On Gaining Deeper Understanding of Multicultural Environments

A Global Competency Training Experience
By Kader Sahin, Operations Intern

One of my best experiences with The International Center thus far has been the opportunity to attend, explore and share my own experiences at the Global Competency Trainings. Two weeks apart, we went for trainings to Interactive Intelligence, one of the global providers of contact centers, unified communications, and business process automation software and services designed to improve the customer experience in the Indianapolis area. Interactive Intelligence has locations in many countries such as United States, Canada, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Germany, England, Poland, Middle East & Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Australia & New Zealand, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The focus for trainings is on the task, getting the job done in United States. However it is understood that establishing relationships is very significant as well especially for global companies. Therefore we were there to help Interactive Intelligence interact more comfortably and productively with people from other cultures by sharing insights about how culture affects business practices, particularly in regard to communication, management and leadership styles.

At the trainings, I was able to meet representatives from England, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia and employees from United States. Representatives and employees were sharing their own experiences and asking many questions. For instance how to interact with people from Japan or Germany by email and, whether to take a direct or indirect approach. Every one of them was very excited and paying full attention to Ansuyah, the manager of the Global Competency Training Program. She is Indian, born and raised in South Africa, and living in United States for 15 years. With a combination of three cultures, she is great at what she does and knows how to creatively get everyone involved with the subject at the training. For example, we shuffled three packs of cards with letters on them and distributed them to everyone in the classroom. They were told to organize the cards into groups but they weren’t told how. It was up to them. Everyone was trying to create groups from the same letters. A’s became one group, B’s became another group and so on. My understanding is everyone was trying to stay in their comfort zone by grouping with the same letters.

One of the comments I heard from an employee from The Netherlands was, “When I went back home, I realized that I wasn’t direct enough after working in United States for a while.” It was very interesting for me because as a Turkish, after living in United States for five years, I always feel like I need to be more indirect in Turkey whereas more direct in United States while communicating with people. And this doesn’t mean people yell at each other. Respectfully they take a direct approach while communicating and say what they need, what they want, openly discuss about it, with no hurt feelings left behind. Americans never miss saying please at the moment they ask something from you and thank you after receiving the help. In the end of training, I learned that Australians love humor, direct but more laid back, and hearing “It is very interesting” in England doesn’t actually mean that it is interesting.

Imagine that you’re used to a whole set of conditions– if you deviate from those conditions very much, you will be uncomfortable. Going to live in a foreign country where you aren’t a native speaker, don’t know anyone, aren’t used to the food, don’t understand the customs, don’t have the same kind of home you’re used to or similar humor– this can be very difficult. but if you make one tiny change, and it becomes part of the conditions that you’re used to. Your new normal. To interact with people from different cultures or countries, we have to make those tiny changes mutually and have empathy for each other. I heartily believe that differences among people are beautiful. We just need to learn how to enjoy them. Despite living in the United States for five years I am still learning and developing myself in understanding multicultural environments. And that is the fun part. In a sense, it is a continuous form of innovation. And The International Center makes it very enjoyable with opportunities such as Global Competency Training.