Tips on how to Enhance Cross Cultural Communications When Hiring Outdoors of the U.S
Hiring people from other countries and working with companies around the world can improve your business. Not only can you hire people with a unique range of skills, education and training, but you can also learn about different cultures. Greater diversity in the economy can lead to more innovation, higher productivity, and higher morale.
However, there is one significant hurdle to hiring and working with people in other countries: the communication barrier. In some cases, you may not speak the same language (at least not as a mother tongue). In other cases, you may have difficulty bridging the gaps between your cultures.
Fortunately, several strategies can help.
If possible, meet in person
While you should be meeting virtually right now due to the ongoing pandemic, business travel is sure to become safer and more available. In that case, it’s easy for people in other countries to visit the US thanks to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Citizens in 39 countries around the world (plus Croatia, from September 2021) can travel to the US for business purposes for up to 90 days without the need for a visa.
Take advantage of this and try to meet in person whenever possible. You should meet in person especially often during the interview process if the position you are hiring for is relevant to your company. Talking on the phone or in a video chat just don’t carry the same weight. In person, you can connect more effectively, witness each other’s body language, and hopefully communicate more effectively.
Learn the language
If this person is applying for your job in the United States, they will likely speak at least a little bit of English. But it’s also a good idea to learn their language – at least the basics and key terms used in your industry. There are some issues that may be difficult to solve in one language or another. However, if each of you speaks a little of each other’s language, it will be much faster and easier to reach a place of mutual understanding.
In addition, learning someone else’s language (even if it is an elementary language) is a sign of respect and appreciation. The other person will appreciate your efforts and will lead to a stronger professional relationship.
Overcome time zone barriers
There’s a good chance your team will be split into several different time zones. When your new hire is halfway around the world, your day / night cycles are practically reversed. When there’s an emergency or when you need a team meeting, it can make managing communication alignment difficult.
The best approach is to develop a proactive understanding of how to navigate these differences. Is this person expected to be available during US work hours? How much overlap should there be? What are the logs for an emergency situation? It is best to clarify these questions as early as possible.
Understand different points of etiquette
People in different cultures are often used to different types of business etiquette. It is worth learning about the specifics of other cultures so that you do not offend anyone.
- Punctuality and timing. In the US we take time very seriously and try to be as punctual as possible. However, some cultures place even more emphasis on timing and punctuality. In Germany, for example, 85 percent of people take appointments very seriously and expect others to do the same. Delay can be considered offensive.
- Matching dress. Different cultures have different standards of “appropriate” business attire. While your khakis and a collared shirt are perfectly fine in the United States, it can be considered underclothed elsewhere.
- Physical engagement. You also need to think about how you are physically engaging with others. Not only is it common in some cultures, but people are expected to shake hands, make eye contact, or even hug. In other cases, it is better for business people to keep your distance.
- Gift label. Business partners in Japan often exchange wrapped gifts. In China, it’s polite to give gifts – but it’s also polite to decline gifts before reluctantly accepting them. In other cultures giving gifts is frowned upon or unusual.
- Performance dynamics. Depending on where you work, questioning authority can be considered offensive or disrespectful. If you expect honest criticism from your co-workers, this can be a problem.
In general, communicating openly can improve your position. Be open and honest about your expectations and do your research. Every culture is different and it is your job to find out what those differences are.
Identify and resolve issues. Look for potential issues and resolve them as you can. Also, compromise if you can. Try to strike a middle ground when you disagree or when you have different cultural values.
By following these strategies, you can greatly increase your chances of successfully involving someone from a different country and culture. You both will benefit from this relationship, so the investment is well worth it.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.