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In his lecture on Human Behaviour in the Workplace, James Marcia (1999) talked about how culture can enormously impact organizations and how it is increasingly impacting us as individuals. In this post, I will focus on three of these cross-cultural implications.
These are the importance of language and communication being a part of your workplace communication strategy, the need for knowledge management to maintain business continuity, and the role we play when our children go overseas to study abroad with their parents.
As mentioned in my last article, I am working on developing strategies to enable them to be bilingual in Spanish and English. For anyone interested in reading more about ex-pats, you might check out Hubby at Home or The Expat World Blog (which covers quite a bit about living on site).
There was also an episode last month in which a family member spoke about being unable to speak Spanish at work.
One interesting note is that while there are many benefits such as better pay, more flexible hours, and work-from-home opportunities provided by technology, some challenges remain.
This is especially true for those who rely solely on English to communicate with others. Also, given its global nature, it makes sense that one would want to learn and understand other people’s languages.
Language does help us build relationships; however, certain situations may require speaking two different languages or communicating in two separate places. Suppose you know someone who speaks no English and is married to someone who only understands Spanish.
In that case, it might not always make sense to have a conversation with them if they don’t share your same native language. So, learning new foreign languages or speaking different ones is important. It might sound like I already discussed this before in previous articles.
Still, the second thing that needs to happen with ex-pats is that we should develop practices to support our people to live independently while learning and understanding another culture—yes, thinking about what kind of cultural practice will take time and effort.
However, it is helpful when planning, and doing so can help identify things that you haven’t considered. Maybe it helps avoid unnecessary arguments, or it just gives them time to have a break and relax after all the hustle and bustle.
An example might be finding online job postings and adding an “English Only” field to cover those in the company who cannot speak English fluently and want to hire someone with their background and experience.
It also means they don’t have to spend too much time searching through job postings on Indeed or Indeed Hiring sites. They also get to find qualified candidates faster than they would and be able to offer jobs to more people, which would speed up their recruitment process as employers get to know who they are and what they are looking for.
This is where the third point comes in — knowledge management and collaboration with relevant stakeholders can also be one of the positive outcomes that you can achieve by allowing ex-pats to contribute valuable research and information that they might find useful, even if they don’t understand what they are writing about for.
Piece Of Evidence
A great piece of evidence from their conversations with a fellow ex-employee shows that in many cases when working with clients, they ask people which language they are trying to understand, even if they have never done any research or studied a specific topic on this subject.
After asking how the client understood the concept and context, we now have a base understanding of what we are trying to do. That will allow us to adapt what we offer to that group and find ways to improve what we offer without requiring extra work and possibly getting them interested in what we offer them.
We can also ensure that our clients don’t think of something unrelated, either because we don’t fully understand it or we haven’t made enough efforts to try and get them to understand what we are trying to say through our communications.
The final thing is helping to teach our employees about cross-cultural awareness. Often, ex-pats can’t see beyond their borders and speak to others in another country without a translator.
With everything going on in the world right now, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that most people don’t come from a place where English is the main language. They also don’t necessarily know anybody abroad who speaks other languages besides English.
Therefore, we need to ensure that these people considering studying abroad are aware of these points.
For ex-pats, the key to learning about cultures outside our shores can be found in publications and media.
This way, ex-pats will probably realize that although we might make a profit off of it and be satisfied by the money we generate from teaching students and ex-pats about international languages, some of them will realize just how important the lessons we are providing are to teach them about culture and how that could be beneficial to their careers in whatever area they end up in.
Suppose this sounds familiar or relevant to you. In that case, I hope this post helped you learn more about why culture is critical if companies want to thrive internationally. To continue building on this momentum, I hope you look at any of the resources here. Thanks for reading!