With continued evolutions in cloud-based technologies and other online tools, international business is becoming an affordable reality for more and more businesses. With this major jump, challenges are aplenty, with one of the most difficult being maintaining company goals and policies on the global scale, as well as maintaining (or evolving) business ethics in a cross-cultural business relationship.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a slew of challenges for business both small and large, but much of it was based around remote work, and this trial-by-fire with internet communications and business dealings helped groom many people for international business, without them really knowing it. Remote work is expected to continue after the pandemic, and here is a look at some other changes in international business, and how they may affect business from an ethics standpoint.
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Even on the local level, businesses that make a committed effort to promote inclusion and cultural diversity within the walls of their operation generally retain more employees and have more repeat customers, including in the B2B world. The larger a reach of a company’s business becomes, the more important it is to be culturally aware, or you risk the chance of accidentally disrespecting a potential client.
Training in cultural awareness should be given in steady doses at all levels of your company, but especially for those individuals who will be participating in international business operations. Some good ways of increasing awareness are having themed days at work, or simply sharing statistics on the proven success of an inclusive business.
On the other side of the coin, however, good international business people must also be ready to let their proverbial guard down on certain things that the company culture may consider ethical, but businesses from other countries may not follow. An understanding of this helped Marcel de Jong when he started his business abroad.
There is a fine line to toe between bringing up a moral issue and making them feel guilty for said issue, but if approached with a soft hand and an open understanding that it is just a difference in cultures, agreements can be made, and it may also open up a dialogue related to your own practices and how they can improve.
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When an international business moves from having clients outside of the U.S. to having operations outside of the U.S., regulatory, labor, tax information and more needs to be priority number one for those heading up the globalization operations. When making decisions about these operations, moral questions are almost endless, as other countries may offer much cheaper labor or facility costs, but following that path means fewer jobs for Americans. A typical example is when you consider all the great benefits of starting a business in Switzerland.
It comes down to transparency, as far as ethics go with global operations. If companies advertise as being All-American, and then open a foreign operation to save costs, there will certainly be some backlash focused on ethics. Toeing the line between making sound business decisions and doing right by company morals is no easy task, but being open with the reasons for why any and all decisions were made is the best way to have a firm defense against anyone who may question the ethics of a given decision regarding international operations.
As operations move overseas, employees tend to move on at a higher rate, in fear of job security. This is where transparency is doubly important, and staffing a group of leaders who display honesty and transparency, and building a company culture that reflects those beliefs, will ensure communication between concerned employees is transparent, thorough, and encouraged.
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Ultimately, international business ethics follow the same lines as their domestic counterparts, just with an added focus on understanding that differences in operations, communications, business norms, etc. will be different and should be openly discussed.