In his book, The Work of Nations, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich succinctly captured the import of globalization: "We are living through a transformation that will rearrange the politics and economies of the coming century. There will be no national products or technologies, no national corporations, no national industries. There will no longer be national economies."
The IT sector is clearly at the forefront of this trend in its product development and business strategies, and its polyglot, moveable workforce is exuberantly global.
This makes possible a global perspective that can draw on the best technological ideas, business approaches and organizational practices available anywhere. But are high-technology product and service companies reaping the full benefit of this enviable position? Is the potential for creative synergy from the international diversity of backgrounds and perspectives being fully tapped? Is a global mindset being sufficiently cultivated at all levels so that the entire workforce is aligned behind the global business vision and strategy?
On the ground, there is strong evidence to the contrary. While the faces come from everywhere, and the economic impact is global, outlooks and attitudes are often surprisingly parochial. Instead of "thinking globally and acting locally," what is more common is "thinking locally and acting globally."
In consulting for high-technology companies, I have been frequently surprised by low levels of international awareness among employees, poor communication of global vision from the top, and the presence of cultural stereotypes and cultural sub-group segregation. This is a cause of concern, as the realization of a global strategy cannot fully succeed if mindsets are not global.
Here are some practices which successful companies have used to increase their employees' global awareness and commitment to a global vision:
- Communicate information and news about the company's international operations.
- Encourage international travel, attendance at international conferences and taking courses on international topics.
- Host speakers (internal or external) on global topics.
- Organize "passport day" presentations about specific countries represented in the company.
- Acknowledge and celebrate international and ethnic holidays.
- Create an electronic bulletin board for sharing information and questions about international matters.
- Invest time in cross-cultural learning and team-building experiences.
- Identify the global thinkers in the company and create a team to promote the global awareness agenda.
Such strategies will help you achieve competitive advantage through developing a workforce that is not just diverse, but cosmopolitan in outlook and knowledgeable about the global dimensions of the industry and the world regions in which the company operates.
© Karine Schomer. All Rights Reserved. Originally published in Siliconindia. Permission to reprint is granted, provided the article and byline are printed intact, with all links visible and made live if distributed in electronic form.
Karine Schomer, PhD is President of Change Management Consulting & Training, LLC, and leads The CMCT India Practice, specializing in cross-cultural training and management consulting for doing business with India, competitive advantage through cross-cultural awareness, business etiquette and protocols, cross-cultural communication and teamwork skills, outsourcing management best practices, and offshore team leadership strategies. For more learning resources, check The Working and Managing Across Cultures Blog.