Delayed integration of Turkish Greencard Holders
“Dynamic mix of intercultural/ interpersonal misperceptions and failed job expectations”
During their most successful years the company had hired highly skilled people, especially IT-/system specialists from various countries. About 25% of the new hires coming from Turkey. When it turned out that the communication between the German supervisors and especially the Turkish employees (all of them were greencard holders with no experience of having worked abroad before) was not very successful, and work efficiency dropped, INFO was asked to provide support.
To find a solution to integrate a group of 25 Turkish IT-specialists who had formed a strong subgroup within a larger organizational unit and to support their supervisors on how to manage a multicultural team.
The first step was a workshop with the supervisors to analyse the situation. In their view the Turkish employees being in various teams had already formed a strong subgroup. They had not only build a strong informal network but also reduced the contact to their collegues (mostly Germans and other international colleagues). Although most of the supervisors had already some experience in working with multicultural teams they were very frustrated. From their point of view their Turkish colleagues were not only open to feedback but also did not use their offers to support them. They felt like “talking to them but not reaching them.”
In a next step the supervisors were provided with intercultural knowledge and also special knowledge on today’s Turkish (business) culture – both in written form and in additional question answer sessions with the consultants. The behaviour of the employees appeared in a different light and some of the difficulties with those employees could be explained by intercultural differences. It also turned out that some of the problems had probably less to do with misperceptions and misunderstanding on the intercultural level but with e.g. false expectations between the positive job preview during the recruiting interviews and the work to be dealt with on the real job.
In a third step interviews with the Turkish employees were conducted. The INFO consultants (partly Turkish) took the role of a mediator/ moderator focussing on an open and constructive dialog between supervisor and employee. It became clear from their point of view that they were very unhappy and dissatisfied with the situation and that the difficulties in cooperating were indeed based on a dynamic mix of misunderstandings caused by intercultural and interpersonal misperceptions and a vast gap between job expectations and job reality. After identifying and discussing the problems supervisors and employees were in most cases able to generate ideas on how to improve the situation in the future.
Cooperation and work efficiency increased significantly with most of the greencard holders, although some employees left their job. In one case because the differences with the supervisor could not be solved and in another because of a very strong mismatch between job expectations / job reality. In retrospect the consultancy efforts were a great success. However some of the vast misunderstandings could have been solved at an earlier stage.
International Sales Campus
“Tell me how your projects starts and I will tell you how it will end”
The - after several mergers - newly built company of telecommunication & datawarehouse products enforced a strategic sales force development in all mayor European countries.
The plan was to establish an international training campus with an initial focus on sales training.
To support the project leader in forming an international HR-team responsible for the development and roll out of a European wide sales training program The first training had to start within 8 months.
Together with the German project leader project goals, milestones, and important stakeholders were defined. A kick-off workshop with the HR-representatives from 11 countries was prepared which should also serve as a role model for local kick-off workshops.
The kick-off workshop (3 days) consisted of three parts:
A) A teambuling module which demonstrated the impact of culture on work- and communication styles which led to discussing and agreeing to a code of conduct for the work in the project team. Also various aspects of working in a mulitcultural teams were discussed in order to anticipate possible problems.
B) A project planning module to clarify and gain acceptence on the project goals, milestones, interdependencies , and project roles was developed and tasks defined to be worked on locally/ in the headquarter. In addition time was needed to support the team members in their local project planning. Expected obstacles (e.g. “difflicult stakeholders and resistance”) were discussed.
C) Simulation of a video conference and a “chat meeting” as travel costs should be balanced in the project. Meetings were only scheduled at the beginning of a new milestone and virtual meetings were sheduled in between.
