Don’t underestimate the importance of having cultural knowledge

Cultural knowledge

For Multinationals, expatriates and lone workers through the advancement of transport, communication, information technology and reduction in flight costs in travelling abroad in recent times, taking a post in a foreign country or conducting business across foreign borders is a feasible growth opportunity for some and unfortunately a financial necessity for others. For the individual, whether you’re a practitioner of management, engineering, medicine, manufacturing, education or construction, your country of origin’s current economic situation need not be the be all and end all in determining the financial stability of your family or indeed be an over ruling factor in preventing your career advancement prospects.

However as easy as it may seem to get on a plane and start in a new company abroad, it has been identified through various studies driven by the growth in international business, that there is a need for cross cultural training.  Working in a foreign environment can be a difficult experience and a study by Buckley and Brooke in 1992 suggests that failure rates of the expatriate to be high for a variety of different reasons from both a professional and personal standpoint.  Expatriate failure can also have a negative monetary impact on the company, for instance it is reported that failure rates of expatriates has a reported $2billion per year negative impact on US multinationals.

Globalisation is here and now and having an impact on everyday business.  Modern managers at some point in their career may work abroad, but the skills required to manage abroad in a multicultural setting are extremely important.  You can study in advance theories on cross cultural management from theorists such as Hofstede, Schwartz, Trompenaars or R House but quite simply my advice would be before you go, take some time to learn as much about the culture and people as possible, contact colleagues on the ground and they will advise how best to adapt and what to expect when you get there, rest assured things will be very different.