“People around the globe are more connected to each other than ever before,” explains Andre van Niekerk, dean of the School of Business at Woodbury University. “Information and money flow more quickly than ever. Goods and services produced in one part of the world are increasingly available in all parts of the world. International travel is more frequent. International communication is commonplace. This phenomenon is known as globalization.”
Smart Business spoke with van Niekerk about what to look for when getting schooling in globalization, what types of courses are most applicable and who should take advantage.
What must a business consider when choosing an institution that offers continuing education classes about globalization?
First, a school of business must have global partners. This not only provides credibility, but it indicates that there is a basic understanding of what globalization means. Often, businesses do not realize that going global means relentlessly working on the business and personal relationships. It takes months and years to develop and cement such partnerships. It is therefore important to be able to bring this experience and understanding to the continuing education arena.
Second, the faculty/instructors must have extensive global experience. It too, is a matter of credibility and being able to translate the finer nuances of culture to the educational program. At Woodbury University, for instance, we emphasize the theoretical side as well as the practical side of our faculty. Those who teach about international or global business perspectives have hands-on experience.
How much additional education might a business executive need if a company is going global?
It depends on the background that a specific executive brings to the table. If they have served on foreign assignments, or have worked on cross-cultural business issues singularly, or as a member of a team, they would have a cross-cultural maturity that would allow them to receive just enough information about the new assignment and location to be able to hit the ground running. If they are novices, they will need much more intensive training and cultural exposure.
However, as your question implies, if the company is going global, then it is necessary to include everyone in at least a very detailed fact-sharing session with all employees. The better everyone understands the mission of the company, in a global sense, the better everyone will be able to communicate and coordinate their activities towards a global perspective.
What types of courses are most applicable?
At a minimum, courses in the host country’s customs, foods and language. The do’s and don’t’s specific to that culture. An overview of the business climate and core industries of that country. The financial systems prevalent in the country. It is also good to know how to remain connected with your own culture while serving overseas. This provides stability and eases the re-entry into your own culture when you return. In summary, any courses that provide you the ability to transfer knowledge from your own familiar context to that of another country, or from them to you.
How far down the chain of command do executives need to be educated?
I would make the case that all employees need to know what the company’s global strategy is all about. However, everyone who will interact with the global project or general global outreach of the organization will not travel there; neither will all of them travel to you. It is very likely that only certain individuals will physically visit the other countries. However, there may be intense interaction with global counterparts without ever visiting them or them visiting you. Therefore, there needs to be a well-thought-out and well-orchestrated plan of communication and synchronization of systems and technology to make it all work together efficiently.
How important is it for top managers to understand the nuances of globalization?
It is absolutely crucial that the main players those who direct the strategy and who make the bigger decisions be intimately familiar with the nuances of globalization. Because the tone and the direction of the company is identified by top management, they should understand the mission of their globalization. Also, they must be able to communicate it very effectively to the rank and file.
ANDRE VAN NIEKERK is dean of the School of Business at Woodbury University. Reach him at (818) 252-5284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.