You can find a lot of blog posts on the RW3 site that use the term “globalization.” In fact, it sometimes seems to me that we use buzz words like “globalization” so commonly that we can forget why they are so important to the international business community in the first place. It’s not just the broad, overarching tendency of organizations to become more diverse or establish international franchises. Globalization also creates a necessity to specify which time zone you’re in when you schedule a meeting, or to translate websites and services into multiples languages.
In other words, understanding the importance of globalization has become virtually synonymous with business success. But the measurable success of global businesses (egmarket share, productivity, employee engagement) is largely dependent on something seemingly more abstract: cross-cultural awareness. That is, the ability to flex your own style to effectively communicate and build relationships across cultures.
Many of you probably already know that successful intercultural communication is key for global work teams. The tricky part is how to make it a reality for everyone in your organization. Unfortunately, there are no absolutes, no definite right or wrong answers when it comes to developing cross-cultural awareness or building trust and mutual understanding. In fact, it’s generally a highly individual process.
As you can imagine, it’s particularly important for international assignees to both appreciate the significance of cross-cultural awareness and to use it to make sure they can be as effective as possible. This is because they are often the ones “on the front lines,” representing themselves, their team and their organization. An international assignee’s ability to navigate a foreign work environment by building strong intercultural relationships or adapting to local expectations will probably determine whether they achieve their and their organization’s goals.
This is where cultural assessments become a useful tool. Cultural assessments, such as the CultureWizard Culture Calculator, create a profile that describes and (within reason) quantifies a person’s cultural values and tendencies. Let’s consider three different ways that this can help international assignees.
1) Increased Self-Awareness
I mentioned earlier that cross-cultural awareness can seem like an abstract and even intractable concept. But cultural assessments provide simple, actionable insights and tips for best practices, making it much simpler to harness the potential of diverse cultural perspectives and work styles.
This bridge between abstract ideas and concrete strategies helps international assignees become more self-awarene by describing key aspects of their attitudes and preferences in a way that’s easy to understand. It then enables them to identify their strengths and use those to their advantage. Likewise, cultural assessments also help international assignees take note of the skills they want to practice and further develop.
2) Deeper Cross-Cultural Awareness
The second, equally important benefit of using assessments is the ability to appreciate and understand diverse perspectives. Once they have a better understanding of their own preferences and expectations, international assignees can compare how those align (or don’t align) with the values and tendencies of colleagues, clients or friends in their assigned country.
This is essential for international assignees not just on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. It’s important to remember that foreign assignees will probably feel a need to build a personal life in their assigned country that feels rewarding independent of their work. This not only makes life for themselves and their families more comfortable, it also tends to help assignees remain more engaged in their professional lives. Expats can use assessments to establish strong intercultural communication with colleagues, enjoy personal time, and make personal connections because they help international assignees build cross-cultural awareness and appreciate their new environment.
3) Building Mutual Trust & Respect
As I mentioned above, cultural assessments help individuals break down the complexities of cultural diversity into simple, identifiable behaviors. This not only makes it easy for professionals to understand themselves and others, it also helps people adopt behaviors with an objective attitude that doesn’t reinforce bias or create hierarchy. That is, cultural assessments describe behaviors and preferences without passing judgement on one perspective or another. This is key to ensuring that international assignees are able to establish mutual trust and respect with people in their assigned country.
Of course, cultural assessments are not a definitive solution. There are many tools and resources that can help foreign assignees adapt to local culture and business practices. With that in mind, professional success is often determined by our ability to appreciate and engage with other cultures and perspectives. Cultural assessments are a simple way for international assignees to gain key insights so they can effectively live and work in a cross-cultural environment.