New Study Reveals International Travelers Receive More Job Offers

davelivermore | April 14th, 2014 No Comments

Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Now, a new study led by INSEAD professor William W. Maddux reveals that those who travel receive more job opportunities than those who don’t.

Maddux et. al conducted a longitudinal study and discovered that an MBA student’s intercultural experiences predicted the number of job offers received, even when controlling for variables like demographics, personality etc. Students who adapted to and learned about new cultures engaged in job interviews more creatively and demonstrated more openness and initiative. They were seen as being able to bring seemingly unrelated ideas together into meaningful wholes. As a result, these students were able to successfully navigate the interview process and received more job offers.[1]

Some of the most promising correlations found between international travel and job prospects are:

1. Stronger Sense of Self
Travel provides the opportunity to become aware of your own values and priorities. You’re forced to differentiate between your culture of origin, the cultures you encounter, and your self-identity. Organizations want to hire professionals who are self-aware.

2. Increased Trust
Another study found that how much you trust a stranger is positively correlated to the number of places you’ve traveled. The job candidates who traveled most broadly were most likely to trust someone they didn’t know.[2] Companies want team members who can develop trusting relationships across virtual and international borders.

3. Creativity and Problem-Solving
Intercultural experiences provide a laboratory for improved creativity and problem solving. In a new environment, everyday tasks have to be done differently and there’s an opportunity to observe people using alternative approaches from what’s familiar.[3] A proven ability to innovate sets you apart from other job candidates.

But…not all travel experiences are equal!
Travel does not by itself ensure improved cultural intelligence (CQ) or increased job offers. Several important variables make the difference:

The nature of the experience
If business travelers spend all their time at international hotels and offices; and if study abroad students spend most of their free time on Skype and Facebook, travel may have little positive benefit for improving CQ and career opportunities. Or if charitable volunteers overlook the positive aspects of the locals they encounter, the exposure can perpetuate ethnocentrism and narrow thinking. But those who venture out on their own to discover the food, transportation and people of the places they visit are very likely to enhance their CQ.[4]

The number of experiences
Individuals with multiple experiences in a variety of places experience more of the benefits of travel than those who have only been in one or two places. And the more countries where you’ve lived for more than a year, the more positive connection there is between your international experience, your CQ, and your career development.[5]

Age
Childhood experiences play less role in developing CQ than adult experiences where we make our own choices about travel, work, and interactions. But exposing kids can be very influential. The key is helping youth use the opportunity to build their own sense of self and view of the world.

The Cultural Interpreter
Whatever the age of the experience, a key variable is who helps you interpret it. If parents, faculty, youth leaders, or colleagues only point out negative aspects of a culture, travel might actually erode CQ rather than improve it. The individual who interprets what’s going on makes all the difference in whether the experience provides positive benefits or not.

Reflection and De-Brief
Many study abroad programs, expat assignments, and charitable mission trips emphasize pre-trip training. But the most important insights come from reflecting in the midst of the overseas experience and upon re-entry back home.

Simply listing international travel as a part of your resume is unlikely to yield many benefits in a job-search. But using travel to expand your view of self, integrate seemingly disparate parts, and creatively solve problems allows you to stand apart from other candidates who have traveled abroad without “seeing” anything.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”


[1] W. Maddux, E. Bivolaur, A. Hafenbrqack, C. Tadmor, & A. Galinsky. Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind:Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity, Social Psychological and Personality Science, December 2013.

[2] J. Cao, A. Galinsky, & W. Maddux, Does Travel Broaden the Mind? The Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust. Social Psychology and Personality Science, December 2013.

[3] R. Nouri,, M. Erez, M., T Rockstuhl, S. Ang, L. Leshem-Calif, & A. Rafaeli, A. (forthcoming). Taking the bite out of culture: The impact of task structure and task type on overcoming impediments to cross-cultural team performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior and R. Chua, M. Morris, & S. Mor, Collaborating across cultures: Cultural metacognition and affect-based trust in creative collaboration, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 118 (2012) 116–131.

[4] C. Tay, M Westman, & A, Chia, Antecedents and Consequences of Cultural Intelligence among short-term business travelers, 126-144; S. Ang, L. Van Dyne, C. Koh, K.Y. Ng, K.J. Templer, C. Tay, & N.A. Chandrasekar. Cultural Intelligence: Its measurement and effects on cultural judgment and decision making, cultural adaptation, and task performance. Management and Organization Review, (2007) 3, 335-371.

