Posts tagged Helping the U.S. and India Work Together
I recently finished a training for an Indian company which is operating in the US. The focus of this particular session was on HR practices in the US – discrimination, harassment, retaliation, etc. Of particular interest was the list of 30 questions which are considered illegal to ask during interviews, and ways to get around those questions. This comes as a shock to most Indians where within the first few minutes of an interview, the candidate’s family status, potential marriages, health concerns, children’s nicknames, full genealogy, and meal preferences are made clear.
We looked at the difference between universalist cultures (those which make rules that apply to all people), and particularist cultures (those that depend more on context and relationship). While this distinction was helpful for these Indian managers to understand the “why” behind all of these regulations, they were still baffled at the extent to which American interviewers essentially shackled themselves when trying to identify new talent.
Later I was in a session with some French managers in India who were trying to develop a strategy for hiring and retaining talented young women, knowing that a majority of them would be leaving the job soon after marriage. They were trying to solve the tension of not applying a discriminatory policy while at the same time recognizing the realities that existed. Soon they realized they were operating in a different world with different rules, but still needed to respect their corporate policies.
The blend of India and the West often produces interesting mixes, one of which is when extremely “politically correct” cultures that are highly regulated in terms of discrimination practices try to operate in a world where knowing how old someone is and their medical background is seen as intelligent information which needs to be considered. When I sat in on my first interview in India, I was quite shocked at the kind of information that was directly asked (“Any plans for marriage?”), and which ultimately impacted the decision to bring them on or find a new candidate.
Can India be considered “pre-politically correct”? Will the tide of lawsuits and thick HR policies inevitably roll into India in the same way that burgers and pizzas have become part of the urban diet? Or will India remain fiercely practical in this standpoint, claiming that knowing if someone is about to get married is paramount to their hiring strategy? Or perhaps as India gains influence in the world, they will provide multinationals with a compromise to this difficult cultural issue?
As companies continue to expand both from and into India, these questions will come to the forefront. India has always managed these tensions with their “temporary adaptation”, understanding the pressing needs, but refusing to change its core beliefs and values. This effect on the world of HR and the idea of being “politically correct” will be one to watch closely in the coming years, and one that the Global Leader will see coming and prepare for. Until an equilibrium is found, Global Adjustments will continue to stand in the gap and help build cultural understanding and strategy.
For more information on the sessions mentioned in this blog, along with our other offerings, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The world at your feet!
Chennai, Oct. 20, Taj Coromandel:
The launch of Ranjini Manian’s latest book, Upworldly Mobile, in Chennai on October 20, was a grand success by every measure!
Attended by several global citizens – from Consul Generals to CEOs and top managements of trans-national companies, from celebrities to artists, it was indeed an evening of intellectual stimulation!
The conversation between Ms Jennifer McIntyre, Consul General, US Consulate – Chennai, Dr. Sumatran, Executive Vice Chairman, Hinduja Automotive and Chairman of Nissan, Ashok Leyland Powertrain and Ranjini Manian, stressed on the importance of Cultural Intelligence and tools we have to understand people from different cultures.
Both shared small humorous anecdotes from their experience interacting with foreign cultures – e.g. when Dr. Sumantran’s dinner guests arrived even before the scheduled time in Sweden and were waiting outside the door, hesitating to use the bell.
The audience proved to be equally enthusiastic about the topic and several participants asked questions when the floor was opened to them! The evening came to a close with cocktails and conversations!
Vijayadashmi is a special festival day in the Hindu calendar which is a very auspicious day for starting a new form of learning. Global Adjustments celebrated this year by starting something called Collective Wisdom.
In our training department, we are constantly trying to find ways to “upskill” young Indians to be prepared for the world. Issues like showing initiative, business writing, summarizing information, and many other things discussed in Upworldly Mobile sometimes don’t come easy. While we are passionate about seeing these skills instilled in young Indians, we also know that two heads are always better than one when it comes to the How.
Thus, we invited 10 thinkers to our India Immersion Centre to ask a few simple questions about one topic: Assertiveness. Moderated by Mr. Eric Gossard of Hospira, we examined the idea of what assertiveness is, how it fits in the Indian culture, and how to teach it to people. The event was extremely stimulating for those who attended: a mix of small business owners, students, trainers, professors and corporate heads.
As we continue to work towards making Global Citizens, it will take more than just one of us thinking. At Global Adjustments, we know that we need to rely on our “extended family” to reach this goal. Be on the lookout for more Collective Wisdom gatherings!
The Training Team
(Here’s a hint if you want to be invited for the next one: make sure to comment on Ranjini’s Business Line articles.)
