Guest Blog by Neil Gauld, Brightlines Translation Services
In a global workforce, it’s worthwhile maintaining a multinational staff. Having employees from different countries and cultures can mean different perspectives on everything to do with your business. Different approaches to challenges means your business can flourish and grow, as you consider original angles that might not have occurred to you if your workforce were all from the same background. It can also be highly rewarding as you and your employees get to learn more about the world around you.
There are challenges to face though when dealing with and managing multinational staff. We’ve looked at some of the key things to consider when in that situation.
Language barriers are one of the most obvious challenges when dealing with multinational staff. If your member of staff’s first language isn’t the same as yours, it is possible to run into some issues. Even when the member of staff is fluent in your language, it’s possible for them to miss out on certain colloquialisms that are only really picked up through many years of living in the country in question.
Often, language courses teach the correct way of speaking and writing a language, but not necessarily the way that most people actually communicate in the relevant country. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ensure that your staff member fully understands what you’re trying to explain.
Don’t be patronising. Instead, be friendly and talk openly. Don’t turn any language barriers into a problem, but instead use that time to learn something about how they approach things in their language. It’s the perfect opportunity for you both to learn. We’re all only human after all! Consider exactly what you’re trying to say before sending an email, for instance, and keep it simple and straightforward.
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Different countries of origins means different cultural differences. For instance, in many cultures, it’s common to shake hands in business situations. However, while Europeans typically prefer a firm handshake, many parts of the Middle East consider it to be rude to shake one’s hand too firmly. Countries such as Japan, it’s considered polite to initiate a weak handshake.
Take time to understand the cultural differences between you and your staff member. Read up on what’s to be expected and never walk into a meeting unprepared. It’s possible you may mistakenly insult or upset someone. A quick internet search will soon offer up some key advice on how to handle yourself correctly. Also, never be afraid to ask them politely if you feel you’ve made a mistake at some point. It’s a learning process for you all.
Be prepared to adapt to different cultures. It’s polite to be willing to put your member of staff at ease if they’re not used to your ways. Read up on their different cultures and norms, and be willing to tweak your way of thinking to their way. It’s the perfect opportunity to form solid working relationships through simply reaching a great middle ground between you. Consider it an educational experience for you both.
Also, consider the different public holidays and even weekend patterns that certain countries may implement. US staff will expect to have Thanksgiving off, for instance, but they typically have fewer lengthy periods of time off such as over the Christmas break or Easter. It’s customary for the weekend in many Middle Eastern countries to be the Friday and Saturday of the week, due to their religious customs. Tweak your plans accordingly and always be respectful of other countries’ customs and beliefs. Ensure your business calendar is suitably flexible so that no culture is respected more so than another.