How well do you understand the culture of your global teammates? Do you know your French etiquette from your Swedish? The typical Spanish communication style from the typical Chinese? Our latest blog is all around cultural awareness training for a more inclusive, educated workplace.
By now, most businesses have become accustomed to remote working and managing global teams across a multitude of locations and languages. But is it enough now to be ‘accustomed’? Should the focus not be on truly understanding those cultural differences to build the best global teams working virtually?
It’s one thing to ensure you have appropriate platforms and technology for global, multilingual employees connecting virtually, but how do you maintain these connections emotionally—especially across different cultures?
A poll of workers conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health’s (RSPH) found that two-thirds of workers who shifted from the office to home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues. When you add cultural divide into this, it becomes more disconnected still.
In the world of work, it can be easy to assume your attitudes and mannerisms are mirrored by your teammates, but you’d be surprised how much these change depending on where you are in the world and your colleagues’ backgrounds. To create a truly inclusive work environment, an awareness of these differences is key. We call this cultural competence.
In this blog, we’ll be exploring how cultural competence can be accomplished through cultural awareness training for your global teams. From language to etiquette and everything in-between.
AVOID CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS
When we go abroad for work or pleasure, most of us like to make an effort to adapt to that culture, at least to some degree. Perhaps we learn a few basic phrases, try a few local dishes or soak up some of the local cultural hot spots. But when it comes to virtual engagement in the workplace, many of us fail to put in this same level of effort.
With ‘Zoom Fatigue’ becoming a household phrase, lowered engagement and enthusiasm towards our virtual colleagues is rarely personal, but it is something we should try to squash. And when it comes to culture—it’s important to educate ourselves, rather than make assumptions.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Erin Meyer writes: “In Nigeria, a child learns to kneel or even lie down as a sign of respect when an elder enters the room. In Sweden, a student calls her teachers by their first names and, without implying any disrespect, feels free to contradict them in front of her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the management approach that works in Lagos will not get the best results in Stockholm.”
To avoid any awkward clashes in cultural behaviours, it’s useful for teams to have a good idea of these kinds of variations through training sessions that are tailored to the locations you do business in.
You’re not expected to be an expert on every culture under the sun, but a little understanding can go a long way.
GET PRACTICAL IN YOUR APPROACH
Once you’re educated on the nuances of your workplace cultures, you can begin to take practical steps to ensure you’re curating an inclusive and diverse environment.
A good way to begin is by aligning on things like religious and national holidays, and the number of paid leave days across your various cultures. In this article by We Work Remotely, they suggest implementing a holiday matching program to equalize days off: “If you give US employees paid time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, you should either give these same days off to your global employees or let them work these days and bank the same number of paid time off days to use whenever they’d like.”
Similarly, you can start a company-wide calendar of cultural holidays to ensure these are not overlooked, as well as organising celebrations on these days as an added incentive to learn about the cultures of your colleagues.
KICK-START YOUR TRAINING
Understanding the different cultures within your workforce will help employees to interact with each other on a daily basis. It will also strengthen communication, productivity and teamwork and allow you to maximise the wealth of benefits that a culturally diverse team brings.
And It’s not just international teams that can benefit from cultural awareness training, but also marketing departments looking to engage customers on a global scale.
At Comtec, our cultural awareness training is carefully curated to the needs of your team. We work with you to expand your cultural knowledge and help you avoid the pitfalls of cultural blunders. Book your consultation today.