just a part of the company strategy that aims to increase overall internal productivity and boost performance. However, as Paul J. Meyer said, “communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success”.
If you want to get more tips for effective cross-cultural communication, do not miss the opportunity to join the free upcoming CEO Night event on October 29, dedicated to Cross-Cultural Communications in the Tech World. Three forward-thinking leaders, CEOs, and founders of international companies (DELL Technologies, Support Your App, Innovecs) will share their experience in communication and provide more recommendations. The event will be held online. Emerging Europe is a media partner of CEO Night.
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