ARCTIC: Assessing and Reviewing Cultural Transaction in International Companies

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2 ARCTIC: Assessing and Reviewing Cultural Transaction in International Companies Prof. Stephen Hagen Dr. Jo Angouri Dr. Doris Dippold Dr. Marco Aponte-Moreno Executive Summary Aims and methods ARCTIC set out to define what type of issues small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) associate with (a lack of) language and intercultural skills, to define what language management strategy means for UK SMEs and to review the impact of only using English in non-english speaking markets. Data were collected via a survey (replicating the ELAN survey by Hagen (2006)) of 93 exporting SMEs in the Surrey and Bristol region as well as South Wales and interviews with twelve SMEs across the three regions. Key findings More UK SMEs than in 2006 now adopt language management strategies (e.g. using translators, using foreign agents, hiring native speakers, adapting the website to foreign markets etc.) SMEs have become more aware of the role of language and culture for business success and, by extension, cases where business was lost due to lack of language and cultural skills, close to 30% as compared to less than 5% in ELAN data. SMEs make decisions about the use of local languages vs. the use of an English only strategy in line with their target markets and products. The use of local languages opens opportunities for localisation, provides access to local knowledge and, whilst the use of English allows for control of the information flow to local suppliers and partners.

3 Researchers and Project Partners The project was led by Dr. Doris Dippold, Lecturer in Communication and German at the University of Surrey, who coordinated the overall project and led the data collection in the Surrey Region. The Co-Investigators were Dr. Jo Angouri from the University of the West of England, Bristol, Prof. Stephen Hagen from the University of Wales, Newport and Dr. Marco- Aponte Moreno from UCL. Prof. Hagen led the data collection in the South Wales Region, whilst Dr. Jo Angouri led the data collection in the Bristol region as well as the analysis of the qualitative data. Dr. Marco-Aponte Moreno was instrumental in leading the analysis of the quantitative data. The researchers were supported by their external collaborators, the Chambers of Commerce local to each of the regions in which data were collected (Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Bristol Chambers of Commerce, South Wales Chambers of Commerce). During the course of the project, collaboration was also established with other organisations, most notably with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in the South West and the South East Region. Key words (max 8) International trade, SMEs, language management strategy, UK export

4 Summary Report Key findings, outcomes, outputs and achievements 1. Key findings 1.1 SMEs language management strategies The use of the methodology from the ELAN survey (Hagen 2006) allowed for comparison and the identification of new trends. However, the results need to be seen under the proviso of a smaller UK sample (93 ARCTIC vs. 100 ELAN) and the fact that ARCTIC only looked at SMEs in three UK regions Surrey, Bristol and South Wales. The intensity of exporting activity is high in the areas that constitute ARCTIC s focus. 93 companies took part in the survey (Surrey 24, Bristol 29, South Wales 40). Given the current financial context, recruiting companies turned out to be a challenge for the team. We managed to reach our target, falling short of only 7 companies. The comparison of ARCTIC and ELAN results indicate that SMEs have made progress in adopting successful language management strategies, defined here as the planned adoption of a range of techniques to facilitate effective communication with clients and suppliers abroad (Hagen, 2006) (Appendix, figures 1 and 2). The thematic analysis of the 12 interviews (coding map, Appendix) provided a more profound understanding of SMEs perceptions and further corroborated the survey results: There is lots of Europeans that speak English so their first language they learn so you can get away with it but you can t maximise your opportunity and there is a big difference of getting away with it with what you could potentially do. (Sales and Marketing Director, Surrey) 1.2 Issues attributed to (a lack of) language and cultural skills The survey data show that more SMEs than in ELAN suggested that they may have missed an export contract due to lack of language or cultural skills (figure 3, Appendix). These figures do not necessarily imply a rise in the amount of actual business lost, but suggest that businesses awareness of the impact of language and cultural skills has increased. Although language and culture was identified as important for securing business contracts, pinning down the exact causes of lost businesses was challenging, as the interview data indicated. As one Managing Director observed, it is always difficult to know exactly why it is that you ve lost a piece of business when it goes.

