Our Top 5 Tips for Working in International Markets

Since our inception in 2006, Skills International has worked with clients all over the world and from a wide range of sectors. Through this experience, we’ve learned that to reach the best project outcomes you need to truly understand your clients, their needs and the tools and techniques that work best on an international platform. Our team recently sat down and identified what we think are the five most important things to keep in mind when working with clients from around the globe.

People are more than their nationality

It’s easy to fall into the trap of overemphasising facets of culture. Although there certainly are cultural traits, we have found that even within the most collectivist of cultures, there are individual personalities, contexts and styles that need to be catered for. Always consider the whole context of the client; a client working in a Government Ministry will have a different set of expectations and success criteria to those in the corporate sector or NGOs.  The real world is more complex than a set of stereotypes and there are cultures and drivers that differ depending on the organisation you are working with.

Communication is more than talking

 Misunderstandings often occur between native English speakers.  Given this, you can imagine how they can occur in cross-cultural communication as well. We follow up every meeting with a summary of bullet points with decisions or courses of action clearly and explicitly stated using plain English. If graphic-based decisions are made, sketch and draw what was decided and include it in the summary. This gives the client an opportunity to review what was agreed at the end of each meeting to ensure you are on the same page. This is particularly helpful when you are working with people that speak other languages as it gives them a chance to visually process what was discussed and decided.

Partner with the right people

At Skills International, we are often approached due to our expertise in vocational education and New Zealand’s excellent reputation in this area. One of the reasons for our success has been our partnering with the right people. We work with organisations that share the same values, integrity, and ethics as us. We also look for partners that have strong local knowledge and experience and place their customers’ needs first. To identify the best partners, we use Government organisations and regional bodies to validate their credentials and reputation, as well as undertaking a structured due diligence process.

Define early how you will work together

Working cross-culturally across time zones and using varying platforms is our normal. The reality of being an international business means that we must adapt our schedule to operate in our client’s time zone. When working with new clients, it is important to take the time to ensure there is a clearly identified scope and deliverables as well as negotiated project process. By doing this, we can co-design a workflow that optimises technology and works well for everybody.

Use technology well

If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it is that technology is at a stage where cross border projects can thrive. One tip from us is to be prepared to quickly learn new technologies that the client uses. Make sure you have a reasonable understanding of how to use it before any critical meetings. We are currently working on some new projects where we have never met the client in person. Obviously, we are looking forward to meeting them face to face in the future, but in the meantime, it is fantastic that our projects have continued, and new ones are starting. We are excited about what we have been able to work on during the lockdown and ongoing travel restrictions and are looking forward to sharing the details publicly soon.