Wednesday, June 6, 2012

[Guest Article] Taking Your Organization Global is More Than Just Translation

Taking Your Organization Global
More Than Just Translation

In today’s global economy it is more imperative than ever before to make sound decisions based on research and best practices before taking your organization global. As the prospects for continued growth diminishes in the United States and Europe, companies must look to other regions, such as the Middle East and China, for future growth, brand development, and profits.

Preparation, as well as the knowledge and acceptance needed to truly embrace another culture, are critical if you don’t want to waste money and/or make a fool of your company and product. This means that not only do you have to professionally translate all your company’s materials--from HR and marketing to the software that may drive your product--but you must also acquire the cultural awareness related to every aspect of your company’s internal and external messaging, This messaging also includes your employees’ behavior.

Consider how long it took you, how many meetings and how many technical writers, perhaps even focus groups, to craft and hone your company’s message and image.  Take the same kind of care with your selection of a translation company because your target customers will only see the translation, not the original.

There are 5 key cultural factors to keep in mind when planning for international expansion:

·        When in Rome… – Make yourself aware, region by region, what the behavioral norms are, so as not to offend people from the host country. For example, never use your left hand to serve yourself in a Muslim country; do not expose the sole of your shoe when sitting down in the Middle East, and in Korea be prepared to socialize into the night as part of ramping up to negotiations. 

·        Managers Need Help Too – Global employees need tools that allow them to maneuver among cultures.  Making them aware of the 7 cultural dimensions that constantly come into play is a good place to start.  See Cultural Dimensions Theory

·        Negotiating Across Cultures - Buying and selling across cultures requires a set of skills that probably are different than what you’re used to. Training employees and helping them become attuned to the cultural subtleties the other side expects when engaged in negotiation is key. For instance, in many cultures discussion of price is never the first consideration. Whereas with Americans, price is typically the opening salvo.

·        Don’t Break the Speed Limit - Communicating with people who come from a culture where hierarchy is strong, directness is avoided,  and time management is non-existent represents its own set of challenges. Adjust your communication pattern to click with your interlocutors.

·        First Impressions Matter - The way we dress, the way we sit, the way we shake hands sends a specific message. Think of your first meeting as a job interview and get this opening impression right.  Across cultures, it is of utmost importance to play the part and display the correct level of respect through non-verbal cues.

To be sure there are many other facets of taking your organization global but an understanding and implementation of the key points listed above will benefit you in countless ways.

Jeff Williams