The basic milestones in this project were:
- Analyzing sales skill level (locally)
- Defining a common corpus (platform) of subject and behavioural sales training
with link to the compentency model
- Communication of the concept
- Identify and evaluate internal/ external training partners
- Conducting pilots, preparation of Roll Out
- Roll Out
- Definition of Standard Processes & Evaluation
In running the project it turned out that the planning in the beginning and the issues discussed in the kick-off were very helpful – 50-60% of the foreseen problems actually occurred and could be coped with more easily. Of course also unexpected problems occurred. At one point an additional Friday/Saturday project meeting was necessary in order to handle some issues which affected the scope of the project (managing new change in sales structure). Also the fact that two HR-representatives left the company in the middle of the project was critical as it was hard to find adaquate replacements in the local units.
85% of the projcect goals were achieved within the timeframe. Except for one market in all major European markets pilots were run in month 6 to 7. The roll out was completed within 12 month so each member of the sales force had an individual training plan and over 90% had at least taken part in one training module within this time. The quality and effectiveness of training was rated high in most cases, although it had been hard to find appropriate suppliers in all relevant countries. The competency model of the company had been integrated successfully therefore providing a useful framework to extent the sales campus to other training areas.
Building an International Team
Variety is the spice of life
After an international merger in the food industry the sales managers from all around the world came together for a two day benchmarking meeting. Followed by that the client wished to have a day of teambuilding.
In a one day workshop the 12 participants were supposed to get to know each other, learn about each other’s strength and work successfully together as a virtual team.
The international sales team was composed of managers from Australia, North America, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Switzerland.
The group was divided into three different subgroups with members from different countries.
The first task was a simulation where each group has to solve a task according to the rules of an imaginary culture. Throughout the simulation team members change which means a mixing of cultures and of course work styles. The task to solve stays the same, but the only language all of the group speak is a silent language. Writing is not allowed either.
In a detailed debriefing team member describe their attitude towards newcomers to the team, not having the same work styles and not communicating properly any more.
In this context the simulation came very close to the real every day work situation.
From the simulation the team derived a number of do’s and don’ts for their working together.
The afternoon was committed to a team course.
The group as a whole had to Climb a tower of vision:
Climb through a tunnel of goal establishment
Travel to the island of limited resources and reach the area of fair fighting
In their oral feedback the participants unanimously mentioned that the teambuilding day was the best of all three days they had together. In a relaxed, but professional atmosphere they really had the chance to get to know their colleagues from a round the world, learn something about their way of thinking and acting under different conditions.
Managing International Projects
On the search for common ground in a German/Japanese project
Alignment of work and communication styles in a bi-national project in the automotive supply industry.
Two workshops with project managers from Germany and Japan responsible for different components in the development of a new vehicle.
The first workshop was only held for the German managers who had initiated the support of an external consultant.
In this two day workshop the German side in a first step analysed the state of the project. During the analysis two different areas which endangered the financial and time frame of the project were identified:
1. Difficulties based on cultural differences in work and communication styles.
2. Technical problems.
• Cultural differences were visible in different communication styles which had a severe impact on the length and structure of meetings.
• The Japanese counterparts had formed a subgroup frequently travelling back to Japan which added another hurdle to successful communication and controlling the travel budget of the project. (cultural differences)
Based on that information a brief lecture on Japanese work and communication styles, as well as information on Japanese business culture was provided.
In a second step an action plan to tackle the technical problems was developed.
Two months later in a joint workshop the Japanese and German project leaders came together for a late kick off meeting under the title ‘How to make good things even better’. (It was the first time that all parties involved in the project came together for a workshop)
First in plenum the group identified areas of improvement.
The focus was on:
• Finding a common ground for communication like who talks when to whom and where. (Travel costs)
• Establishing a common procedure to choose and evaluate suppliers. (Technical problems)
• Develop a handbook of definitions of terms and procedures used in the current project.(Cultural differences)
• Align the procedures of how to proceed in a project.(Cultural and technical problems)
In groups of four (two Germans and two Japanese) strategies to solve the problem areas mentioned above were developed.
The written feedback given by the group was very positive in the respect that the facilitator’s know how of the cultural differences as well insights into the business processes had made it possible that many of the obstacle that were in the way of successfully finishing the project had been identified and could within the time span agreed upon be abolished.
A year later the result of the successful working relationship could be seen on the roads.