Culture Considerations in International Business

When growing a business and entering new countries it is critical to research and understand national culture differences. Foundation Recruitment have entered 19 new countries over the past year and it has become increasingly apparent that understanding different cultures is essential in order to build strong international relations.

The way business is done in the UK is not the same in other countries as demonstrated as Foundation Recruitment continues to expand. To be successful internationally the initial approach to clients and building relationships needs to be tailored.

People are centric to recruitment businesses so it is important to be considerate towards different cultures. Individual’s motivations and considerations can alter drastically, so when expressing the benefits of job roles or the USPs of your business it is important to consider what is important to that culture. WIIFM (What’s in it for me)  has become a common business acronym, which refers to the value of the proposition of your business offering, so when winning new business in new countries it is crucial to understand what they consider worth their money and time.

Geert Hofstede has conducted comprehensive research into international culture and although it may not be accurate to every individual, to be aware of a countries general culture can be a great way to understand what approach to take and prepare for the type of response you may receive. He discovered 5 different dimensions to consider when conversing with different cultures.

  1. Individualism

When working in recruitment and dealing with international clients and candidates or when managing relocation processes it is important to have an understanding of the countries culture. Individualism and collectivism is a dimension relating to the importance of understanding what the individual is striving for. In some cultures there is a much more individualism culture, where individuals are driven by personal achievement and progression, whereas other cultures are much more team focused and concentrate on the success of the group or the overall business. So when recruiting into these cultures it is important to understand the role and the responsibilities they will be given – and whether this is suitable for their personal culture.

  1. Power distance

This dimension refers to power and hierarchy. Certain cultures may expect to have more power within a role, and accept the power and control others have in more managerial roles within business due to the nature of their culture; however other cultures may not accept this as easily. When managing candidate’s expectations it is important to be clear and transparent about the job title, the team structure and how the company culture and values accept levels of power.

  1. Masculinity

Some clients may be very direct and pragmatic, whereas others may be much more co-operative and amicable – Hofstede refers to this as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. When introducing your business to new clients it is important you understand how their culture communicates, if you don’t and you go in with your usual approach you have much less chance of building a successful relationship. Taking the time to appreciate a culture will differentiate you from competitors, and also be appreciated from potential clients which can only start your relationship on a good note.

  1. Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance is definitely one to be alive to in recruitment. Some cultures may be much more apprehensive and uncomfortable dealing with uncertainty – when candidates go through an interview process or are between jobs there is a high amount of uncertainty so it is important to be sympathetic towards this, especially with cultures that score high on the uncertainty avoidance index. This will not only mean the process goes smoothly, but will also result in you delivering a more tailored service resulting in a higher chance of repeat business and loyal clients.

  1. Long-Term Orientation

The final dimension Hofstede discusses is a person’s cultural time orientation. Understanding if a culture is long-term or short-term orientation is a vital when under-going the decision making process – long-term refers to a culture who concentrates on the future and short-term includes individuals more focused on the present. Understanding this can be very useful when influencing or negotiating as you can be more understanding of the individuals thinking and know what to expect.

Not all individuals fit their countries culture; however, doing some research and broadening your awareness can impact significantly on your international business success.

Katrina Whitehead, Marketing & Operations Executive, Foundation Recruitment 

Foundation Recruitment staff portraits

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