Effective communication is critical to doing business. According to a study by Hart Research Associates, 93 percent of employers consider good communication skills to be more important than the major of a college graduate. HR Magazine reported that, in a survey of 4,000 employees, participants estimated they lost 40 minutes of productivity each day trying to interpret unclear directions.
While we know communication is important, it’s not always easy. Even when we’re talking to people who we know well – friends, partners and family – finding the right way to express ourselves is often challenging.
So it’s no surprise that communication grows even more complex when we are working with colleagues and clients in different cities, countries and continents.
In some cultures, individuals use a direct communication style, while others expect an indirect approach. Certain countries rely more heavily on facial expressions and tone of voice than words to express meaning. And, perhaps the most obvious, some phrases simply do not translate well in other languages. We can all likely think of faux pas committed by some of the largest companies in the world, so we can see that global communication is an issue that affects all organizations.
Even if your company does not currently have international offices, it’s likely that you have a worldwide audience. You may sell products to customers across the globe, have international suppliers or employ people from different countries.
No matter where we work or what we do, the question is no longer whether or not we need to consider global communications. Now, the question is: How do we manage communications in a global workplace?
1. Develop self-awareness.
When you understand your natural communication style, it is much easier to identify how it may be perceived by others. Gaining self-awareness allows you to play to your strengths, work better with others in a team and understand how your style may differ from those around you.
By uncovering your thinking and behavioral preferences, you learn about your own strengths, consider where you may differ from teammates across the globe and be more mindful of how to communicate effectively.
2. Establish a common language.
When you’re collaborating with people all around the world, you are likely to have a multitude of languages in your workplace. In these instances, it can be helpful to use tools that create a universal vocabulary for your organization.
Every employee is learning about the same thinking and behavioral traits, which are common to all cultures and creates a shared understanding. Having a common point of reference like the Emergenetics attributes will support stronger communication across cultures.
3. Identify and avoid jargon.
I’m sure you can come up with acronyms or technical jargon that you use internally that would not make sense to someone outside of your field. I also encourage you to consider slang terms that are understood in your country of origin, but may not translate.
4. Get face time when you can.
Face-to-face communication provides much more context in conversations. 93 percent of communication effectiveness, so only using email or even a phone call can be challenging.
Although it’s not always possible or efficient to meet with people across the table, when you are delivering important communications, consider how you can incorporate technology through Skype, FaceTime, GoToWebinar or other digital platforms so you can see the people you are talking to.
5. Learn about other cultures.
Take time to understand the local customs and preferred communication styles of those cultures you are working with by doing online research, asking colleagues who have lived overseas or having a conversation with your foreign counterparts or clients
Small actions that show respect for a local culture can go a long way in improving communications and establishing strong relationships.
As business continues to become more global, it is important for each of us to take action to improve communication for all of our colleagues. Follow these steps, and you will be well on your way to building the skills to communicate with your global audiences.