1 HR Magazine May 2011 Education: SPECIAL REPORT GLOBAL EASE By Kathryn Tyler Volume 56; Issue 5; ISSN: Human resource professionals need to gain self awareness, second languages and multicultural savvy to manage international workforces. Neil Currie, GPHR, a certified trainer with 15 years of HR experience with Johnson & Johnson in Brazil, has worked in South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the United States. Despite his vast international experience, cultural faux pas occasionally have cost him opportunities and positive first impressions. When pitching a proposal to deliver training for a Brazilian telecom company, his first trip to Sao Paulo was going well. "They were delighted I had lived in Brazil and was fluent in Portuguese. It was picture perfect until my client suggested I stay for the weekend to go to a soccer game" and enjoy the local cuisine with him, he says. Although Currie declined the invitation diplomatically, the next day he sensed his potential clients were not as receptive. They told him "they liked the program but would need more time. They wanted me to add a pilot that would take another month and one more trip." On the plane home, Currie analyzed what went wrong. He had given them a "task" reason for declining the invitation instead of a "relationship" reason. "It's a relationship culture, and I could just as easily and more successfully [have said], 'There are people back home who are expecting me to be with them.' " But the reason he gave "sent the message that I was not as Brazilian as they initially thought and it came out of my profit." Currie was able to salvage the project because he was culturally savvy enough to recognize and rectify his missteps. Later, "we did go to the stadium and had feijoada [stew] and a caipirinha [cocktail]. They invited me to continue, so I more than recovered the loss," he says. Cultural misunderstandings are common, but they can be pitfalls to executives managing global workforces. "Global HR professionals need to have several competencies: knowledge of HR strategies, models, methods and techniques; problem solving skills; people management skills; and, finally, the ability to adapt to international contexts," says Silvia Bagdadli, an associate professor of organization and human resource management at Bocconi University and the director of the executive master in strategic human resource management program at the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy. "A global mind set is crucial. People used to need to understand a culture if they were going to another country to live. Now, people work across borders via technology. Companies ask us to teach global mind set skills for people who will never be leaving their offices," says Charlene Solomon, executive vice president of RW3 LLC, an intercultural business consultancy based in New York City, and co author of Managing Across Cultures (McGraw Hill, 2009). On their way up the corporate ladder, many chief human resource officers gain international experience and global cultural competencies self awareness, second languages and societal sensitivity. But what if your company has just expanded overseas and you have hundreds, if not thousands, of new employees in another country? Or what if you want to increase the global cultural competencies of your staff? If it has been a while since you completed your international executive MBA or your last international work rotation, how can you keep your global cultural competencies sharp?
2 These are common problems. Global cultural competencies seem to be in high demand and low supply among all types of executives and managers. According to the IBM Global Human Capital Study 2008, 75 percent of companies cited the inability to develop future leaders as a critical issue. Many expressed "deep concern over the current and projected shortage of individuals" who can "serve as role models and mentors to individuals who are increasingly dispersed" geographically and who "come from a variety of generations, experience levels and cultures." Almost half the respondents interviewed said a lack of leadership capability is acute in Asia, a country few expatriates are willing to relocate to. A World Wise Road Map To gain the necessary skills, a combination of on the job exposure and formal training are required, says David Lange, managing partner of Aventine Associates, a global consultancy based in Pennington, N.J., and Belgium. He says formal training, which is useful at the outset of a global career, becomes less critical as employees gain experiences and capabilities. Career long opportunities include the following: Travel. Executives may find it difficult to spend long periods of time away from headquarters. Howard Wallack, GPHR, director of the Society for Human Resource Management's global member programs, suggests commuting internationally: Instead of taking one long, traditional expat experience, an 18 month assignment could feature twoweek trips every three months for 18 months. "Work and travel abroad in cultures that are important to the organization in locations of operation, labor and customer markets," recommends Gill Maxwell, Ph.D., an instructor and researcher at the Business School at the Glasgow Caledonian University. International HR workshops. HR professionals do not need to earn an international HR degree to take global courses. Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., dean of research and director of the Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., says the school works "with several thousand managers who take one day to three week courses on various topics related to globalization." For example, Thunderbird courses include "Advanced Management Program for Oil and Gas Executives" and "Advanced Negotiating Strategies for Global Effectiveness." Read globally. Keep up on world news. Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke, Ph.D., associate professor and executive director of the HR management program at Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, recommends publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune and The Economist. Wallack suggests reading daily newspapers from other countries regularly. Look them up online. "If you don't speak the language, there is usually an English paper in most countries," he says. International projects. "Be assertive in asking [for] opportunities for involvement in global initiatives," Lange suggests. "Demonstrate flexibility around working hours and travel, as global roles do not fit neatly into a regular U.S. workday." Begin self study of a language to indicate interest in a role in a specific country; Lange recommends courses like those offered by Rosetta Stone. Long term expatriate assignments. "Emerging markets are vitally important. You don't understand them unless you are in the country one or two years. It's a competitive advantage to build up that experience," says British national Matthew North, vice president/head of talent in Bangalore, India, for ABB, a power and automation corporation. He speaks English and German and has worked in the United States, Europe and Asia. Obtain an international HR degree. Dozens of universities worldwide offer international degrees. Most executive global HR master's programs take one to two years and require immense self discipline. Many international HR degree programs include common graduate HR courses, such as organizational development and communication skills, but from an international perspective. However, some offer region specific courses, such as "Challenges in Emerging Middle Eastern Economies."
3 Exposure to executives from other countries represents a valuable aspect of international degree programs. "You build a network," North says. "You can talk to them and resolve your current problems. They are not all from one country, so they have different perspectives and can open your mind to different solutions." Johannes Kim, vice president of human resources for Carl Zeiss Vision Inc., a global eye care manufacturer headquartered in San Diego, notes that his graduate school study group included students from France, Germany, India, Korea and Switzerland. "The study groups mirror the business environment: You are pressured for results. You have to see how to apply and change your communication style to build relationships." Cultivate multicultural colleagues. "Network with other HR executives who have international backgrounds and responsibilities," Javidan advises. Lange suggests: "Be mentored by someone outside one's own geography, or assume reporting responsibility for a team outside one's own geography." Globalization for Everyone The need for global cultural competencies will grow, so grab opportunities to prepare now. Peyman Dayyani, SPHR, GPHR, vice president of organizational development and human capital for Mobile Communication Co. of Iran, suggests a " learning approach" to acquiring global HR skills "70 percent is learned by doing and hunting for opportunities and challenges in real life, 20 percent is being a mentee of people who have earned the wisdom of a global mind set, and 10 percent is learned by reading and attending classes." Dayyani speaks Farsi, English and French, and reads and writes Arabic. What Are Global Cultural Competencies? "'Cultural competency' refers to an individual's ability to communicate and interact effectively with people from different cultures," says Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke, Ph.D., associate professor and executive director of the HR management program at Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration of Chulalongkorn University. "A culturally competent CHRO [chief human resource officer] should have an awareness of one's own cultural background, worldviews, preferences and biases, as well as [of] others'." The historical, socioeconomic, political and legal backgrounds of countries where a company has businesses all influence the way it recruits, develops, evaluates and rewards employees, he says. Moreover, "CHROs need to be able to communicate in different languages, behave appropriately in different settings and persuade people of different cultures using proper motivation factors to suit each cultural setting," Roongrerngsuke says. Lastly, "they need to be optimistic and open minded, [and] able to present themselves appearance, gestures, manners, clothing appropriately in different cultures." In short, says Charlene Solomon, executive vice president of intercultural business consultancy RW3 LLC, "a global mindset is the ability to recognize, read and adapt to cultural signals subtle and overt." Cultural competency can be divided into three areas: self awareness, second language acquisition and societal sensitivity. Self Awareness "A large part is self awareness and the knowledge of how you are perceived by others," says Johannes Kim, vice president of human resources for global eye care manufacturer Carl Zeiss Vision Inc., and a German national with Korean
