Achieving behavioural change globally – straight from the horses’ mouths

16 January 2018

Achieving behavioural change globally – straight from the horses’ mouths

As Steps has grown, we’ve become really excited about what it means to be a truly global business. We’re undertaking more global work than ever; operating in 21 countries in the last year alone. We’ve always delivered workshops around the world but our approach has moved on from ‘just’ simple logistics. Our focus is on being able to tune into local cultural needs while helping our clients’ organisations build the overall change they’re reaching for.

In the words of our own team members, here are some of the insights we’ve picked up along the way.

What’s the most interesting piece of learning you’ve picked up working globally for Steps?

“I’ve learned about the need to think and work really hard to get right the balance between local consistency on a programme and regional individuality. For one particular law firm client, doing thorough research by speaking to people across different regions really helped to get a sense about what was – and wasn’t – working so well. This gave us the central themes we needed to inform the core programme. That programme could then be rolled out globally and adapted to local markets/factors (culture, office size, etc.). It was important to get all the messages across one organisation, but we needed to make everyone feel included in a way that was tailored to them.”
Mark Shillabeer, Account Director

“Not to make assumptions. Whether it’s assumed cultural stereotypes or even expectations set out by our client contacts (“You’ll never get the French to turn up”, “The Germans will be mainly interested in the process”, etc.), the people themselves constantly surprise us. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The immediate culture of each group is usually more relevant than presumed national behaviours. For example, on a particular client I’m thinking about, the German group were very people-focused, present and into coaching and support, whereas the Spanish group were focused on their tech, dealing with things happening elsewhere and borderline rude. “
Matthew de Lange, Non-Executive Chairman

“The learning will be to listen, listen, listen! This has helped me to be really careful about making cultural assumptions – not just about the differences between regions but between cities and within organisations too. You can really get people’s backs up by making assumptions about how things are done in different places.“
Simon Thomson, Account Director

“Ensure each region’s issues are addressed by adapting the content of workshops and working with local representatives. Local teams truly bring home-grown cultural understanding and insight that it’d be almost impossible to achieve otherwise. It’s only then that our work can be authentic, credible and really engage participants all over the world.”
Gary Bates, Account Director

“I was fascinated to appreciate that human thinking is universal;. The same broad themes apply to all; challenges such as biases, limiting beliefs, assumptions, etc. are made everywhere. However, for communications to have real resonance, local flavour should be applied.“
Jack Rebaldi, Account Director

“The notion that as more and more businesses are working globally, they’re striving to achieve unified global cultures across their organisations. I’ve learned about, and now understand, that nuance and difference can help achieve that goal, with the interpretation of that culture being adapted for each region. Respect for local cultures is key. Core values, processes and principles of work can be seen as parameters within which local interpretation take place.”
Allen Liedkie, Project Manager

“I’ve learned that, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, you have to be even more organised than on single country projects! The sheer scale and scope means we have to help our clients anticipate potential logistical issues as early as possible. If not, the practical consequences can be far-reaching and could jeopardise their learning goals.”
Georgina Sherwood, Associates Manager and Client Services Lead

What’s the most interesting piece of learning you’ve picked up working globally for Steps?

“Create mixed teams for delivery. Not only should you make sure your lead facilitators are experienced in operating in more than one region, but make sure that you use local ethnically and culturally diverse facilitators as well so you have consistency in application and understanding of different cultures. This will help you get the balance right between global experience and local flavour.”
Mark Shillabeer, Account Director

“Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. So for example, try to use local language and presenters. Don’t run an event in, say, Germany, in English. It’s not good enough to say, “I’m sorry I don’t speak German”, if you haven’t actually tried to source a German presenter – unless there’s a genuinely good reason for doing it in English. Clients often say, “Our global language is English” but that doesn’t mean people are fluent, it doesn’t mean they will get the full benefit of the programme and it doesn’t mean it won’t reinforce a possible negative view of ‘Head Office’.
“Another tip here, but it’s to really listen to people with different views and experience. Don’t dismiss them as parochial or outliers. At the very least, the research for a programme should be well grounded in listening to local views.”
Matthew de Lange, Non-Executive Chairman

“In trying to find the right solution, don’t make your mind up too early about what the possible solution might be. You don’t know what you don’t know, if you know what I mean! What you think might not be possible could very well be the best and most elegant solution. Always aim for the best solution and see how it might be rolled out. A good partner should be ready, willing and able to show you a variety of options to help you achieve your goals.”
Simon Thomson, Account Director

“Try to have someone driving your project from HQ/centre/group so that there’s consistency in your messaging, style, broad learning aims and outcomes, etc. However, do remember it’s also vital to adapt and flex those central aspects for local issues and cultural differences. For example, when undertaking global diversity and inclusion work for a telecoms giant, gender issues for women in the UK were very different from those in India, South Africa and the Middle East.”
Gary Bates, Account Director

“Research, research, research! Work out where you want to go and invest in understanding the cultural behaviours in any of the regions in which you work. Communications suffer in large organisations – due to language, culture, expectations, scope, etc. – so an appreciation for all of these things will help you reach your goals.”
Jack Rebaldi, Account Director

“Really do the ‘up-front’ work to get the local leadership bought in and involved in the programme to help it resonate and be a success. People would much rather have something done with them, than to them.”
Allen Liedkie, Project Manager

“Logistics can be more complicated than you ever could imagine! Be as clear as possible on your requirements as far in advance to help your team deliver on time and to your required standard.”
Georgina Sherwood, Associates Manager and Client Services Lead

In conclusion

I wish I could tell you that the Steps team came by these insights without making any mistakes on our journey to becoming a more global business. However, it’ll come as no surprise to say that we developed them through our own experiences – good and bad – along the way. We hope our learning will act as a great foundation as you consider your organisation’s global culture. Do you have any insights to share from your own experiences? We’d love to read them in the comments below.

 

Alexis Gray >>