10 reasons why more cultural intelligence in the manufacturing industry is needed

| By TMA World

The manufacturing industry supply chain can be long and complex, with managers working across many cultures and in many different circumstances. Raw materials may be sourced from one location, with production in another, procurement elsewhere, with distribution and retail on a global basis. Companies in the manufacturing industry may have offices all over the world, using multiple languages.

Whether managers in each location are locals or global assignees, cultural intelligence is an essential component for everybody in the chain. Developing cultural awareness means individuals in manufacturing industry can be more effective – and that a company’s values can become better and more quickly aligned across a wide range of cultures and situations.

Cultural competence doesn’t just apply to working with offices and clients in other countries. There are different cultures within a company – production, sales, logistics, marketing, procurement– and usually, within any given team. Customers, too, whether corporate or individual, are multicultural – and the company that can talk to these customers in their own language and style should have an advantage over competitors with a one-size-fits-all approach. Cultural intelligence, therefore, isn’t just an issue for those at director level; it’s an essential skill for all employees in a global business, even if they never leave their home town.

Here are 10 reasons why cultural intelligence is vital to the manufacturing industry:

  1. Cultural intelligence helps develop an in-depth understanding of working styles in other cultures. A culturally intelligent workforce will demonstrate better tolerance, trust and understanding of global colleagues. Cultural differences become strengths in problem solving, rather than obstacles, while improved collaboration drives the ability to respond quicker to market changes.
  2. Managers overseeing the bottom of the supply chain – low-skilled production line workers, for example, will need strong motivational and conflict resolution skills to keep the line happy and efficient. Understanding the mentality of a factory worker in, say, Taiwan or the Philippines, is important for the manager, and understanding the challenges faced by regional managers is essential to colleagues in head office.
  3. Local partners, customers and outsourced divisions will become colleagues and friends, with cultural intelligence, rather than an obstacle to success because of their differences.
  4. Cultural intelligence is even more important when working with emerging markets, as management style and expectations may be different. These markets, successful in their own right, do not necessarily consider the head office way of doing things to be the right way. Training for cultural intelligence in the manufacturing industry can be delivered locally, or virtually, to even the most inhospitable corners of the world.
  5. A culturally intelligent individual gains trust. By assimilating into a local culture, immersing yourself in its ways and mannerisms and mirroring the gestures of those around you, you will appear more empathetic – provided you are genuine. You are unlikely ever to become just like the locals and think exactly like them but with an open and enquiring mind, learning to cooperate internationally can be learned.
  6. Culturally sensitive leaders make better managers. They are able to better understand the dynamics of multicultural group at a meeting, for example. They are better at negotiating with other cultures, and at conflict resolution between cultures.
  7. Cross-cultural training is essential for globally mobile employees and their families; it will reduce culture shock and make the individual more effective and better poised to integrate with their new workplace.
  8. Multicultural marketing is an important element of manufacturing, whatever the sector. Understanding the individual consumer or the corporate client and meeting their needs is all part of cultural intelligence, whether dealing with customers who are LGBT, Hispanic, Asian, mature or millennial.
  9. Being culturally aware helps individuals to recognise areas of their own communication that could be improved, to make their daily interaction with international colleagues more effective, and more enjoyable. How emails and memos are worded, for example, and whether and why, with some cultures, face-to-face brainstorming is preferable to a WhatsApp group.
  10. Attracting top talent is essential in a competitive marketplace. Companies that celebrate diversity, inclusivity and cultural sensitivity are likely to be more appealing than businesses that are perceived as inflexible and old-fashioned in their outlook. The diversity of a company’s workplace should reflect the diversity of its market – or consumers may not take that company seriously.

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