4 parents who has lived in Europe and Asia and speaks five languages. Kim graduated from the Kellogg WHU Executive MBA Program at the Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany, in "When you first have contact with a culture, hold back and observe," Kim advises. "If you know the expectations toward you, you can be aware of yourself and the perception you are projecting. For instance, in East Asia titles are extremely important. If you are the VP of HR, you should not behave as if you are a normal employee." Moreover, "a lot of titles in one department does not necessarily mean an organization has too many layers, but maybe they had to give more titles for certain employees to save face." Gill Maxwell, Ph.D., an instructor and researcher at the Business School at the Glasgow Caledonian University, says, "A CHRO should understand the key dimensions of national culture, such as Hofstede's five dimensions, as it applies to their home country, the country of ownership of their company, its locations of operation, and its sources of labor and markets." The Geert Hofstede Model, one of the most common cultural comparison models, measures cultures' power distribution, individualism, gender roles, risk and long term vs. short term orientation. Language Acquisition Corporate leaders "aren't paying sufficient attention to language education," observes Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., dean of research and director of the Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Thunderbird is one of the few business schools that require proficiency in a second language for graduation. When it comes to languages, the more an HR professional knows, the better, says Roongrerngsuke, while admitting that English is still the first language of business. Foreign languages give HR professionals a means to communicate and insights into cultures. For example, "Koreans, as well as Japanese, have different forms of politeness to express a social hierarchy and you don't understand it if you don't understand the language. Language is an easy way to start building relationships," Kim says. Societal Sensitivities "Things that are perfectly natural in one culture offend in another," says Samuel Berner, Ph.D., head of HR of the private banking Asia Pacific division in Singapore for Credit Suisse AG. Berner graduated from the executive master's program at SDA Bocconi School of Management in 2009 and speaks German, French and English. "The amount of touching which is tolerable in a business setting widely differs across cultures. The amount of talking about family before starting to explore the 'real' subject is also different. There are cultures where the boss decides and subordinates carry out the orders, and others where decisions are made in a group setting." "Open your mind to different solutions" and be adaptable to different work styles, says Matthew North, vice presidenthead of talent in Bangalore, India, for ABB, a power and automation corporation. "Change how you behave to the country. I can shift my management style very quickly. In Zurich, they are regimented, but in India they are unstructured and creative." Howard Wallack, GPHR, director of the Society for Human Resource Management's global member programs, adds that status symbols vary in different countries, and HR professionals can use this to their advantage. For example, in the United States "people with master's degrees don't put that on their business cards... because it seems pretentious. But in other countries, if you have a university degree a B.A., M.A., Ph.D., a certification everything goes on your business card," he says. So Wallack uses different business cards when traveling internationally. Moreover, "it's not just about culture," Javidan asserts. "Diverse political and regulatory systems are two other pieces to this equation." To demonstrate, he reads a flight attendant job advertisement for an Indian airline: Requirements years old, different height minimums for males and females, status unmarried, unblemished complexion and good eyesight. "These requirements are illegal in the U.S., U.K. and Canada" but not in India. "It's not about right or wrong," Javidan says. "HR has to deal with different regulatory and political systems." Kim gives another example regarding compensation practices. "Different cultures imply different structures," he says. In
5 China, base salaries are "only half of the truth. [Employees] get plenty of allowances, such as meal allowances. When I saw the payroll, I saw a lot of these allowances. In this culture and in Japan and Korea to a lesser extent your company is your family. It takes care of you." Kim points out that nearby countries or those sharing a language are not necessarily culturally identical, citing Germany and Austria. "Culturally, they are quite different. Germans are more straightforward. Austrians are indirect," he explains Solomon describes an experience with a multinational oil exploration company: Engineers from London and Texas could not agree on places to drill in the North Sea, and both were frustrated. The London group emphasized the risks and downplayed the potential gains of various sites. The Texas group started with the potential gains, then acknowledged the risks. "The Texans felt the Brits had no commitment to the project. The English felt the Americans were overly optimistic," Solomon says. She recommended the Brits invert their proposals "put the gains first, then the history and risks and be more descriptive. Two days later, they won their first proposal." Kathryn Tyler
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