[5] E. Shokef & M. Erea, Cultural Intelligence and Global Identity in Multicultural Teams, in S. Ang and L. Van Dyne (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 180.

Don’t Treat Your Customers the Way You Want to be Treated

davelivermore | March 20th, 2014 No Comments
–Guest post by Julie Slagter with David Livermore
 

If you have culturally diverse customers (and hopefully you do), consider adding the following to your customer service training manual: “Don’t treat customers the way you want to be treated”. This may break the golden rule of customer service, but applying it may help improve your customer satisfaction ratings.

Small talk may be considered a waste of time to some task-oriented cultures and endearing to others. Friday might seem like a great time to suggest a phone meeting for some but not for a customer whose weekend includes Friday (e.g. most Middle Eastern cultures). Given the variety of customer preferences, it might be dangerous to ever assume a customer wants the same thing you do; but it’s especially dangerous when the customer comes from a different culture. Here are four tips to begin thinking about culturally intelligent customer service:

1. Adapt Your Communication Style. “Good” communication differs depending upon the customer.

  • When emailing, respect cultural differences in relation to how you address people (e.g. “Mr.” versus “John”) and refrain from using slang or abbreviations. It’s best to start more formal.
  • Sometimes it’s the little things that set your customer service apart. For example, changing the way you write the date for various contexts (20 March or March 20) or referencing something specific about the customer’s context (e.g. Chinese New Year, a recent election, etc.) can demonstrate your not just communicating robotically.
  • Proof your marketing materials extra carefully and consider what particular photos or colors might communicate to other cultures (e.g. White symbolizes “clean and pure” in the Anglo cultural cluster and “death and mourning” in the Confucian Asian cultural cluster).
  • Use humor cautiously and avoid sarcasm.
  • If your customer’s primary language is different than yours, slow down your rate of speech, clearly articulate your words, and pause frequently to allow space for the other person to process the conversation or ask for clarification.
  • Determine whether a customer wants you to “get to the point quickly” or prefers more details.

2. Don’t Take it Personally. Remaining neutral and optimistic when a customer is upset is not an easy task. But assessing the situation through the lens of cultural intelligence can help. For example:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly when a customer appears upset. The reaction could be cultural (e.g. Some individuals have been socialized to raise their voice in order to be heard but it might not mean they’re upset with you).
  • Some cultures teach the importance of saying “Thank you” after you’re served. Others suggest it’s an insult to say “Thank you” to someone who expects to serve you.
  • Some individuals are trying to “go over your head” when asking to speak to a manager. Others come from a culture where it’s assumed you would prefer to defer this to someone more senior.

At some point you may determine that a customer is just being rude; but it’s important to start with considering whether it may simply be a cultural difference. Take a deep breath and think about how culture might be influencing the interaction with the customer.

3. Resolve Conflicts Creatively. Cultural intelligence will also help resolve conflicts more creatively.

Take the following situation for example: Two of your customers aren’t happy with one of your products and you have a no-refund policy. John, a New York City native, demands a full refund and won’t take no for an answer. Sanjay, born and raised in Mumbai, continues to give you a lengthy explanation about the crisis his family has just experienced since he initially placed the order. Based on these cultural differences, how might you handle these two customer complaints?

  • Listen actively with appreciation and tact. Acknowledge their point of view and ask constructive questions to help you better understand their perspective.
  • Learn how to express empathy for various cultural contexts. Some simply want to be heard. “I’m sorry” or “I understand” will go a long way with them. Others want some kind of action, even if you can’t offer a full refund. Read some of the important findings from this study that looked at how call service employees in Singapore expressed empathy across cultures.
  • John needs a confident response referring him to the terms and conditions he agreed to. However, Sanjay needs some affirmation that terms and conditions don’t always account for circumstances like his. See if you can offer any flexibility and even if you can’t, acknowledging that this is an unfortunate situation can help defuse the conflict.

4. Don’t be too quick to Adjust. All these suggestions can be dangerous if used without cultural intelligence because you end up assuming all New Yorkers or Indians want to be served the same way. It’s a delicate balance. You want to acknowledge that Friday might be a bad day for someone in Dubai to do a conference call but you also don’t want to imply that everyone in the UAE is a practicing Muslim. Likewise, wishing someone a happy Chinese New Year can be a “small thing” that makes a difference; but it can also seem patronizing.

