Today’s technology allows us to work with people from all over the world. Electronic communications has opened the door to new business collaboration methods that would have been deemed impossible just a short decade ago.
As our workplaces rapidly become more diverse and span multiple cultures it’s important to develop sound communication strategies. Today’s international business world must establish new communication methods that take into account language barriers, diversity and lack of face-to-face interaction.
Most Canadian’s are fortunate that English is the international language of business, allowing them the ability reach a huge segment of people.
More than half of the 800 million people that speak English learned it as a second language. Cultural references in language are common, many times we may not even realize we’re using them. Localized terminology can result in communication breakdowns, this can even happen between Canadian and British colleagues. Having a basic understanding of your team’s cultural diversity can go a long way to eliminating these problems. It’s important to listen for signs of not understanding.
Be mindful of time zone differences and work to keep everyone involved aware and respectful of such differences.
Digital tools such as Google Hangouts, Tango and Skype are excellent ways to have instant communication. Cloud technology offers the ability to share and collaborate on a vast range of projects instantly.
Learning the etiquette of your international colleagues is another important factor for having a strong business relationship. A handshake may be a common greeting in Canada, but in some cultures it may be considered rude. Canada operates with a divide between business and religion, which cannot be said in many regions of the world. It’s important to be mindful of everyone’s personal beliefs. For example, if you have colleagues in Pakistan you will want to have flexible meeting and deadline times during Ramadan.
Respect, tolerance and openness should be at the forefront of any international business relationship. Learn about the culture of your colleagues and share your own personal stories. Make work adaptive to fit these cultural difference. When you communicate cross-culturally, make particular efforts to keep your communication clear, simple and unambiguous. Avoid using humour with colleagues in the beginning, it can lead to disconnects in communication and can easily be offensive.