A lot has been written about cross cultural communications. In most cases, it has been based on Geert Hofstede’s work in defining the 6 dimensions of culture. This research is very interesting, but like a lot of academic research, there are challenges when translating it into practical action.
One challenge is that we are not just considering one culture. There is the institutional culture as well as the national culture to deal with. A manager moving from the US to Scandinavia will quickly understand the differences in national workplace cultures. This effect will be magnified exponentially when he moves from banking to a technology company.
Managers often struggle when they try setting up employee engagement programs. What worked in the first organization will not transplant to the second organization, due to both national and institutional cultural differences.
So, how does a “global” operations manager engage his local staff effectively?
One solution is to get his local staff to help him and use the “home team effect” through an Employee Ambassador and engagement program. This is not to be confused with a standard employee brand ambassador.
Certain members of staff within any group can be more influential than others. The promoters will have a positive effect, while the detractors will have a negative effect. It’s not difficult to identify them, look at who takes the lead in meetings when you ask the whole team a question. Look at who is the first to ask questions and the way the rest of the team reacts to them.
Including these influencers in the communication process is key. An employee & engagement ambassador program is where influential and respected team members are selected to represent the brand of the company to employees, but also represent the employees to the senior management. From an engagement perspective they can assist to plan and implement fun and interactive activities, yet at the same time support crucial communication and feedbacks.
Employee & engagement ambassadors will not have any special responsibilities within the hierarchy, but they will be respected and trusted by, as well as accessible to, all staff.
They play a very important part in change management. They can advocate the changes to be made by the company and present them positively, but unofficially. This is done by including them in trial programs to try out new processes or software, for example. Their job will be, on the one hand, to try the system or process out and give honest and anonymous feedback to the management about it from the point of view of the basic user. This includes feedback about how staff feel and what they worry about the proposed changes. Where our ambassadors have experienced the new processes for themselves, their job is also to give their (hopefully) positive feedback on the new process or software to the employees, so giving them some reassurance.
This is particularly effective when managers from one culture work with teams from another culture. Managers can, when developing their communications, ask employee ambassadors what works and what doesn’t work in this environment and tailor communications accordingly. Once the communication has been released, the ambassador can then report how the staff react on a no-name basis which allows the management team to try and address the issues in a non-confrontational way.
Depending on the size of the global footprint for outsourcing activities, there may be one ambassador for each region, sometimes languages, and if not managed correctly you may end up having the opposite effect in that communications get misinterpreted and engagement incentives are not delivered correctly. Therefore, when establishing such programs, it is a good idea to engage someone experienced with setting up and running such programs to maximize the potential for success.
Open questions & talking points?
- Have you encountered cultural hurdles when outsourcing or setting up new internal teams in a different location? Tell us about your event/s?
- Do you struggle with engaging employees on a global level?
At Be All Ears, we specialize in supporting businesses to successfully overcome growth and operational challenges, driving change through employee & customer experience. Get in touch with us and see how we can best support you.