Improve your cultural intelligence and use your increased understanding about cultural differences as your hypothesis for how a customer is likely to respond. But be ready to adjust your approach when you receive cues that suggest you should go a different direction.

As you adjust your assumptions and responses to various customers, you create a better customer experience. Don’t assume your customers want to be treated like you do. Find ways to approach each customer with cultural intelligence and simultaneously enrich your own fulfillment by encountering the vast world of differences at your reach.

How CQ could have kept a British expat from getting chased out of Singapore

davelivermore | February 19th, 2014 No Comments

–Guest post by Philip Merry, Global Leadership Academy and CQ Certified Facilitator

British wealth investor Anton Casey recently caused a firestorm when he posted a picture of his son on the MRT (local rail system) with the caption: “Daddy where is your car and who are all these poor people?” He later posted a picture of his son in a silver Porsche with the caption: “Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me.”

The Singapore public responded angrily and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam described the posts as “deeply offensive“. Mr. Casey and his firm, Crossinvest Asia parted ways, and the company issued a statement saying Casey’s comments went against “our core corporate and family values that are based on trust, mutual understanding and are respectful of diversity“. Mr. Casey and his wife, former Miss Singapore and son fled to Perth saying they had received death threats.

 Having spent the last 24 years helping people live together better and understand cultural conflicts, I have a particular understanding of the recent furore in Singapore. I too am a Brit, married to a Singaporean and I’ve lived in Singapore for 24 years.

Was Mr. Casey’s behaviour reprehensible? Absolutely. Were Singaporeans correct to be upset? Absolutely. Does every culture (including Singapore) have ethnocentric and rude people? Absolutely. This case is a prime example of the type of behaviour from expats that causes outrage to host cultures. There are many such examples. PR executive (yes PR) Justine Sacco was sacked in 2013 following the upset she caused to a whole continent with her post on Twitter: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!”

Let’s not underestimate Casey’s rudeness. This was not something said in the heat of a discussion, it was not a mistake made while in the middle of a sales pitch or while discussing an important project. This was active behaviour where he chose to post offensive statements. Singaporeans, a government minister and his employers have responded in an appropriate way. He has asked for forgiveness. Twice.

Why did his words cause such outrage? It’s because this was a reminder of a colonial behaviour that many Singaporeans have experienced. And this is not just a Caucasian issue. I know countless stories of other cultures insulting Singaporeans in subtle and not so subtle ways, like when patronizing foreigners tell Singaporeans, “Your English is sooooo good“.

To me this is a prime example of the need for enhanced cultural intelligence (CQ) for Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike. Although it may upset some Singaporeans to hear, let’s not imagine that Singaporeans don’t also insult other cultures when they venture abroad. I have worked with many regional cultures that complain about the “ugly Singaporean”. Diversity programs can involve learning the facts and figures about a country, but the cultural intelligence I’m talking about is not just awareness of other cultures. Awareness alone does not help with face-to-face interactions. Understanding that your new culture is collectivist, for example, satisfies the brain but does not help with day-to-day behaviour and it is behaviour that needs to change. We need to go beyond cultural awareness – it is our cultural intelligence that needs to be developed.

Drawing upon the four CQ capabilities based upon the joint research of the Cultural Intelligence Center in the U.S. and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, it is likely that Mr. Casey had some understanding (CQ Knowledge) of Singaporean culture but probably had very low CQ Drive, Strategy or Action. Is it possible for him to develop the other three skills? Without knowing him this is impossible to answer because it all comes down to whether he has the desire to do so. What I can say is that when somebody has offended the host culture in such a dramatic way, it is best that the organisation reconsider before the person does any more damage.

In this global world where we all work face-to-face or online with people from different cultures, CQ can be the difference between success and failure for global leaders, teams, communities and countries. We must recognize that whether we are expats or locals, we are ALL guilty of making cross-cultural mistakes with foreigners or with our fellow citizens. These lessons also apply wherever you work in this global world.

 Cultural awareness is not enough. Behavioural change and cultural intelligence are essential for expats and their families to succeed.

Philip Merry a CQ Certified Facilitator, is a cross-cultural coach, consultant, and trainer who has spent 42 years conducting global team and leadership projects in 57 countries.