Balancing the Global and the Local – the ‘What’ and the ‘How’

Balancing the need for consistency of process globally with the need to adapt to and respect local culture is a common challenge in global workplaces. However, this is not as simple as an either/or proposition. Sometimes there is the expectation that ‘When in Rome’ you should do as the Romans do.

mining safety-534517_ORIGINALWhen we are managing global workforces, the ‘what’ is often non-negotiable and universal. For example, in the mining industry, safety is a non-negotiable ‘what’ or practice. Yet, ‘how’ we achieve safety needs to be adjusted to fit into the local cultural context. In some cultures, there is a belief that nothing is ‘real’ or mandated until it is put in writing from management, and key safety processes need to be documented and distributed. In other more oral cultures, nothing is considered ‘real’ or significant unless it is heard from the mouth of a trusted friend or colleague. In such cultures, safety processes need to be discussed on a regular basis among teams.

What motivates is also a highly culturally specific thing. For example, avoidance of bringing shame onto ones’ own group will motivate appropriate behavior in some cultural contexts, whereas in other cultures such as that in Australia individual responsibility is emphasized. Particularly when it comes to performance incentives and motivation, cultural differences can have a huge impact on what works and what doesn’t. To try to introduce 360 degree feedback into a hierarchical culture can be disastrous and be a disincentive rather than engendering positive feedback.

So to ensure your global workforce is achieving, don’t forget – the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. And if you’re not sure ‘how’ and to adapt to local cultural norms, ensure you get specialist advice.

BI Update – What we’ve been doing, new people, transitions…

What we’ve been doing…

Emma Kettle in the Solomons

It’s been a busy start to the year.  I have enjoyed working with the Asia-Pacific leadership team of the International Committee for the Red Cross, delivering corporate keynotes, working with the leadership team of an ASX listed company and working with the ABC to facilitate the ‘Freedom of Expression’ event in Jakarta.  Emma Kettle has been in Honiara working on Australian/Local Staff Intercultural Essentials for an Australian client, Tom Parker has been delivering training on Intercultural Communication in and working on our new ‘Parents enabling Asia literacy ‘ program with peak parent bodies, the Asia Education Foundation and funded by the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations. Ramona has been working with an internationally focused government client on Values and Ethics – training their trainers to take our BI program in-house, as well as continuing to deliver ‘Intercultural Essentials’ programs around the country.  Robert Bean, our Adelaide based consultant has also been delivering ‘Intercultural Essentials’ programs for government.  John Fawcett, our NZ based consultant is currently directly engaged with the provision of counselling services to government in Christchurch.  After 30 years of post-crisis HR Consulting, this is the first time John has had to work in this capacity in his home country.

Joe Crumlin, our International Negotiations specialist has been working with our team to deepen our understanding of values-based negotiation. It’s interesting to note how the ability to engage with others, to find common ground and understand deep values not only underpins effective negotiations, it is also essential for good business, and effective intercultural engagement.

Honey has stepped into a new Client Relationship Management role at BI and is coordinating our service delivery.  It’s been a busy time for our home base in Surry Hills as we’ve also transitioned all of our IT systems and platforms and moved from PC to Mac.  We have even deeper empathy for our clients undergoing change and transition as a result!

Transitions and new people

Judy Hui

Emily D’Ath, who has done a superb job of Coordinating the BI team for the past four years has now taken up a position in Corporate Social Responsibility in Beijing as an AusAID Youth Ambassador for Development.   You can follow Em on twitter @EmilyDAth  We have a wonderful new Administration Coordinator at Beasley Intercultural.  Judy Hui loves excel spreadsheets and is keeping all of us organised.  She also happens to speak fluent Mandarin, Cantonese and English and has grade 8 piano.

Another intro – BI Consultant Tom Parker and his wife Rachel have just had their second daughter.  Welcome to the world Lila and huge congrats to Tom, Rachel and big sister Sylvie.  Lila will be speaking Mandarin in no time…Tom and Lila

Former BI Consultant and member of the extended BI Clan, Dr Melissa Butcher, who is now based in London, is finishing her next book – watch this space.  I’ve only read Chapter 6 so far and it is great stuff!  Will tweet when it’s out.

Does Diversity Training ‘work’?

The Boston Globe published an interesting article on Diversity training suggesting it simply doesn’t work: Although I don’t agree with all of the sentiments of the author, there is a grain of truth in there. Bad diversity training doesn’t work, and unfortunately poor quality diversity training does exist.  Diversity training which merely focuses on the provision of information or statistics around diversity, and legal imperatives for ‘compliance’ does not necessarily lead to behavioral change, and in many instances may contribute to and reinforce negative stereotyping.   Definitions of cultures which utilize racial profiling, as is commonly the case in the USA, or only focus on defining the characteristics or behaviors of minority group members can also amplify the perception of difference and contribute to further marginalization.

