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The key to international business success: Cultural skills for business in the global mobility arena

Geraldine Lupton of Farnham Castle Intercultural Training explains why global mobility managers must acquire cultural intelligence and global mind-set.

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With the rise of the Global Manager and the importance of the adaptation of strategy for understanding and communicating from one culture to another, there has never been a more important time for global mobility specialists to appreciate the importance of the contribution that cultural awareness makes on the pathway to senior leadership roles. It is critical to creating an agile talent pool and maximising the impact and efficiency required in every assignment. Geraldine Lupton of Farnham Castle Intercultural Training (strategic partner to Alliott Group) explains.

the importance of a global mind-set - Geraldine Lupton explains what global mobility managers need to know
"The challenge for any organisation doing business internationally is therefore not only to appreciate the importance of understanding cultural diversity, but also to enable its integration within the business strategy in the context of its business goals."
Geraldine Lupton, Farnham Castle Intercultural Training

Staggering statistics indicate one in four assignments fail

The reasons given for failure usually relate to cultural challenges, family issues, homesickness and the inability to adapt to the local business culture. While the latter might seem insignificant or trivial, it can jeopardise working relationships and immediately affect business success.

Awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities, i.e. having a ‘global mind-set’, will minimise costly misunderstandings, promote better communication and manage expectations ahead of the assignment. 

But it's not quite as simple as that

What are the elements that impact on business relationships across borders? What are the critical elements for different cultures? How can assignees recognise these critical elements and ‘learn’ how to adapt their own approach to work more effectively with foreign clients, colleagues, partners, suppliers or customers?

A recent study reported that 91% of companies view a global mind-set as ‘mission’ critical

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But do assignees really understand the cultural rules of engagement? Do companies understand the scale and importance of cultural issues? And are they aware that most issues are country specific and unique to each country or culture?

Every assignee will already have their own cultural mindset (the one developed from birth and through exposure to the culture in which they have grown up); and every assignee will have their own preconceptions of other cultures. If assignees need a global mind-set for ‘mission’ success, they need the cultural intelligence to recognise differences. They also need country specific knowledge and an awareness of business and social etiquette to be properly prepared for their ‘mission’.

This global mind-set must be learnt, and it is unsurprising therefore that the relevant training and support can make the crucial difference between failure and success. Focus on those elements that increase an assignee’s effectiveness in the target country is therefore vital because it:

  • Transforms the assignee experience
  • Provides tools and strategies to expedite adaptation
  • Reduces the risk of frustration and culture shock by managing expectations within the cultural setting, and
  • Eases the burden of the Global Mobility Manager.

With the expertise that global mobility training delivers, the benefits are financially tangible from recruitment and selection to project support and repatriation. In fact, the benefits are tangible throughout the entire assignment cycle, providing a positive impact on relationships and productivity. A recent study of 1,362 business professionals*, showed that professionals with a global mind-set:

  • Were three times more perceptive, adaptable and productive
  • Felt twice as valued as other assignees, and
  • Were four times more likely to be promoted.

The challenge for any organisation doing business internationally is therefore not only to appreciate the
importance of understanding cultural diversity, but also to enable its integration within the business strategy in the context of its business goals.

If a business needs to:

  • Recruit or develop a global workforce
  • Employ frequent cross border travellers
  • Relocate people on temporary or longer term assignments
  • Work with culturally diverse, remote or virtual teams, and
  • Develop international business

...then to stay relevant and competitive, the correct global competency framework is required. The right strategy is needed for the right people in the right international market. Success will follow!

* The Global Mindset Index Study (December 2017)

About Farnham Castle Intercultural Training (FCIT)

FCIT is a Strategic Partner to Alliott Group and a Global Business Training Consultancy. For more information, go to or email Geraldine Lupton (glupton@farnhamcastle.com).