When I ask clients the question “What are the advantages of global working?” I find they very quickly list out a whole range of things such as: “It challenges you and makes you think”, “It makes you more flexible as a human being”, “It strengthens the organic growth of the business”, “It can be very enjoyable, fun and rewarding” and “It makes us more of a global team”. But when I ask them to list the disadvantages of global working they tell me: “It can be slow and painful”, “It could be a threat to the business”, “it adds complexity” and “it’s slow and time consuming & more stressful”.
What is also interesting is that with the first question they come up with responses quickly and keep it broad and general – the big picture if you will. However, the second part takes more time to come out and often reveals real negative experiences and difficult personal challenges.
So what does this mean? Well, in the clash between the mantra ‘global is good’ with the reality that it is often very challenging, it is easy to see that not only do many find the reality of global working difficult but also that the suggested benefits are hard to realise.
What I find interesting is that those organisations where ‘cultural training’ is identified as a solution it is often with a focus ‘fixing a problem with the others’ rather than focusing on how they can achieve the stated advantages. Problem solving then, can becomes the primary focus of the training or intervention and also the measure by which the intervention is judged. Like doing marriage guidance counselling with the only the wife or only the husband, the chances of success are not favourable.Cross cultural consultants and coaches, like any other group of professionals advocate prevention rather than cure. It always makes better business sense to be proactive rather than reactive, especially when such a lot is at stake.
So how can organisations become more proactive and begin to focus on some of the advantages of working globally? One way is by building the organisation’s cultural capital(This is an organization’s ability to grow successfully across cultures). This can be achieved by doing some of the following:
- Adding ‘intercultural skills’ as a core organisational competency set
- Using psychometric assessment tools that assess cultural skills to calibrate the organisation and individuals
- Providing competency based cultural training
- Providing cultural coaching and mentoring programmes to fast track managers working across cultural boundaries
An organisation with a high level of ‘Cultural Capital’ has an advantage over those organisations that do not have it. They leverage the expertise of the cultures within the organisation and apply it to the parts of the business that need it – when and where they need it. They respond better to business opportunities, make less mistakes and become an employer of choice across the global organisation.