Effective cross-cultural communication is one of the most important issues dealt with in business, particularly when a firm operates at an international level. Communication is a process with three key elements, which includes a source, an audience, and a channel. Communication derived from businesses will have listeners that include, but are not limited to customers, employees, suppliers, and the community (Caddy et al.). These listeners contribute to the success of a firm, which is why there is so much emphasis put into creating appropriate channels of communication. This effect is further amplified when dealing at an international level, where the effect of culture and time has more bearing.
What makes effective communication important is the fact that it affects all aspects of the business function. Therefore, failing in just one of these areas can create repercussions that reverberate throughout the whole company. This essay will examine the importance of cross-cultural communication, and how it is intertwined with a firm’s HR management, strategic planning, operations, ethical decisions, and marketing campaign.
Human resource management deals with people within the organisation first and foremost. For a Human Resource manager, managing the cultural aspect of communication becomes is vital because of the effect it can have on each individual employee. In an international work environment, there will likely be a number of employees from different parts of the globe sharing the same space (Parzhiger 2002). This can be a source of friction within a work environment, particularly when you consider that ethnocentric attitudes can exist within a workplace (Han et al 2007). Such friction within the communication process can manifest itself through racism, bias, prejudice, and discrimination (Parzhigar 2002). Not only are such actions considered illegal, but it can also contribute to low morale within the workforce. This eventually leads to unmotivated and therefore unproductive staff.
In order to resolve such cross-cultural issues, a Human Resources manager must first come to realize that both individuals and groups differ in terms of the way they communicate (Parzhigar 2002). That way, policies or extra training programs can be established to act as a guide the actions of employees. Many managers, though, are fail to realise such differences, or unqualified to handle them. This is why much consideration must be given when deciding who is qualified to lead an international assignment (Hodges 2003, p. 450.) By acknowledging people’s differences, the manager can create policies that will limit friction in the workplace, thereby ensuring that it runs peacefully.
An effective communication system will help a firm gain a distinct competitive advantage because the constraints of time will be limited. Time distances can often be a hindrance to a company looking to collect information from overseas branches or partners. Firms have combated this problem by utilizing contemporary technology such as phones and videoconferences (Bovee 2008). This will help firms operating at an international level, collect information from overseas subsidiaries or clients more effectively. Additionally, by keeping these relationships close, manager’s gain the ability to access new technologies developed overseas (Han et al. 2007).
The ability to forecast overseas trends and harness new technologies is another competitive advantage gained by having effective cross-cultural communication channels established. Proper market research, where communication aspects such as culture are taken into account, will help the firm in this regard. By establishing these effective channels, a firm can more readily anticipate particular changes in tastes and technologies of other countries (Han et al. 2007). This will allow thereby the firm to strike a balance with regards to price and availability, which, in turn, will give them a competitive advantage (Hodgets 2003).
Managing operations will be much more efficient once cross-cultural communication issues have been dealt with. Many cultures employ a hierarchical approach to communication, but often this method of results in important issues being dodged. This problem is highlighted in an (Nakamoto 2008) article on Japanese companies. In the article it is reported that many of the Japanese companies employ a very rigid communication structure, and overseas managers were hired to create a more efficient method of communication. An open exchange or direct method of communication is much more effective as ideas can be garnered from different levels of the organisation.
Overcoming various linguistic issues is another operational benefit experienced when an effective communication channel is established. Due to the legal issues of each country, language differences do not only affect face o face interaction, but written communications as well (Bovee 2008). Through proper planning and research, however, a business is able to preempt such a problem from occurring, possibly by arranging for an interpreter to translate.
Failing to establish an effective means for communication when an ethical issue arises can be detrimental to the stability of a workplace. This problem is particularly pertinent, when you consider the fact that globalization has diversified workplace cultures. This can lead to what Huntington (cited in Eunson 2005) described as a ‘clash of civilizations’, due to the different perspectives on morality in the western and eastern countries. Neglecting this issue can create permanent dissention or dissatisfaction between co-worker, which, as highlighted earlier, leads to low productivity levels and high staff turnover rates.
Only by establishing a means of communication where ethical issues are taken into account, can prevent such an implosion from taking effect. Effective communication channels can only be effective when the moral views of other cultures are taken into account. Contemporary management in western society, for example, attempts to find practical solutions while more conservative nations seek more ‘foundational’ ones (Parzhiger 2002).
Cross-cultural communication is also valuable to firm looking to establish good marketing systems. The aim of marketing is to try and link business with customers and the ability to understand the unique traits of a particular culture can help give a firm an edge over its competitors. This point was illustrated in a communication video (Balnave 2006), where a lack of an ineffective channel of communication with a particular culture was a cause for their advertising campaign to be viewed as inappropriate. Establishing effective communications, however, will allow a firm to capitalize on local markets through support of their local culture (Han et al. 2007).
As the evidence compiled in this essay has shown the importance of effective cross-cultural communication should never be diminished. It is one of the most important aspects to consider when trying developing an international brand. Through the establishment of communication training and relevant policies, employees will be better equipped to interact with their foreign counterparts. It will also assist the firm in understanding foreign cultures, and markets, which ultimately improves their strategic planning. However the biggest benefit experienced by communicating effectively is internal. It creates a more harmonious work environment, a more efficient way of relaying information, and more productive staff.
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