Cross Cultural Effectiveness

The last decades of the 20th and the first of the 21st century were marked by the large-scale economic, political and social processes, which had had and have continued to have a significant impact on the world economy and its qualitative characteristics. However, while causing substantial changes in the world economy, they form the new, more diverse and multivariate stages and ways of its development changing not only the world but also its understanding. In fact, the modern development of international business is characterized by the profound changes. Political, socio-economic and cultural transformations, which took place over the last decades, led to a new phenomenon of globalization, i.e. the process, which implies the greater interdependence and interaction of various spheres of activities all over the world. Due to the globalization, any social phenomenon, i.e. economic, political, legal, etc., regardless of its nature, cannot be considered in isolation.

Globalization is a very contradictory phenomenon. Its proponents promise economic benefits throughout the world as well as democracy and other values while the opponents claim that the destruction of national cultures and the monopolization of production increase profits of multinational companies. Nevertheless, both the supporters and opponents agree that business is the driving force of globalization as the search for markets, cheap labor and the desire to increase profits force companies to go global and expand international activities.


Nowadays, globalization unifies many aspects of human lives, but it is still unable to cope with cultural, national and mental identities. New products output by companies in foreign markets often experience rejection due to the difference in mentality. Business negotiations often lead to misunderstanding and prove useless because of the cultural differences. Often underestimated cultural characteristics of different people can deprive an international company of the prospects of success. The need to provide the efficient operation of staff in a multinational company prompts leaders of these organizations to focus on adaptation of the prospective candidates for employment in the cultural conditions, which differ from the conditions they used to. However, the adaptation to foreign culture is a complex and lengthy process that conceals a number of difficulties. The development of cross-cultural interaction expertise among the employees can enhance the effectiveness of management in modern globalized economy influenced by the internationalization of production.

There are four approaches to the selection of personnel in multi-national corporations in the context of globalization:

  • Ethnocentrism. It implies that the management to all the key positions abroad is chosen from among the home community. This approach is used in companies with high centralization of management.
  • Polycentrism. It implies the appointment of the local community representatives to the senior positions. This approach is based on trust to local managers who know and understand the specifics of the local market, people and policies of the government of the host country.
  • Region based approach. It implies that global markets should be managed regionally and the appointments to the key positions are determined by the specifics of the region. This approach is applied when the goods are sold all over the world unchangeably and only marketing takes into account the cultural differences of the countries or regions.
  • Geocentricism. It implies that the appointment to key positions is determined by the employee’s qualifications regardless of the ethnicity and cultural characteristics of the host country. In this case, personnel management, production and marketing are implemented on a global basis.

Thus, based on the belonging to the host country, the employees of international companies are divided into expatriates and local citizens. The efficient expatriate management is the main factor that determines the success or failure of international business. However, the expatriates are expensive. Their work can cost 3-4 times more expensive than the work of the same specialist in the native country. They are difficult to manage because of problems related to adaptation and work in an unfamiliar environment, concerns about training and career, as well as other difficulties. Nevertheless, the abovementioned proves that the successful expatriate training program is the key to company’s success in the global market.

The organizations realize that expatriate workers and members of their families fall into a special situation and are faced with the effects of a special kind. The factors of cultural environment in international business create huge difficulties in staff adaptation. In fact, these factors include the ways of doing business and the business environment, power and influence, status symbols, religion, language, commandments (laws) and prohibitions in business relations between the sexes, attitude to work, the right to propose and use creativity, social behavior, working standards and work ethics, company image, training and career opportunities, friends and affection, resources and values, management of emotions, ways of negotiation, etc.

In order to shorten the period of adaptation and avoid culture shock due to the difference between what the employees expect in their future destination and their real character, the employees and their family must be provided with comprehensive and accurate information on the problems referring to the political situation in the country and region, the culture and traditions, the way of life and climatic conditions, as well as the living conditions in the country of destination. In international business, the work on adaptation begins with the collection of the information about the history and culture of the country of destination, the level and breadth of the powers of the future employee, the required degree of proficiency, the volume and composition of the compensation package that is ready to be provided to the company, as well as the possibility for him/her to take shelter and to find a school for his/her children, among others.

