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The importance of cutural training and how to measure its effectiveness

Integration of cutures after a merger or acquisition - A project plan

The importance of national cuture in business

 


The importance of cultural training and how to measure its effectiveness

 

Based on the overwhelming evidence we know that culture has multiple impacts on business activities. How can organizations prepare their employees to meet the intercultural challenges. The best experience an employee can have is going on an overseas assignment where s/he experiences the differences first hand. These assignments however take a long time and are expensive, thus companies have been looking for other ways to prepare their people. Shorter term international rotation has been a successful method for many multinational companies.

 

The third option is to send the employees on well-designed cross-cultural training. In fact all employees dealing with different cultures should receive some kind of cultural training: employees going on short- or longer term international assignments, international negotiators, people working in multicultural offices, etc. The main advantages of cross-cultural trainings include:

1) raising the employees’ self-awareness of their own cultures,

2) raising the awareness about the differences between their own and other cultures,

3) providing tools and techniques for bridging the differences between cultures and thereby contributing to more successful intercultural interactions.

 

The training can be delivered for mono-cultural, e.g. 100% Japanese groups, and multicultural groups that include different nationalities. The advantage of the multicultural group is that the learning about different cultures is easier and more practical as course participants can discuss different scenarios right then and there with each other during the training. The training should use a variety of methods, including case studies, role plays, simulations, etc. in order to foster experiential learning.

 

The effectiveness of the training may be measured by assessing the employee’s pre- and post-training cross- cultural competency. This can be done through self-assessment, through an assessment performed by the managers and peers or through a full 360 feedback process.

 

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Integration of cultures after a merger or acquisition - A project plan

 

Objective

To help realize the full benefits of the transaction through ensuring that the culture of the new entity properly supports the strategic intentions of the new leadership team.

 

The main steps of the integration project 

--- Workshop with top management to agree on the desired culture of the new entity and the steps needed to create this culture quickly and effectively. Discussion topics include: Vision, mission and key strategies for the new entity, assessment of the current cultures of the old entities, identification of the desired underlying values of the new entity, analysis of the changes required to create the new culture of the acquired/merged entities. 
 
--- Synergy and Gap Analysis. Diagnosis of the compatibility of organizational and national cultures. Analysis of
 
  • - trust,
  • - strategies,
  • - products and markets,
  • - organizational structures,
  • - organizational values,
  • - human resource policies and practices,
  • - leadership and management practices and
  • - information flows.
  •  

--- Based on the findings preparing a plan to establish the required culture in line with the strategy of the newly established entity. Methods include surveys, interviews, focus group discussions and workshops.

 

--- Survey and focus groups in different locations around the new vision, mission and values of the new entity.

 

--- Drawing up the ‘Communication and Integration Plan’. This Plan sets deadlines and identifies ways to maximize employee support and loyalty; as well as to minimize uncertainty. It offers solutions to pre-empt and/or solve conflict situations. Solutions may include cross-cultural training, identifying the main change agents, team-building, setting up taskforces, and/or individual coaching.

 

Timing 

Appropriate and timely communication is key in any successful international transaction. The workshop with top management, the survey in different locations as well as the diagnosis on possible synergies and conflicts is suggested to be initiated in the first two weeks. The Communication and Implementation Plan has to be designed and executed short after this.

 

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The influence of national cultures in business

 

National cultures impact business activities on many levels, including, but not limited to, strategy, human resources, marketing and even finance. In addition to functional areas, the impact of culture can also be felt within international teams, in negotiations and during teleconferences. In recent years a number of studies and articles have been published about the role of corporate and national culture in mergers and acquisitions. Therefore the importance of culture has been clearly demonstrated both academically through the research and practically through real life case studies.

 

Academic research

 

In the academic field the three largest international studies that looked at cultural differences were performed by Geert Hofstede (Software of the Mind, 1991), Fons Trompenaars (Riding the Waves of Culture, 1993) and Robert House (Culture, Leadership and Organizations, 2004). In their studies they found that the differences between national cultures have been statistically higher than the differences between different genders, generations and between people with different educational backgrounds. The studies identified a number of cultural dimensions along which cultures differ. These dimensions can represent values, work-style differences, communication styles (e.g. direct and indirect), different approaches to hierarchy (egalitarian and hierarchical approach), etc. These dimensions serve as a very practical framework for identifying as well as bridging cultural differences.

 

Case studies

 

An English project manager in Japan was told by his team that they are doing their best to keep the deadline, but it is difficult. The manager assumed that the project was still going well and that the team would simply work harder to meet the deadline. However, when the deadline passed, the project was still not complete. Had the English manager understood the subtle differences in communication style between English and Japanese cultures, he would have realized that he should have immediately intervened and helped the team overcome their difficulties.

 

A joint venture negotiation between a Chinese and a Danish company was about to fall apart due to cultural miscommunication. Luckily, the moderator of the negotiation was aware of the cultural differences and called for a ‘time-out’. She had a separate meeting with both parties and explained the differences in sharing information, negotiations, and that people trust each other for different reasons. As a result, the parties continued with the negotiations and the deal was closed.

 

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