The Anatomy of a Business Health Check
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Open Door Policies Don't Work
Does this sound familiar?
"I Have an 'Open Door Policy' - If you ever need anything, anyone from
senior management right down to the janitor is free to come in and speak
openly with me"
🦗 Silence 🦗
... 6 Months Pass
🦗 Silence 🦗
In over 25 years of working with companies across Asia, I have witnessed only a handful of companies that have successfully implemented an 'Open Door Policy' where employees feel free to communicate with senior management - let alone the CEO of their organisation.
Especially for the new expat, this may be confronting, confounding and for some, infuriating.
There are many cultural, linguistic and 'human' factors that lead to the silence that many foreigners experience - The good news is that there IS a way to get your people to communicate with you openly and honestly ... sometimes too honestly. In fact, if you do things well enough, you could find yourself with so much information coming from the ground that the biggest task will be working out how to analyse it, measure it and prioritise what needs to be done.
Trust, Anonymity, Language, Culture - Relationships
Why should someone trust you when you are just a foreigner, probably passing through for only a couple of years? Why would someone say something that could jeopardise future relationships, promotions or business opportunities just for the sake of ... you?
Relationships in life and business are paramount across Asia. Relationships are 'Social Capital' and in Chinese they are referred to as 關係(traditional) 关系(simplified) Guān Xī while in Thailand they are referred to as เส้น Sên. All across Asia, these relationships are lifetime tributaries that need to be maintained. These relationships will generally trump any relationship with a (perceived) short time foreigner in the country. Threats of 'firing' or 'punishing' people who don't communicate will only make things worse.
Language is another factor that comes into play. Language and Culture are inextricably linked. Just because someone CAN speak English doesn't mean that they feel comfortable speaking in English. Even if they speak almost flawless English, there might be some subjects that they just don't feel comfortable speaking about - things that may be directly linked with the culture and best discussed in the local language. Even if they could find the words in English to explain things, would the foreigner really understand?
How do you get people to communicate openly and honestly then?
Kognisens Business Health Checks are designed and executed in a way that builds trust with both the management team, foreign team members and local team members. All information shared both through interviews and via surveys is anonymous, and although organisational 'segments' can be defined for score comparisons that allow management to compare different departments within the organisation, during the planning stage, we will look at the numbers and do our best to ensure that no responses will either directly or by deduction, be able to traced back to an individual.
Questions are presented in the language that feels most comfortable for the respondee, and they are developed by native speakers of the language to ensure that they are correct and relevant to employees.
During facilitation sessions and one-on-one / group interviews, participants can speak freely in their own language without fear of negative repercussions of their responses. Relevant data will be translated back into English (or other base language) only during the analysis and reporting stages.
The Tyranny of Western Centric Surveys
"Management communicates confidently and clearly and in a timely manner?"
A question similar to this was used by a Fortune 500 company Employee Survey that was distributed to employees all around the globe of a multinational company. The subsequent responses to this and similar questions in Thailand almost got the CEO fired. The problem was that the staff actually loved their CEO and believed that he was the most valuable asset of the company. What went wrong?
For any native speaker of English, it would be directly apparent what this question is 'getting at'. It's probably linked to a metric that has to do with 'management communication' and / or 'management efficiency'.
In the west, people are used to taking such questionnaires, and respondees may often 'feel' the gist of a question even if that gist isn't directly expressed.
Google Translate doesn't cut it
It would seem that the company used a combination of Google Translate and perhaps some US Thai Citizens who probably hadn't lived in Thailand for a long time. The language and culture had changed, as had terminology that is used in the corporate environment. The way the above question was translated left ambiguity as to whether it was about the CEO himself, the entire executive leadership team, middle management or a direct supervisor.
Upon investigation, employees revealed that their understanding was that the way management was translated throughout the survey, they took it to mean 'direct supervisor' or 'middle management' - two groups within the organisation that caused a great deal of grief with employees of this particular company.
The result? The US Headquarters understood that the employees were rating the CEO and his head was subsequently put on the chopping block. After a subsequent Kognisens Health Check, the rating for the CEO achieved a score of 89% as opposed to the initial 58%.
While global companies may need to use a 'universal' tool to measure all of their business units, the 'universalness' of such tools means that cultural and linguistic relevance takes a back seat and subsequent results are at risk of being skewed.
What Makes the Kognisens Business Health Check Different?
Kognisens Business Health Checks are designed to build trust with your team and work with them in the understanding that the information shared is there to help improve things for everybody.
Kognisens agents work as trusted 3rd-party representatives that understand both the language and culture of the people in your organisation, and more importantly, understand how to appropriately communicate those things to foreigners in their native tongue whether it be English, Chinese or other.
As part of the trust building activities, we meet with your teams and ensure that their is a full understanding of what the Business Health Check is, why it is being done, what's expected of them, what protections are in there for them, what the key measurement indicators are using the local language and cultural examples as well as how to use the communication channels that will be set up for them.
Ensuring that we maintain their trust is just as important to us at Kognisens as it is to them as our business depends on us keeping our word with our clients.
The result? We find that information starts to flow freely to our team from then on in.
If you've reached this point, we need to talk.
Click the button below and let us know a little bit about your company and we can schedule a no obligation chat to see how we might be able to help you improve the way that your organisation communicates, works together and smashes through your business goals.