Experience in MNEs suggests that cultural adaptableness is at least as important to the successful completion of an overseas assignment as is the individual’s technical ability. Managers must be able to adjust to their new and often alien environments as effectively delivering their technical and managerial expertise.
They should graciously accept their new cultures but not at the expense of not getting their jobs done.as technical expertise is usually significant (and the primary reason most firms send a particular manager to a foreign assignment), the principle difficulty faced by the majority managers lies in the inabilities of the manager and his/her family to acclimatize...
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... to the foreign culture.
American firms tend to be more expected to place the emphasis on the individual’s work expertise. Since adaptation to the foreign culture is so significant to an overseas assignment’s performance, his or her desire for that foreign assignment is decisive to their willingness to make the essential effort to adjust.
This requires to be assessed in the early stages of candidate review (Ondrack, 1996). Some companies and consultants have collected profiles of a successful overseas assignment. These profiles are then used to monitor potential overseas assignment candidates, on the usually valid assumption that candidates with similar profiles are more likely to do well in the international assignment. These profiles typically include factors such as experience, education, personal interests and activities, signs of flexibility, family situation, and need for such an assignment.
While an organization first begins to develop international business, it usually doesn’t have the luxury of developing its own manager managers in-house. And it can not have employees who already have the essential experience or cultural and language competencies. It will require recruiting such people from the outside or acquiring the expertise from consulting firms. Of course, several firms pursue international business with their own inexperienced managers and sales people, but this inexorably leads to months, and often years, of frustration as these managers “learns the [international] business.
” (Birdseye, and Hill, 1995) And, then, such expertise can also sometimes be recruited from the overseas countries, themselves. And, over the long term, future foreign managers can often be recruited from local universities of either the country of the parent firm or the countries in which the firm plans to operate. The primary purpose of the selection process is to select individuals who will stay for the duration of their global assignments and who will complete the tasks for which they were sent overseas.
Executives who make these choices must, therefore, consider both enterprise-based as well as individual- and family-based factors to improve the probability that the international assignment will be successful (Briscoe, 1997). The firm must select managers who, with their families, will be most capable to adapt overseas and who also possess the essential expertise to get the job done in that foreign environment. Many firms that lack experience in international operations, as they try to increase their foreign sales, overlook the significance of the cultural variations in other countries.
This attitude, combined with firms’ inclinations to choose employees for the manager experience because of their technical abilities, usually leads to international assignments being made without the benefit of training or help in acculturation (Hawley-Wildmoser, 1997). This may and all too often does lead to failure in the foreign assignment with premature return to the parent company and country, or even dismissal in the foreign locale. One of the continuing issues with both overseas assignments and foreign workforces concerns the issue of language.
Concern with language differences also impacts most of international business. And it certainly is an issue with the selection of overseas assignments. Even though English has become the worldwide language of business, it is just as important for managers to have a working knowledge of the language of the countries to which they are assigned. They need to speak their customers’ languages – if their business relationships are going to grow (Dolainski, 1997).
In surveys of managers, language is often mentioned as the most significant personal or professional challenge in their assignments. A manager living in Germany says, “Speaking only English during an assignment is a big mistake. You can be a friend and a colleague speaking English, but to be ‘one of them,’ you should speak their language. ” (Reading across Boundaries, 1996) A manager in Brazil offers the advice: “Persevere with the language at all costs. ” (Reading across Boundaries, 1996).
Often, one major factor in the inability of MNEs to fill key manager assignments is the lack of language expertise and preparation. And many firms do not give any opportunities for language training. Interestingly, some countries seem to realize this problem better than others. Maybe only a third of American MNEs provide language training, while, in comparison, almost all Japanese MNEs offer both language and cultural training (Reading across Boundaries, 1996).