Culture and Diversity in Business

diverse group of professionalsCulture and Diversity in Business: do you have what it takes to understand your customers, partners and employees?

As a member of the PCC (psychology of culture change group) we often discuss key issues around international business and sustainability, diversity and importantly culture.

I have worked in 160 countries around the world, these learning’s are certainly a key to being successful in business internationally and to understand the role of culture in international business.

Whatever sector you are operating in, cultural differences will have a direct impact on your profitability. Improving your level of knowledge of international cultural difference in business can aid in building international competencies as well as enabling you to gain a competitive advantage.

The values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation is a key part in the understanding and communication of culture.

Organisational culture includes an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. Also called corporate culture, and has a major bearing on productivity and employee engagement, it can be shown in the following:

  • the ways the organisation conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community,
  • the extent to which freedom is allowed in decision-making, developing new ideas, and personal expression,
  • how power and information flow through its hierarchy, and
  • how committed employees are towards collective objectives.However, on the one hand where it is important to be aware of cultural differences of different countries, on the other, it is also hard to be aware of every single aspect of each country’s organisational culture. Therefore, you should be aware of the key factors that have a direct impact on business.

multiculturalThese are:

  1. Communication is the key to success for any business, whether you are operating nationally or internationally, but when operating internationally it becomes even more important due to language barriers.
  2. Being aware of basic customer needs is an important aspect as this will give the advantage of conveying your message. In simple terms, if you are aware of the customer’s cultural background, then you will be able to adopt better and more suitable advertising methods.
  3. Body language is another key factor in cultural difference. As different countries have different ways to convey or share their message, for instance in Germany people tend to speak loudly when sharing ideas, whereas in Japan people speak softly, it very important to know what your body language should be doing when interacting with people whether it’s your business partner or an interviewer.

Before launching a marketing campaign, always conduct research to become aware of your target audience since customer demand, decision-making, gender views and ideologies greatly vary in cultures.

Culture affects the way people think about business in their own society. An awareness of cultural attitudes toward business will help you communicate efficiently and effectively when working with people from other cultures. For example, Asian cultures, including Japan and China, promote teamwork and cooperation in business environments while Western businesses promote individual action and responsibility. Understanding these values will help you to create an effective communication strategy with partners from these regions.

All of us global minds have been confronted with cultural differences at some point. They often lead to amusing misunderstandings, but can also have a serious impact on your career if you are not aware.

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