Tag Archives: cross-cultural communication

Is your employee REALLY ready for an International Assignment? Part 3

What traits do employees share who are most successful on international assignments?  We’ve explained why selecting the right employee for an expat or global team assignment is crucial to success.  We’ve examined five mindset traits that can predict which candidates will have high expatriate potential. Now let’s look at interpersonal skills, and which ones matter most in a global context.

For global employees, interpersonal skills are an absolute necessity.

Expatriates face greater challenges in communication than the average person. Even if they’ve mastered the language, there are many subtle cultural variables that can make or break an interaction. People who want to relate to others do better.

Global employees with less human interaction need less of these skills. For example, an IT specialist might spend 90% of his time working alone on a computer. This employee won’t need such strong skills in this area. Managers, team leaders, and HR personnel need much more. But anyone on an international assignment needs to have solid social skills. No one lives in complete isolation. Even smaller interactions can cause problems if the social skills are not there.  Given the extra challenge of communicating around cultural and language barriers, interpersonal skills become particularly crucial.

It doesn’t matter if a person is an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts can have great interpersonal skills, and extroverts can have terrible ones. The key element is that they interact with a degree of comfort, ease, and finesse.

Which skills count most? These five are most important for anyone working globally.

1. They take interest in relationships.

If the employee is always avoiding others or hiding in their office, they will not be a good fit for an international assignment. Life involves talking to people. Engaging with people from other backgrounds is hard, and those who don’t like to interact with others will find it even harder. Look for someone who is at ease with other people, and who has some desire to create friendships and partnerships.

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2. They get along with people who are different.

People who seek diverse relationships at home will do the same on assignment, but those who spend all their time with people exactly like themselves will not have the skills they need to bridge cultural gaps. The ideal candidate will accept differences in others without losing their connection to their own culture. They have a natural desire to engage and interact with everyone, including people who are different.

3. They are sensitive to the needs of others.

Without empathy, expat employees will have trouble knowing when they are violating cultural norms or creating conflict. In intercultural interactions, both parties often have different assumptions, and there may be conflict when those assumptions don’t match up. A person who is sensitive to others will be more likely to pick up on this and to adapt their behavior. One of the key skills for positive intercultural communication is seeing the world from different perspectives.

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4. They are self-aware.

Like empathy, self-awareness allows people to recognize problems and change their behavior. Without self-awareness, individuals have more difficulty realizing when they are contributing to a problem. International employees need to be able to look inward to examine themselves and their values. This is necessary for their own emotional health while abroad and for their interactions with others. At the same time, they shouldn’t overanalyze or empathize to the point of paralysis. Look for the person who understands when they need to adjust their own behavior.

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5. They are flexible.

This person is able to adapt their social behavior to fit the context with ease. They know when it’s appropriate to be informal and when more formal behavior is necessary. They can have fun, be serious, make friends, and be professional. This person is not so changeable that they are untrustworthy, they just tend to be able to fit into a variety of situations without too much effort.

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Employees that present these social traits will fit in well abroad, too. They will be able to deal with the locals in a new country, adjust to language barriers, and foster healthy relationships with their new colleagues.

If you would like more information on this topic, contact us at info@catalystintercultural.com to see how we can help your expats thrive.