Missed Connections – intercultural communication
We work in a fast-paced multi-cultural environment where communication styles vary considerably. At Lufthansa Systems we now offer special workshops for our employees to reduce misunderstandings, bad decisions and mistrust. I took part in one pilot workshop and want to share my experiences. Maybe it will be as inspiring to you as it was to me.
The airline industry is constantly evolving, operating in an international environment on an increasingly interconnected planet and we are right in the middle of it. We all work in a fast-paced multi-cultural environment where communications styles vary considerably. These differences often cause friction which can lead to misunderstandings, bad decisions and mistrust.
In the last employee survey, it became clear that cultural differences play an important role in our customer contact. The survey showed that although every employee has access to the technical means of communication, the knowledge of how to work with different cultures in different communication styles could be improved.
For this reason, a project team was formed, consisting of members of the central HR department from Frankfurt and the HR department Asia Pacific to develop a tailor-made program that addresses the challenges of communicating across so many parts of the world.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” (Rollo May)
In May 2018, the first cultural communication workshop “How to communicate with customers across the globe in Lufthansa Systems” started with trainer Kyle Hegarty, who is originally from the US but lives in Singapore, at the headquarters in Raunheim. Since then, there have been more workshops in Raunheim, Hamburg, Berlin and Zurich. The 100% recommendation rate from attendees suggests this pilot has been a big success.
But what happens in such a workshop and who is the target group?
Two weeks before the workshop takes place the participants will be asked to complete an Extended DISC Assessment questionnaire, a personality test with the four basic types Dominant, Influential, Steady and Compliant. This behavioral profiling survey is explained in detail during the workshop.
Since I took part in one of the workshops, I can say that DISC is an interesting way to get to know yourself and your colleagues better. Although the questionnaire takes only about 10 minutes to complete, it is challenging. One should not over-analyze one's own answers, but rather give a first immediate response. No worries, there are no right or wrong answers!
After I had received my test results from the trainer, I looked at them curiously. However, the evaluation told me that I corresponded to 75%, 20% and 5% of three out of the four different basic types.
At the workshop, I had a chance to dig deeper into my personality and those around me. We were divided into 4 small groups and participated in activities to better understand out different working styles, how to identify them and how to work better with them. This was fun and interactive and I got some great communication ideas I’ve been using both in and outside of work.
So it is not surprising that within a culture people show different personality patterns and this is what we looked at next.
Throughout the workshop we did interactive exercises in smaller groups and looked at common mistakes where cultural breakdowns commonly occur.
Another highlight was when we compared countries according to their cultural value dimensions. To what extent does communication between Germans and, for example, Chinese resemble each other and how does it differ? It turns out there are a lot of differences! How does communication relate to our direct neighbors in Poland? Our colleagues got to learn this and much more in this interactive, personalized and fun workshop.
For colleagues who are new and have little experience in customer contact so far or would like to expand their knowledge in the field of intercultural communication, this workshop offers a good opportunity to deal with their strengths and weaknesses on a personal and business level and learn how to use and overcome them in dealing with other cultures. So this workshop is aimed at employees who work in different regions and are in customer contact with different cultures.
This workshop is a further step to help reduce missed connections, improve relations with colleagues from other offices and enhance customer relationships.
I hope many of our colleagues will join this workshop in the near future!
Have a look at our case study "How to turn intercultural challenges into differentiators?"