As technology makes our world a smaller place many businesses big and small are engaging in commerce across international borders. The definition of workplace has now expanded to include not just new cities or regions but the whole world, we are indeed witnessing life in the global workplace.
Conducting business on an international level isn’t always easy as social norms, greetings and introductions and even time restraints differ across cultures. Here are my tips for success in the global workplace.
1. Have an open mind
Being open minded makes the transition from national to international easier as you will be more willing to learn about new countries, their customs, and the way they do business. Things may not always go as planned and tasks that used to be simple before may become more complicated and tedious. Obstacles be they cultural, financial or logistical will arise and you need to be able to think outside the box and get creative.
2. Welcome and embrace change
Making changes to the way you do business, approach projects, and even shake hands is inevitable when working in a global workplace. Change is never easy but being ready for the change and approaching it with a positive attitude certainly makes the transition run smoother. Don’t shy away or be afraid of changing the way you do business, different markets demand different approaches. Chances are you will have a completely different business model or approach for each new market you enter. Think of each new culture, country, or market as a creative outlet, an opportunity to do your job in the different way. The result or product is the same but the method is different.
3. Do your prep work
Preparation and research are essential when working on a global level. You need to be aware of the cultural and social norms of the countries you are doing business in. There are many sources online that allow you do conduct a cultural comparison between countries. It’s a good idea to compare the country you live in with the countries you wish to enter or are looking to do business with. The World Factbook is an online tool that provides comprehensive and detailed information about countries, however it focuses more on general information rather than cultural comparisons. To compare cultural differences, we recommend using the TheHofstede Center website as it allows you to compare and contrast cultures using 5 detailed dimensions. In addition to cultural research you should attempt to learn a few basic words in the native language such as hello, thank you, and please.
4. Seek out local mentors
Locals are the best guides when it comes to learning about a new culture and market. Seeking out a local professional who can help you learn about the business culture in your prospective market is a good idea, as you will be able to get a first hand account of what corporate life is like. You can reach out to professionals in your field or similar fields through organizations advocating for trade between your home country and your perspective market. LinkedIn is also a good way of researching professionals in your field, however since these would be cold connections asking for mentorship is not recommended. You can also ask for guidance and information about perspective markets from their local embassies in your home base. Most embassies have trade commissioners that provide information on conducting business in their country.
For more informationand a hands on training in doing business on an international level check out our next workshop Success in the Global Workplace this June in Ottawa. Registration is now open!
Praveeni Perera is the CEO and co-founder of Professional Edge Consulting a corporate training company based in Ottawa offering training and coaching services to clients around the world. She can be reached via Website, Twitter, Facebook or her Blog.