There are many ways a business can grow, such as through international expansion. By entering a new market, a business is able to gain various advantages, such as an increase in revenue, the ability to reach new customer segments and gain access to a global talent pool. On the flip side, going global has its own set of challenges as well. It is crucial for organisations operating on a global scale to recognise and anticipate these challenges.
One such example is the cultural issues that arise as a result of globalisation. When people of different cultures come together within the same work setting, this may inevitably result in clashing work ethics, social norms, religious beliefs etc. Some of the common cultural issues global teams face include:
Not localising international business: Most people embrace and are protective of their culture as it has played an important part in shaping their identity. Hence, pushing international teams to fit a very specific mould is not likely to yield results.
Not adapting management practices across different cultural environments: For example, enforcing China’s “996 work culture” on teams in other countries may yield counter-productive results, such as lower productivity. International businesses should aim to let their teams work according to their local cultural norms, as long as it does not affect business success.
Inadequate diversity management: A successfully integrated diverse team can bring several benefits such as innovation and strengthened team morale, but may also face more disagreements and less trust when not managed properly. This can be achieved through sound diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
Such differences between global teams often create organisational issues and have a negative impact on business productivity. Hence, culture is an important aspect that businesses have to take note of when entering a new market.
Culture encompasses several elements, such as language, values, traditions, perspectives, symbols, and artefacts. These elements all come together to form an individual’s cultural identity. In turn, cultural identity shapes a range of behaviours, including how teammates interact with one another and how they express themselves.
Being culturally diverse is helpful for businesses in various ways. Having an environment where different skills and ideas are celebrated and heard can help to boost innovation and productivity in the workplace. Externally, it also enhances your company’s reputation and in turn becomes a key factor for attracting and retaining global talents – 76% of job seekers take workplace diversity into account when making a decision, Glassdoor’s Diversity Hiring Survey reported in early 2023.
Hence, it is important to be aware of the cultural needs of your global team, in order to maintain cultural diversity in the workplace.
Effective teamwork is typically easier to achieve when a team comprises individuals that share a cultural identity. However, while managing a global team with individuals from different cultural backgrounds can be more difficult, there are globalisation practices that can be put in place.
For starters, organisations should learn to understand and appreciate cultural differences. Learning about a culture allows one to understand and let go of any preconceived biases they may have. In addition, any global team comprising individuals from different cultural backgrounds would certainly appreciate their employer’s efforts to understand their culture, which implicitly helps in retaining them in the long term.
While cultural communities may be broadly different, they do often share certain beliefs in common. In fact, anthropologists argue that most cultures value love, humanity, wisdom, knowledge, and sobriety. Identifying such common ground will allow globalising businesses to build a strong foundation for managing an international team.
Leadership is essential in empowering a team. Therefore, it is important to be careful when designing the organisational structure of an international team. Cultural differences must be considered when assigning roles, communicating across teams, and promoting efficient collaboration.
An easy way to achieve this would be to localise the management of a team. If possible, hire a local manager that will have the necessary cultural knowledge to effectively carry out organisational duties and build a strong camaraderie with the local team.
While cultural diversity should be embraced, it needs to be compatible with business values and objectives as well. Managements should guide global teams to understand that while they have the autonomy to operate according to their cultural norms, it should not contravene organisational ones. Both cultural and organisational norms work together to define a business’s culture.
Taking a business global is difficult and requires a great deal of planning. In terms of cultural diversity, businesses have to be mindful to put certain frameworks in place in order to maintain a happy and productive workforce.
At DHL Express, we understand how important it is to keep our international teams united. Only then can our employees cater to customers like yourself with full commitment and alignment, so you experience only the best when you engage a reliable express courier provider. Why not create a DHL Express business account and experience it for yourself?