International business is nothing new. Since the beginning of civilization, tribes and later territories and countries have traded and engaged in business interactions, linking their economies together. The difference may be the method of interaction. Instead of physically forcing a country or company into a business relationship, a more cooperative attitude is promoted. Stress is placed upon executives and employees working within a culture instead of forcing the natives into submission.
As borders continue to fade in the face of the emerging new global economy, businesses are recruiting and promoting executives with experience outside of the company’s home country. Multinational corporations have been involved in global business for decades and have made a conscious effort to diversify their executive teams in recent decades. They seek an executive team with extensive experience in leadership positions in countries all over the world including China, India, the Middle East, and Latin America. Companies including IBM have recruited senior level executives with experience in the Asia Pacific region including China and Japan. Global business continues to increase in complexity; recruiting executives and managers with international experience may become imperative to a company’s success.
Corporations continue to expand their operations into emerging markets in hopes of establishing a presence while the region develops economically. As Wal-Mart builds a stronger presence in the global market, they have begun to recruit executives and managers with experience working outside of the United States. Many key executives have experience working in the Asia Pacific region and various parts of Central and South America.
THE SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL EXECUTIVE
Successful global executives have experience working within foreign cultures. Though they may not have in-depth knowledge of every culture, people with international experience often have the ability to observe and act within the confines of the culture with which they are working. Theyare fluent in the language and can effectively communicate with people of other cultures to the point where they can network and motivate peers and consumers with ease. They are also able to mimic the business style of the locals, creating lasting business relationships with decision-makers and business people in related industries in the region.
Although some global business leaders have a natural inclination for international business, others had a crash course in working with foreign cultures. Many were transferred to a foreign office of their company and experienced severe culture shock until they found their footing in the global sphere. Direct immersion into foreign cultures will become more common as more companies expand into and permeate foreign markets.
Culture shock is most prevalent in businesspeople operating in cultures dramatically different from their own. Many contrast the risk-taking, independence driven American business style with the cooperative Asian business style. Not taking into account the idiosyncrasies of the host culture can lead to misunderstandings between the corporation and their local associates. However, in most situations, listening and observational skills are essential to surmounting any cultural hurdles one may face.
The experiences with foreign cultures that managers and executives accrued while they were working up the ranks offer them a unique perspective in international business later on when they are in positions of authority. Many division presidents of large multinational corporations have held managerial positions in foreign countries. The division presidents of global pharmaceutical corporation Bristol-Myers Squibb have extensive global experience, often beyond the region in which they are located.
Companies seeking to position themselves as a competitive global company in the international business climate must hire executives with extensive global business experience. Business leaders well-versed in cross-cultural interaction have the tools to create strong business relationships and meet any cultural challenges that come their way.
Many companies interested in finding such managers and executives need look no further than the employees in their foreign offices. Businesses seeking to expand their global positioning should look for current and potential executives and managers who have spent a significant amount of time in the target region, have an in-depth knowledge of the culture, and/or are fluent in the language.
The economic woes of the last few years have renewed an interest in international business among current students and working professionals in pursuit of an MBA. As a result, more potential managers and executives are entering or repositioning themselves in the business world with valuable international business experience that can benefit any company. Through the acquisition of qualified, world-wise employees at the junior level, businesses will have their pick of experienced managers and executives within the next decade.
CGI: Driving local solutions with global expertise
Embrace digital transformation and infuse it with a spirit of agility, is the message to the public sector from Aleta Jeffress, CGI Senior Vice President Consulting Services.
“We partner with clients to drive value and innovation,” said Jeffress who has been working with the US City of Mesa, AZ on their digital journey for their local citizens.
Founded in 1976, CGI is one of the largest IT and business consulting services firms in the world. It is insights-driven and outcomes-based to help accelerate return on investments. CGI operates across 21 industries in 400 locations and provides scalable and sustainable services that are informed globally and delivered locally.
“We have expertise in developing and executing strategies to help companies transform their IT to align with the business through cloud strategies, application rationalization, modernization and outsourcing,” said Jeffress speaking from the Denver CGI offices.
“Digital change can be exhausting, but take the opportunity to embrace it and look for new opportunities,” said Jeffress who pointed out projects should have a sense of agility and specific focus on the end-user.
“This can be a big culture change for some clients but by making sure your implementations are not a big bang theory but you can take smaller chunks which you’re able to do over and over again as it's just going to continue to evolve,” she said.
Informed globally and delivered locally
Commenting on CGI’s partnership with the City of Mesa, Jeffress said: “We are providing a solution that has a lower cost of ownership and helps them streamline business processes and helps increase efficiency.
“The City sought a single source of truth for their ERP business processes. With CGI Advantage, they found a partner in their digital transformation journey with a configurable, unified solution that supports their HR, financial management, and performance budgeting business processes.
“With CGI Advantage, the City is working with a single source of truth that lowers total cost of ownership, streamlines business processes, and increases efficiency - additional benefits include:
• A decrease in customizations and staffing requirements resulting in faster upgrade cycles.
• Empowering HR resources to focus on strategic efforts by removing the need for manual and duplicate data entry.
• Increased accuracy with reporting.
• Process improvements shifting from customized or paper-based processes to automated processes.
• Increased pay transparency and accuracy by leveraging process improvements and configurable support
A trusted partner
“CGI is a company that focuses very intently and very intentionally on delivery - that is something that really sets us apart,” said Jeffress.
“We have an internal process where we meet with clients twice a year to ask a specific set of questions. How our clients answer those questions allows us to be sure we are aligned and can be a trusted partner with all of our clients.”
“As an international company, we can provide key resources when our clients need it in a very timely manner,” she said.
Reflecting on the challenges posed by COVID-19 Jeffress said there had been a true evolution in technology services.