The good news is, good diversity training works and has a significant impact.  The key, however is ensuring diversity programs leverage our understanding of group behavior and change management.  They also need to develop key skills and strategies to enable and facilitate participation and engagement among people from diverse backgrounds.

A globalising, and increasingly diverse workplace

Our workplaces need to change to reflect the changes in our world.  Greater workplace diversity is resulting from globalisation, labour mobility, and an ageing population.  Increasing levels of awareness of the need for greater participation of women, particularly at Board and senior management levels are also contributing to the need to get diversity right.  In Australia, ASX 200 companies are being required to report against gender for the first time.  Yet, change can be challenging, it is easy and comfortable to retain the status quo.  Effective diversity training can make a significant contribution to more effective workplaces, provided it is delivered in the right manner.

What diversity training needs to include

Effective diversity programs go beyond the provision of data regarding this business case, instead they challenge participants to reflect upon their own position and dominant perspectives and develop greater empathy and understanding of the realities of others.  Such reflection can be confronting and challenging, and it is vital diversity programs are delivered by highly competent facilitators, with a focus on organisational change management rather than simply information based training.

At Beasley Intercultural, we deliver diversity training to firstly raise awareness – not only of ‘the other’ but of the self.  Everyone has a complex identity, and has groups to which they belong and ‘cultures’ where they are in their comfort zone.  In our diversity training we explore the ‘cultures’ by which people identify and define themselves, and the spoken and implicit rules in those cultures.  We enable people to experience and reflect upon the unspoken ‘norms’ of participation and engagement in a workplace and reflect upon and the barriers may exist to inclusion and participation.

At Beasley Intercultural, we ensure our diversity training develops skills – skills in the navigation and negotiation of difference, and the ability to find common ground.  These skills are vital, not only in the internal processes within today’s organizations, but in providing service to our clients and penetrating and delivering to new markets.  So often, the key requirements for effective engagement stem from the need for interpersonal and communication skills.   We also draw upon the latest theory of how the brain works, and how people respond to difference to work with clients to expand personal comfort zones and develop greater skills in self-management in stressful or changing workplace environments.

Structural barriers to participation and inclusion need to be addressed

We also acknowledge training is just one element of the process of enabling more effective diversity management within organizations.  While training is effective for developing skills and awareness, it cannot be expected to address structural barriers to participation.  Issues of recruitment, induction, performance rewards, hours, and structure of business participation are also vital.

Change needs to be strategically planned and managed

Simply telling people about diversity is not enough.  Being told something is good for you is rarely an incentive to change.  Just think of the number of times we are told we should eat healthier food and exercise more.  We know it makes sense, we know we would feel better, but it’s just easier to do things as we always do.  If we are serious about making our institutions more inclusive, we need to plan a strategy, set targets and measure performance against these targets.  We must also include quality diversity training as a catalyst for change.  If you are hoping your business is more effective in client service, we don’t simply deliver ‘client service awareness’ – we need to be more thorough.  It is the same with diversity management.  Lets get beyond mere ‘awareness’ of Diversity and get focused on achieving results.

Email Honey Muir at Beasley Intercultural to request an email overview of the Beasley Intercultural one-day ‘Diversity Essentials’ training package.



photo: renjith krishnan

What’s been happening at BI

It’s been a busy time at BI, we’ve been celebrating our 10th birthday, and traveling to consult with clients in Hong Kong, China and Indonesia as well as delivering training programs to participants around Australia in government and corporate sectors.  Ramona has been particularly busy with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Tamerlaine with PriceWaterhouse Coopers and AMP Capital. Tom has been delivering programs in Melbourne, Sydney and Shanghai and Uppinder in Sydney.  Tamerlaine has also completed a ‘Women on Boards’ course.  Our report on ‘Twinning’ (International partnerships for capacity building) was officially endorsed by APEC in Peru.

BI Activities



It’s been a busy few months for the BI team, some of our activities include


-Assisting the Australian Olympic Committee, Team and Section Managers and Australian Swim Team with cross-cultural issues prior to the Beijing Olympics;


-Consulting with numerous corporate clients focusing on cross-cultural leadership and management;


-Delivering training programs for Federal Government Departments on effective cross-cultural service delivery;


-Presenting at the Ernst and Young Global Mobility Series in Sydney and Melbourne, and at the ‘Engaging with Asia’ Asia Education Foundation conference in Adelaide;


-Delivering cross-cultural ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programs for trainers in Sydney and London prior to working in Asia; and


-Participating in the 2020 summit


We were delighted to have an in-house India update for our team delivered by Kama Maclean. Kama is a Lecturer in South Asian and World History in the School of History at the University of New South Wales. Her insights on India were invaluable.


Tamerlaine has also been appointed to the NSW Asian Business Advisory Council.

Photo: Vlado