We appreciate this article by colleague, Cathy Wellings from the UK.  Our growing TIGERS Team of Certified Consultants from around the world is diverse. Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk and Success principles that are anchored by measurable behaviors  in work cultures and on  teams beats in the heart of everyone who wakes up every morning with the desire to make a difference.  Cathy did a great job. Enjoy.

Author: Cathy Wellings

Multicultural what? Important for where?

Multicultural awareness and education are critical for success in global business environments.
Think of it this way – workplaces are a little like airports. They’re always busy, timing is everything, and you can find yourself sitting next to pretty much anyone, from anywhere, at anytime. But to proceed to the right gate and end up at your ideal destination (or business goal) you need to be able to read the right signs and understand the directions of your fellow passengers (or intercultural associates and colleagues) – this is where multicultural education comes in.

Put simply, multicultural awareness means understanding and respecting the differences between people, and the cultural influences affecting their actions. Related to business environments, if organizations use multicultural understanding to their advantage – especially as business is now very much an international affair – they can increase their success, productivity and overall excellence.

So how can multicultural education help my business?
Multicultural education is not just about understanding geography or being able to speak other languages. As you’d expect, it’s all about learning, as once you know how other cultures act, dress, speak, listen, and even gesture in business environments*, you can:

  1. Adapt your own conduct to appeal to multinational preferences.
  2. Better understand, predict, and tolerate the conduct of international business partners and colleagues for effective collaboration.

So once you can do the above, you’ll not only increase the success of everyday business such as winning new contracts, impressing multinational clients, and improving working climates for international employees, you will also expand your innovations potential to global proportions!

Multicultural education can teach you something about your own habits.
Did you know that individuals from Eastern economies tend to save around 20-40% of their earnings, compared to those in the West, who on average save just 5%? Aside from indicating the amount of shopping the consumer-centric West is likely to do, if you consider details like this on a larger scale, you can use them to your advantage in a professional context.

From adopting new attitudes, if something isn’t working in your business strategy, you can look at how international competitors deal with the issue. Are they more relaxed? You could be trying to push for change too quickly. Self-reflection and learning from others’ successes is a great approach to take to any situation, and could help international relations if used professionally.

Multicultural education can provide much stronger business allies.
The most basic and useful aspect to multicultural education is mutual understanding and tolerance. Knowing that Japanese audiences will show less visible and vocal enthusiasm than American ones, whilst being able to read their cultural non-verbal signs (eyes closed may not signal boredom, but deep interest and thought!) could prevent offense, win trust, and allow better conducted, established, and sustained relationships with global business and professional individuals, as well as promoting strong trade links.

*The English speakers’ finger to thumb ‘OK’ gesture, may mean ‘zero’ to French audiences, ‘money’ to Japanese, or even be regarded as profane in some cultures – not what you need to get ahead in business!

Cathy Wellings is Head of Communication SKills at Communicaid, a culture and communication skills consultancy based in the UK, offering training to organizations and individuals.