5 1.3 Impact of only using English in non-english speaking markets English is undoubtedly one of the linguae francae of international trade and our findings corroborate other research in the area. While a number of companies, as the survey data indicate, heavily rely on English, this also depends on the business of each company and its target markets. An English only strategy practically means, for our participants, access to a wide enough network, given that English is a very popular foreign language. Also the analysis of our interview data indicated that using a common language was perceived as a way to control the information that is communicated to local suppliers and partners. At the same time however an English only strategy also means dependency on local partners and agents for localisation of the products/services SMEs offer. Conversely companies who use a range of local languages (term used to refer to the native language of customers, suppliers or partners in the target market) benefit from being able to adapt and localise their business, gain access to the local knowledge and by extension benefit from a range of opportunities open to them. Although having access to expertise (through for e.g. translation services) is perceived by some senior leaders to be expensive, companies employ native speakers and have devised sophisticated ways to be able to meet their needs internally. 1.4 Market differentiation model More than 60% of SMEs plan to begin trading in a new foreign country during the next three years, with around 40% suggesting that they will need to acquire additional expertise in languages and cultures for that purpose. The frontrunners in SMEs expansion plans are the BRIC-countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as South America. The specific business activities of each company influence its target markets and language needs. Further to this, different businesses have reached different levels of reflexivity in the actual language strategies they have in place. Given the subjective nature of the participants experiences, contradictions are noted in the data as to whether there are countries or regions where English seems to be more widely spread (and by extension enough for business success). Maps 1 and 2 (Appendix) attempt to represent the participants perceptions as enacted through the interview data. Important to note here is that these reflect perceptions and hence while e.g. Scandinavia is portrayed as an English friendly market, other interviewees suggest that access to local knowledge and culture can only be achieved through the local language/s.

6 2. Outcomes Issues frequently mentioned in the interviews and which warrant further research given the implications for the British market: o The perceived high costs for external translators / interpreters o The issue of prioritising which language should be offered for staff development purposes o The difficulties of finding agents and distributors that adequately represent the business in non-english speaking markets o Recruitment of native speakers is generally prioritised over recruitment of native speakers of English with specific language skills, in particular in fields were specific technical expertise is required. Using the case studies of some of the participating SMEs that can be considered examples of good practice, the following recommendations can be made: o Universities to work more closely with local businesses and business support organisations (Chambers of Commerce, UKTI) to provide access to placement students with specific skills and competences in language and Intercultural Communication o The development of courses and consultancy targeted to SMEs specific needs, in particular in BRIC countries o Universities to ensure that language provision is integrated in the curriculum (e.g. though joint degrees) in order to fulfil the SMEs needs for staff with skills in both specific subjects and foreign languages 3. Outputs Three local events were held in January 2013, attracting ca. 90 registered delegates representing SMEs and business support organisations. These events were supported by the Chambers of Commerce as our collaborating partners as well as by UK Trade and Investment. o 17 Jan. 2013: 2013 New Year Resolution: How to achieve increased exports through better communication with clients, suppliers and partners. (Surrey) o 16. Jan. 2013: Everybody speaks English, don t they? How companies overcome language barriers to crate export success. (Bristol) o 16. Jan 2013: Being Local but acting Global: How companies overcome language barriers to create export success. (South Wales) The project team will prepare an academic article based on both the quantitative and the qualitative results of this research. The paper will be written during February and March 2013 and be submitted to a High Impact factor journal. The team will also write up the results of this research in an article targeting the business community. We will explore possible publication channels with the collaborating Chambers of Commerce