Ranjini Manian runs Global Adjustments to train people in cross-cultural business. She talked to Marshall Goldsmith about her recent book
During a recent visit to Chennai, I had the opportunity to interview Ranjini Manian, the author of Doing Business in India for Dummies. Although her book may have been titled “for dummies,” she didn’t strike me as dummy herself! She had fascinating suggestions for Americans doing business in India—and for Indians doing business with Americans. Here are edited excerpts of a recent conversation:
MG: How did you end up authoring such a quintessentially American title as Doing business in India for Dummies?
RM: I have run a company called Global Adjustments for the past 13 years. In this role I have acted as a catalyst for those coming to do business in India. This is how our publisher, Wiley, came to know me.
In my work I have the opportunity to work with a who’s who of business leaders. I have firsthand knowledge of what works—and what doesn’t. This gave me access to practical knowledge that may not be taught at B-school. I also had a strong research team that helped the book come alive with useful nuggets on many topics.
So what does your company, Global Adjustments, do?
Global Adjustments is an end-to-end expatriate-services company offering a range of relocation and cross-cultural services. We also publish India’s only expatriate cultural monthly magazine called At a Glance—Understanding India. We have worked in easing the passage to and from India with expatriates from 74 countries. Headquartered in Chennai, we have offices in all six major cities in India: Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, and Delhi, and of course, Chennai.
Before we continue chatting, can I offer you some south Indian coffee? Or maybe some Darjeeling tea?
Why do Indians insist on food and drink? I love it myself, but just wondered.
Indians’ perception of hospitality is a bit different from where you come from. Food is synonymous with guest relations…offering, cajoling, and even insisting are all signs of respecting a guest in India, and business relationships are built by this. So here is a tip: If you are interested in doing business in India, set time aside to have tea and biscuits with us first.
You have told me that you believe individuals work better in teams in India. Why do you feel that this is true?
You know, Marshall, it is part of our child-rearing habits…We [have] this collective culture and upbringing. The good news is that we lay a lot of stress on collectivism, and therefore we work very well in teams—and can be super flexible and accommodating. And that is maybe why we have such brilliant software engineers who adapt to last-minute changes.
Ranjini, as an executive coach, I know appropriate assertiveness can be a key to successful leadership. In the States, I am almost never asked to help an executive become more assertive. Yet in India this is not an uncommon request. Why might some Indian leaders need to become more assertive?
It is true, Marshall, the flip side of our peace-loving and relationship-oriented nature is that we may not be assertive enough. We may need to be taught to set goals, be able to say no politely, be solution-oriented, communicate succinctly and clearly, and even negotiate our own needs while keeping project deadlines.
That is why I am working at building an Interactive Global Adjustments Academy, and part of my challenge is teaching Indian leaders when to be assertive. Many of our academic institutions are so focused on technical issues that they don’t teach some practical interaction skills that may be needed by our future leaders.
What is the basis of Hinduism? Do you literally believe that there was a little blue man called Krishna?
Krishna is the belief in an idea and a God, both at one time. If the belief of America and the idea of the very nation can be evoked on a simple flag of stars and stripes, then why not the idea of an eternal, all-pervading consciousness that unifies us all in a blue idol? The color of things all-pervading and endless—like the sky and ocean— are blue! It is the oneness that is important, not the name, form or color at the end of the day.
That makes sense to me. Can you share some facts about India that may surprise our readers?
Sure, we invented the zero, without which the world wouldn’t have had computer codes. India is booming and has a growth rate of 9%, and our people balance materialism with inner wellness.
You tell me that your training on soft skills can actually produce hard results?
Absolutely, Marshall! For example, we coached our American insurance client’s 600-member Indian team on the ability to say “no, I need more time, I won’t be able to deliver the report on X date.” This was a superb illustration of how they retained their U.S. customers. The differentiator was that we had driven home the point that Americans need to hear the word “no,” if that is what the Indian intends. Any number of the usual Indian tactics such as understating, changing the subject, or saying “I will try” didn’t communicate “no” to an American—although they might have to another Indian.
The customer expectation needed to be communicated in a way that American consumers could understand. Teaching Indian representatives to do this increased customer satisfaction and retention.
You can contact Ranjini Manian at email@example.com
If you are from India and work with Westerners, or if you are from the West and work with Indians, I would love to hear your reflections and suggestions! E-mail me at Marshall@marshallgoldsmith.com.
Marshall Goldsmith, who writes Marshall and Friends every week for BusinessWeek.com, can be reached at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com. He provides his articles and videos online at MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com.