What does it mean to lead global business? Typically you’ll be facing challenges that companies with a smaller footprint don’t even know exist. Thankfully, you’re also in line to reap the benefits that accompany solving these challenges.
So, what must global companies overcome to achieve consistent success? Let’s examine 4 common challenges of managing a multinational workforce and client base, along with their solutions.
1. Language Barriers
Servicing an international client base requires a multilingual team. This can throw up challenges in everything from marketing to recruitment:
- Hiring local talent: Recruiting a team that drives regional success relies on being able to communicate in their national business language. While it’s reasonable to accept that anyone joining the team speaks more than their mother tongue, you’ll be missing out on top talent, and limiting your market reach, if you restrict your hires to those who speak fluent English. Other high-value business languages include Mandarin, Spanish, French and Arabic.
- Marketing: According to Business News Daily, HSBC gave us the perfect example of why successful international marketing campaigns rely on more than literal translations of existing slogans and collateral. In 2009, the bank spent millions of dollars expanding a 5-year-old English-language campaign featuring the slogan “Assume Nothing”, only to find it translated into Chinese as the brand-damaging “Do Nothing”.
- Customer service: A non-negotiable for any company serving an international market is to serve their customers in their language. While the ideal of serving everyone in their mother tongue may be unrealistic, delivering service in the national, or main regional language is not. For example, if you plan on serving Northern Indian customers, you’ll need to deliver service in at least Hindi, English, and Marathi. Similarly, if you’re planning to expand into China and Hong Kong, you’re more likely to retain customers if brand communication is in Mandarin or Cantonese.
- Communication between global management: Multinational companies have the unique advantage of attracting global business leaders. However, communication between global management teams can be challenging, even if English is the lingua franca. For example, indirect communication can be a challenge for someone functionally fluent in Business English, which may cause significant business risk in the C-Suite. Learn more about the challenges of a multilingual company, in this blog post.
Thankfully, remote simultaneous interpretation is a proven way to overcome even the most nuanced translation challenges. With the help of RSI, for example, an English-speaking recruitment manager can successfully recruit foreign-language teams. Multilingual web conferencing platforms can also assist, by enabling teams (or business leaders) to communicate effectively across language barriers. Find out how they do it in our blog post on, how to make the best web conferencing platforms multilingual here.
2. Cultural Differences
Cultural diversity is a strength in business. However, unless cultural differences are proactively integrated, they can throw up challenges within a multinational organisation that threaten your bottom line. Before expanding your team, consider how you’ll localise processes when:
- Running an overseas office or production facility
- Building an inclusive company culture with social norms and company traditions that don’t alienate certain nationalities
- Implementing conflict resolution, feedback, and negotiation processes
- Creating guidelines for workplace etiquette
Personalising processes per region can help create a locally relevant and internationally inclusive organisational culture. And these tweaks aren’t necessarily accompanied by expensive price tags — for example, your Spanish teams may be very direct in the feedback they provide. This may cause discomfort for UK teams, who tend to provide less direct feedback. Companies can avoid this by creating a neutral format for how feedback is delivered. Another solution is to use interpreters to help break down cultural barriers in business meetings. This is because expert interpreters can translate language while delivering the message in a way that meets their audience’s cultural norms.
But the first step to overcoming cultural differences is to research how business is typically conducted in the countries you operate in and use these to inspire your regional best practices. Additionally, staff training is crucial to sensitise your teams to cultural differences.
3. Managing Global Teams
A siloed business is unable to maximise its success, as is a multinational that limits its employees to working within a regional network. Global teams deliver high-quality work that’s strengthened by their diverse experiences and specialist knowledge about the cultures they’re embedded in. However, managing global teams presents unique logistical challenges. These include:
- Managing time zone differences when scheduling meetings or time-sensitive tasks that require international input
- Maintaining strong working relationships between international colleagues who typically only meet online
- Ensuring appropriate and effective supervision
Thankfully, scheduling regular team check-ins can solve the bulk of this friction. Regular meetings can be diarised well ahead of time, for when they’re least disruptive. They’re also an excellent way to foster authentic relationships between colleagues and to continuously monitor team morale and project health.
4. Nuances Of Foreign Politics And Policy
Political decisions in your operating regions can seriously affect your business. And unless you’re actively monitoring the political landscape, these changes can appear seemingly overnight. Everything from taxes, labour laws, material and transportation costs can all be affected. For example, the recently introduced GDPR laws have financial implications for any multinational company dealing with data that belongs to EU citizens and residents.
Successful global companies have to take proactive stances and keep one step ahead of local and international developments. A quarterly executive meeting to examine the ‘State of Play’ in each country that you operate in is an efficient first step to responsive, better-than-compliant governance.
How Interprefy Can Help
Whether you’re keeping tabs on the latest developments in foreign policy, or need to recruit a new team for a new market — effective communication lies at the heart of a successful outcome.
Our remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) services help global companies eliminate the challenges of operating across cultures and languages. Our scalable and flexible RSI solutions are designed to unlock effective business communication for online events and webinars, conferences, panel discussions, seminars, and small meetings. And because it’s fully remote, you can connect to your audience or team, anywhere in the world.