Preparing UK managers for working in India - a sample workshop

From cultural orientation to inter-cultural competence

The fully participative workshop outlined below has been provided for customer service managers at BT, National Rail Enquiries, Barclays Bank, MBNA, and to UK / INDIA BUSINESS COUNCIL as a follow-up workshop to ‘Insight India’. It incorporates the practical Cross-cultural Communication skills needed by UK executives and/or managers who go to India, whether for trading/marketing, negotiating supplier contracts, managing joint ventures or outsourced contact centres with IT / BPO partners / providers.

All CI-CD workshops for ‘Doing Business in India’ are customised from this agenda to the specific needs and job functions of attendees.

Built from 3 years ‘on-the-ground’ experience of change management in India (chiefly in Noida and Bangalore), the workshop includes simulations and unique documentary DVD evidence demonstrating how cultural differences and ‘Indian-English’ speaking style commonly produce communication breakdowns (a) in meetings and negotiations between UK and Indian senior managers, (b) in UK/Indian joint project teams, and (c) between Indian contact centre Agents/Customer Service Representatives and consumers in the West.

Focus is on practical skills to prevent damaging cross-cultural misunderstandings, and to achieve positive rapport and outcomes for all parties.

1. Introductions (practised in Indian and UK styles) + exchange of experiences of India to date

• Names exercise: Greetings; Getting Indian names right; What to do if difficult to pronounce. (Group-work with illustrative Indian DVD extracts.)

2. Expectations of the workshop? What if anything concerns you? What have you heard about India?

• Tackling stereotypes/ myths. (Small group-work with feedback and illustrative Indian DVD extracts.)

3. DVD documentary evidence of UK managers’ common mistakes

• Illustrating how and why UK styles of negotiating, project managing, and customer relations do not simply ‘transplant’ to Asia. (Interactive analysis of documentary DVD case-studies)

4. Briefings on sensitivities to Indian Social Background, drawn from current Indian sources

• History – National Identity issues; Residual effects of Raj - attitudes to British

• Status / Use of English as ‘language of commerce’: care for nationalist feelings

• Underlying social realities in India

• Economics / Politics; Religion; Family values; Women’s changing roles in business/society; Travel, Food, Shopping, Sport, Film; and the safest small talk topic: Cricket

5. Briefings on Business Culture in India

Quiz discussed and completed in small groups, with feedback and de-brief of practical implications for business behaviour. Includes;

• India’s Business History pre and post 1991 (GDP growth c. 8.5% a year):

• Strongly ‘bureaucratic’ inherited ethos; Hierarchical structures; Managerial Roles/Status

• From manufacturing to services: Typical Decision-making, Problem-solving processes

• Leadership style; Approaches to innovation/change, and to staff Consultation/Motivation

• Saving Face in bargaining (eg, pitching costs, or terms of partnership joint management, to allow ‘wriggle room’ and scope to be ‘bargained down’)

• Formality in group meetings; Informality with individuals

• ‘Indian time’ – slower than customary in UK; need to adapt to professional patience

• Respect for age; and for academic qualifications; current inter-generational developments

• Process-analytical technical mindset: priority on quantifiable deliveries via spreadsheets (implications for negotiation; difficulties for implementing qualitative change/projects involving soft skills)

• Humour – what’s funny/not funny in India: contrasts with UK self-deprecrating irony

6. East/West Business Relationship

Input around analytic Handout + DVD interactive documentary illustrating Western misperceptions of 'business relationship' in Asia, and common mistakes in face-to-face negotiating in Asia

7. Indian negotiating style

Indian bargaining assumptions and conventions; influential ‘buzz words’ helpful in India; tactical approaches for success

8. Cross-cultural Communication in India

Simulations to illustrate how unwitting misunderstandings occur in India; with follow-up documentary DVDs of UK/India workplace interactions - LT; Sandhu/Parekh; Vijay; Ritu; Rama - small group analysis and discussion.

• Why and how to avoid unwitting ‘neo-colonial cultural imperialism’ ie, coming across as arrogantly disrespectful or dominating the agenda - however unintentionally

• Indian responsive warmth of manner can be mis-read: ‘Yes’ may mean courtesy of ‘It would be too unkind to say ‘No’, rather than personal commitment to undertaking responsibility / action

• Nodding; difficulties of UK conventions of sarcasm and irony; and confusions of literal/figurative idioms

• Indian indirectness of ‘narrative style’ in giving answers

• Apparent ‘bluntness’, ie, absence of ‘softeners’, Please or Thanks, in Indian styles of making requests, giving instructions (wrongly perceived as ‘rudeness'/'demanding’)

• Differences between ‘Indian-English’ and ‘British-English’ grammar and intonation: for training Trainers, Quality, TLs, CSRs

• Ways of speaking English that are most helpful to Indians using English as a second or third, learned language (at school)

• Checklist of 12 key cross-cultural communication differences, with the due skills for handling these

9. (if relevant) UK customer dissatisfaction with Indian-based IT/BPO services

• Evidence of this problem; Causes of this problem; Solutions for this problem

• The managerial conditions for successful training project development/change

10. (if relevant) Checklist Review of Communication skills to equip Indian CSRs to meet UK customer expectations

• Full handout list of 40 skills, OR summary handout of 20 skills; with interactive analysis of selected customer service call recordings

11. Summary: What to do differently in India - culturally sensitive practice in India for successful outcomes

• Making marketing presentations; negotiating senior company-level terms of agreement

• Influencing joint agenda-setting, problem-solving, decision-making, change/project management meetings at managerial level

• (if relevant) Designing training in context of Indian call centres services, with tools for measuring training/coaching impact and/or C Sats

12. Action Planning and Practice Simulations/Role-plays

Individual and group follow-ups, immediate and longer-term

13. Resources display: Books, training manuals, articles

14. Evaluation: verbal and written report.

The facilitator, Director of CI-CD John Twitchin, is a long-experienced specialist in international business communication across cultures. In charge of all management training output at BBC TV for 25 years; producer of over 100 broadcasts (illustrating and analysing business interactions in India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, UK, USA, Australia); producer of BBC ‘Business Club’ for SMEs; trainer of UK Trade and Investment Advisers and UKTI SME clients; author of 50 publications on cross-cultural diversity; consultant to 40 global companies; lecturer at 98 universities; lead speaker at 43 international conferences. Founder-tutor of UK’s first formally accredited post-graduate degree ‘MA in Intercultural Communication’, Business Studies, University of Bedfordshire. This MA course is very popular with students from India. .

Copyright: Centre for Intercultural Development