Emily sat at her desk and cringed as she opened the latest email from her Asian office general manager. She knew it would be about the latest online marketing campaign and that he wouldn’t be happy with the approach that headquarters was taking. Honestly, she just wished that her company would pass over these international markets and focus on the American market. It would make her job so much simpler and straightforward.
Last year Emily was hired as a Senior Content Marketing Manager by a Seattle-based mid-sized software company. She was an experienced marketing professional. She came highly recommended by trusted sources in the local American Marketing Association chapter. She had studied for a semester of college in Spain, so Emily and her boss both assumed that the international side of her job wouldn’t be a problem. Emily came in with such enthusiasm for the job. But when it came to the international markets that her predecessor had supported so well – Emily just seems to clash with many of the international teams.
Since Emily took over, conversion from international markets had dropped. The Vice President of Marketing couldn’t say that this was all related to Emily, but her attitude towards the international teams didn’t help. When asked, Emily said that she just didn’t understand what some of the international offices wanted from her or why they needed such trivial and costly changes to her team’s campaigns.
Setting up for Failure
Visit any of the major job search sites – Indeed®, Monster®, Linkedin®, etc. – and read mid-level job postings from international companies. What you find is that fewer than 5% of these postings for jobs working with international operations or markets require or even recommend cross-cultural skills or experience. This is even the case for many positions with “International” or “Global” in the job title! Unbelievable.
And then we wonder why an otherwise capable employee flounders in the face of complex cross-cultural communications or localized marketing variances?
In the case of Emily from Marketing, she is clearly not prepared for the international aspects of her job. What’s more, she is avoiding opportunities to grow the skills needed to be successful. The bottom line is that the Senior Content Marketing Manager needs to be an internationally competent professional.
Why Do International Skills Matter?
Savvy companies today know that international markets not only hold large number of potential customers, but new innovative ideas and global talent pools. When your staff knows how to effectively communicate and serve these markets, they can:
- Increase the speed to market and reduce sales cycles
- Avoid costly mistakes from misunderstandings
- Run operations more smoothly and profitably
All of this makes for a stronger, better-functioning organization that is positioned for greater growth.
Hiring for Today’s Target Markets
Your company may already know that Canada and Mexico are both key markets. You have local sales teams in key metropolitan areas like Vancouver and Monterey. It makes sense to seek future hires at headquarters to have in depth experience with these markets, as well as French and Spanish language skills. Consider offering promotions from the local country teams into your headquarters and visa versa. The better the working relationships and market understanding for key markets, the more successful your company will be.
Hiring for Future Worldwide Expansion
To be a truly global company it starts with a global work culture. It may sound simple, but I think that starts with hiring employees who are naturally curious about the world. International markets are complex and cross-cultural communications even more multifaceted. Effective internationally-oriented employees ask the critical questions of “Why?” and “What if?” especially when expectations don’t match to the reaction of foreign colleagues or market outcomes.
Here is additional advice on how to build the best workforce for your international company:
- Shake up your typical interview process with some unconventional questions or scenarios. This could also include adding international team members to the selection team.
- Look for flexible candidates – those who have a varied professional background and have moved around to different locations.
- Consider candidates who have already shown their success through full cultural immersion experiences. This includes full-year exchange students, Peace Corps experience, and any bi-cultural experience you can legally ask in the course of interviewing.
- Most professionals in North America at some point study a foreign language. But those who have picked up an additional language typically have a strong aptitude for not only language but culture.
- Even open-minded, naturally curious staff need training to be truly effective in cross-cultural communications. Include training and international research trips into your company budget.
To truly grow into your company’s international potential, you need great staff who are ready to approach challenges and opportunities with cultural competencies. Here is wishing your company all the success in its international endeavors!
I hope you found this article helpful to growing your company.