7 4. Achievements During the course of the project, the team has been able to form strategic partnerships that are vital for the implementation and dissemination of the results of the project to the business community, in particular with UKTI. The project has also attracted attention outside of the business community. The team has been invited to give a presentation at a Policy Forum (entitled Exporting within the Commonwealth and BRICS A Road Map to Business Success ) organised by GovKnow, an organiser of political and public policy conferences. The results of the project will be released to Robin Godfrey, ECR manager, in order to feed into the training programme for language consultants and the development of the Export Communications Review. Collaboration and partnerships Chambers of Commerce The team collaborated with the Chambers of Commerce in the three regions in which the project was conducted. Chambers of Commerce assisted the local investigators in identifying businesses that fit the sample criteria and in disseminating the event to a wider audience. Working with non academic partners provided the team with the opportunity to make its findings available outside the academic community. Although the different organisations involved in this project have different agendas, the shared interest in enhancing the business success of British SMEs led to a good collaboration and paved the way for future work. UK Trade and Investment During the course of the project, further partnerships were formed with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). In Surrey, UKTI contributed significantly to helping the team recruit SMES during the data collection phase. UKTI also co-hosted the networking events in Surrey and Bristol and were instrumental in disseminating the details of the event to a wider audience. Export Communications Review Contact with the UKTI led to one of their consultants being invited to the Surrey and Bristol-based networking events to deliver presentations on website optimisation for international markets. Both consultants were very keen on the results of the ARCTIC-project, suggesting that this would provide them with hard evidence regarding the vital importance of language and cultural skills in business.

8 As the ECR consultants work with SMEs on a daily basis to review SMEs practices in reaching out to their customers, they may a suitable partner for disseminating the outcomes of academic research, such as the ARCTIC results. Plans for future research ARCTIC has revealed the significant impact and awareness of language management strategies as a key part of the portfolio of tools available to UK export companies. However, it is too small-scale and localised to offer statistically significant results for other UK companies. As a follow-up we would wish to survey and interview a nationwide sample of UK export SMEs in a new study called the Nation-Arc study (Nation-Arc = NATIONAL ARCTIC) and review how they may against best-practice company criteria set out in ARCTIC and earlier European studies such as ELAN (Hagen, 2006) and PIMLICO (Hagen, 2011). This would allow us to provide a benchmark of relative Language Management strengths and performances between UK-based exporters by size, turnover and sector with regard to the measured impact of the language management measures undertaken to overcome language and/or cultural barriers and improve performance indicators, principally export turnover as a proportion of sales turnover; and specific new market penetration. 1. Phase 1: An extension of the ARCTIC quantitative study to all UKTI regions and devolved territories of the UK in order to achieve a national (UK) sample of at least 500 companies (SMEs). A sample of 500+ would ensure statistical viability and enable us to draw comparisons between the types of language management strategy by critical variable (sector; company size; export performance profile). Potential candidates for survey will be identified with the help of local / regional business intermediaries (Chambers; IoD local offices; UKTI regional offices). This will involve UK-wise university-intermediary collaborations which will lead to local dissemination opportunities. 2. Phase 2: We propose to collate exemplar and best-practice case studies of UK export SMEs on the basis of their innovative use of language management strategies from the sample of 500+ which have been identified as successful exporters whereby the language management strategy is a recognised key variable in that success. According to the PIMLICO study (Hagen, 2011) such elements include, amongst others: use of local agents, culturally and/or linguistically adapted websites; language training and cultural briefing schemes; foreign student placements; native-speaker recruitment etc. The target sample of 100 SMEs will take a account of size of company, region, market destination, sector and trade turnover. Phone interviews will be used to test out whether the companies satisfy enough criteria as exemplar practitioners of language management strategies. On the basis if this selection, the researchers will then conduct face-to-face interviews with 50 SMEs. The goal of this exercise is to develop two subsets for dissemination: (i) 100 case studies of exemplar practice in the use of language strategies and (ii) from these 100, a set of 25 exceptional super-smes which will be used for special exemplification and promotion.

9 Appendixes Figure 1: Language management strategies Figure 2: Language management strategies (continued) Figure 3: Missed business opportunities

10 Figure 4: Coding map (interviews) Map 1: Perceptions of English-only adequacy in Europe Map 2: Perceptions of English-only adequacy outside Europe

11 References and external links References Hagen, S., et al (2006). ELAN: Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise. London: CILT. Hagen, S. (2011) Report on Language Management Strategies and Best Practice in European SMEs: The PIMLICO Project. Brussels: European Commission, DGEAC, February External links Networking events at the three different sites: Surrey: Bristol: aspx South Wales: The following materials will be uploaded to the project website (www.surrey.ac.uk/arctic) in due course: o o Slides of Presentation at Networking Events Video recordings of presentations at Networking Events (if released by speakers)

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