Before starting to implement global operations, the expatriates should be provided with the comprehensive information about the company and its responsibilities, opportunities and development programs, intensive language study programs, etc. Prior to the arrival of the expatriate, the scheme premises, phone lists and e-mail addresses pass, access to the corporate website and all necessary documents, folders with paper copies of these materials should be prepared. Between the day of the expatriate’s arrival and the first working day, there should be one free day period to settle in, acclimatize, get used to the time difference. To overcome the cultural gap in the first few days of expatriate and his family members’ arrival, city tours and sightseeing can be used. In addition, corporate events can help the expatriate overcome language and mental barriers. Such periodic meetings are used to control the situation. It is also extremely important to make sure that expatriate’s family members feel comfortable, as well. An increasing number of managers is aware that attitude, mood and well-being of family members can have a significant impact on the work efficiency of an employee.

Various expatriate training programs are designed to promote the emergence of empathy as well as the friendly attitude towards the people of the country and its history. They help change behavior patterns and significantly facilitate intercultural dialogue. The fear of something new and unknown as well as the aggressive attitude towards the local population disappears. After the stage of getting used to a foreign culture, a significant increase in the productivity can be observed. The benefits and opportunities of a new culture are more positively perceived by the employees. Depending on the nature of work and the country of destination, expatriates can be trained by one or more of the adaptation programs.

For example, Japanese MNCs and TNCs are suitable for the process of preparing adaptation programs of future expatriates in a more detailed manner. The training programs vary by the type of originality and nature including the following items:

  1. Language training. It implies the process of foreign languages learning. For example, in Japanese companies, foreign languages learning is generously funded and continues usually from three months to one year. Teachers are usually invited from the country of destination.
  2. The preparation in a country of destination. For example, to facilitate the passage of the employees’ adaptation period, Japanese companies send employees to the overseas subsidiaries for up to one year. The main purpose of these trips is studying of overseas operations of the company and getting the diverse knowledge about the country.
  3. Abroad education programs. For example, many Japanese multinational organizations use the practice of abroad postgraduate education in the field of commerce and law for the most capable employees focused on promotion. The company pays for employees’ training as well as any additional costs.
  4. Parent company preparation program. This implies that in addition to language training, expatriates study international financial business economy and the world economy, as well as get the most detailed information about the economy of the country of destination.

Expatriates encounter the numerous barriers abroad in both the workplace and the society, in which they live. These barriers may include culture shock, the differences in the rules relating to the work, isolation, homesickness, differences in medical care, housing, education, cuisine, language, customs, gender roles, the cost of living, etc. Taking into account the number of cross-cultural challenges that every expatriate is faced with, it is not surprising that many of them do not work out until the full term of their stay abroad.

The traditional approach to preparation for international expatriate assignments was focused on the culture briefing and language learning. This strategy is significantly less applicable now because most of the cross-cultural communication takes place in different countries or even on a virtual territory. In addition, with the increasing influence of other cultures through the media, travel, training and education, as well as through the experience of international enterprises, the awareness about these cultures is growing. Thus, a situation where each party will be completely unprepared to adapt to the other seems unlikely now. Along with that, the degree of cultural awareness can be unequal.

One of the methods to increase the efficiency of the cross-cultural communication implies the raise of awareness creating the culture profiles for not only the foreign culture but also the domestic culture. Thus, it is possible to determine similarities, which will serve as bridges to build mutual understanding. The abovementioned fact can also be predicted and discussed in order to avoid the potential conflicts. However, it should be mentioned that this knowledge should be modified in the real world through the meeting with real people. As international experience grows through the world, employees can meet people who will act not in accordance with the standards adopted in the domestic country. Thus, the creation of a profile culture of another person means a focus on the actual dimensions of culture rather than on specific national rules. This includes the recognition of visible signs of significant dimensions of culture, asking questions to identify the underlying values and beliefs as well as the development of hypotheses regarding their underlying assumptions. The emphasis should be laid on the measurement of culture, which is relevant to the situation or arose in the moment the problem occurred rather than on the specific rules adopted in the country. This can help avoid the trap of stereotypes and encourage the knowledge of the individual apart from his or her national culture raising the possibility of creation of the shared culture for the mutual work.

