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As businesses throughout the United States realize the importance of establishing presence and influence beyond national borders to include foreign markets, they are beginning to recognize that language barriers are not the only challenge facing global communications. With rapid advances in technology, businesses are no longer hindered by the constraints of geographical borders. As a result, they are increasingly building business relationships and human resources teams that worldwide. Issues in cross cultural communications typically exist on two levels: inter-business communications and business-to-business communications.

Cross-Cultural Communication – The New Norm

Companies that hire employees from several different countries are often confronted by the misunderstandings that arise from interactions between workers whose professional behaviors are inherently shaped by their cultural roots. Penn Foster offers affordable online undergrad options for careers in marketing and business communications, ranging from a PR Certificate, to an Associate's in Marketing, all the way up to a Bachelor's in Business Management. In contrast, Japanese people are less comfortable thinking out loud and feel that if they are going to speak up in a meeting they need to say something significant.

Business-to-business communications can also be negatively affected by ignoring the diverse cultural upbringings of business clients and partners. Consequently, individual companies may forfeit lucrative opportunities in foreign markets and therefore potential profits.

The Five Most Common Culture Problems -- And Their Solutions

By promoting and implementing a commitment toward intercultural communications, businesses can gain the information necessary to identify external and internal problems that stem from cultural origins and create successful solutions to eradicate them. Thankfully there are several specific training, assessment, evaluation and inventory tools available to businesses that need assistance in establishing stronger intercultural communication awareness. These tools and services are mainly provided by professional associations and cross cultural communication consulting firms.

According to the Intercultural Communication Institute ICI , some of the most commonly used intercultural tools include:.

What are some of the most common culture problems you observe, and if you can share them in a few words, how do you solve the most common problems? I want to talk about my experience creating training programs, communication programs and retention programs as I think these kinds of interventions could be very useful for my hopefully new employer. Sign up here to get top career advice delivered straight to your inbox every week. Often as HR practitioners we are taught to see the world through program-colored glasses.


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That is, we get used to observing a team and a workplace with the question, "What do these folks need -- more training, more communication or a different pay structure? We have tools at our disposal -- the ability to write policies, classrooms and devices through which we can reach our teammates, and so on -- and we want to use them! I teach the opposite approach. Forget about interventions for now and focus on what is happening inside your possible next employer.

What is causing your regional President sleepless nights right now? I guarantee you he isn't lying awake thinking "I need a new leadership development program! Pain shows up in little ways at first. Your regional President I'm calling him Mike undoubtedly runs into daily or many-times-daily issues that make him wonder "Are we doing everything we need to do to keep this team focused and connected as we grow?

5 Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers at Work

Small companies tend to grow a ton in a short term and then overreact by installing too much HR infrastructure and the worst, crusty kind of infrastructure to boot. They rush to install formal systems like degree feedback programs and annual Employee Engagement Surveys.

Try to resist the urge to suggest even more weenie programs to Mike when you meet him. Listen to him and anticipate his problems, instead. That's how you will grow your Pain-Spotting muscles! It's tempting to go straight to solutions but I don't recommend that you do that.

Cross-Cultural Management

The only way you will build trust and credibility with Mike is by truly hearing him and probing more and more deeply for his most pressing Business Pain. Once you have a good sense of Mike's pain, you can tell stories about times when you dealt with similar pain. These are called Dragon-Slaying Stories! You'll know your prospective teammates are less than excited because Mike or another interviewer will tell you about it, because you spot it with your own eyes when you're in the facility or because Mike talks to you about quality control or attendance issues.

How do you solve this? You can't force people to be happy.


  • Number 1: Get to Know Each Team Member;
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  • You have to listen to them, and you can't even do that until you build trust with them. That's a slow process but it's worth the effort!

    Number 2: Take Steps to Retain a Culturally Diverse Staff

    Supervisors are under-equipped, so they over-supervise. Naturally a new supervisor thrown into the deep end of the pool will feel anxious. Insecure supervisors will often over-manage and get bossy. That will rankle the employees and the negative cycle is reinforced.

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    Before you think about supervisory training, you've got to open lines of communication. You've got to define a supervisor's job for the benefit of everyone -- not just the supervisors -- and then coach and support your supervisors as they grow into the role. Turnover is too high. If people are leaving your company regularly to get better jobs and it isn't in your business plan to employ a revolving door of short-timers, you have a turnover problem and thus a culture problem.