The successful expatriate training program can be built consisting of 4 levels. The first level focuses on the identification of cultural differences and their impact on business results. The second level focuses on building relationships and their impact on human behavior. The third level provides factual knowledge about a particular country. The fourth level turns on the knowledge of the language skills to create successful adaptation and adjustment behavior.

Below, there are sample steps of the successful expatriate training program:

  • Examine the key features of the foreign culture. For example, in Japan, the risk is not accepted. Therefore, it can be found that none of the Japanese want to voluntarily participate in the training role-playing games as it implies making decisions with consequent risk. Similarly, in the Middle East, role play trainings are considered to be as fun for kids but not as the classes for adults.
  • Public criticism is taboo in some cultures. For example, in the Far East, the abovementioned aspect can cause the problem in such a simple matter as a voluntary choice of the observer in the discussion or role-playing games as this role involves criticism of other people’s behavior. It is important to save face and avoid embarrassment in relation to other people from the Middle East, East and West Africa and some European countries as misunderstanding may arise in any situation where the behavior of people can be discussed and/or criticized.
  • Properly understanding of the attitudes. For example, in the USA, the salespeople are taught to write letters to senior executives to provide them with access to the organization while in Japan, this practice is not accepted. Instead, the personal visits to the firm with the award of business cards are recommended.

Most corporations spend heavily on the orientation of international managers to work abroad by providing them with a deep study of the history of the host countries, traditions and evaluation issues for business partners organizing the operation of foreign enterprises and their structure. The manager of the foreign branch of an international company should begin the study project for overseas companies as early as possible in order to firmly grasp the objectives of the project and its marketing, as well as evaluate the information collected on the investment climate in the host country.

In order to develop good personal relations, a manager of global partners in the host country should be consistent and have good personal relations with partners, which in turn will lead to the stable business contacts. Among the additional criteria for the selection of personnel working abroad, there can be used such features as adaptability, perception of foreign culture, competence in the field of research, ability to work with information as well as the conditions of its shortcomings. The attention is also paid to the health, ability for languages, resistance to overload, and ability to work in extreme conditions. The experience of working abroad is appreciated.

Nowadays, the issues of the efficiency of the cross-cultural communication as well as the necessity of the expatriate training programs are quite relevant as numerous problems and misunderstandings in various companies occur due to the stereotypical thinking and the presence of social factors. Cross-cultural training of modern specialists involves the ability to navigate the international professional space. Negotiations should be conducted by the person who is fully functional and owns the ability to understand the views and attitudes of the representatives of different cultures as well as to change their behavior depending on the situation, which means to be flexible.

By far, interactive method of cross-cultural training method has been considered as the most productive. Through practical exercises, it allowed to develop the basic skills needed for further work. Such method can provide the manager with the ability to structure the negotiations with partners from other cultures, as well as to separate the necessary information on the requirements for politeness, traditions, among others. The communicative competence creates the positive image of the company as well as the basis for the mobility and integration of the company leading to the company’s compliance with the international standards.

In fact, it can be concluded that with the development of the world economy and the expansion of business in large areas, there occurred the need to introduce a new management model, which places cross-cultural orientation activities into the prime role of managers’ orientation on the international markets increasing the need to explore a foreign culture, social life, literature and features of the business pattern. Economic globalization and expansion of international relations strengthens the role and importance of cross-cultural negotiations. The scale and importance of international business communication problems forces to search for the new methods of modeling and optimal control of cross-cultural negotiations.