Custom-fit Communication

By Ed Frauenheim

Dec. 2, 2005

High-tech manufacturer KLA-Tencor is more serious about cross-cultural education since a manners mishap in Malaysia.

    About a year ago, the company, which makes equipment for the semiconductor industry and is located in San Jose, California, flew a German employee to Malaysia to help a customer with a malfunctioning machine. But the fellow didn’t spend much time getting to know customer employees there on a personal level—a key to doing business in much of Asia, says Lynne Stasi, chief learning officer for KLA-Tencor.

    “Because he didn’t do that rapport-building, they didn’t trust him to fix their machine,” she says. “He was there for a day, and they sent him back.”

    Today, KLA-Tencor uses GlobeSmart, a cross-cultural training product from consulting firm MeridianEaton Global. GlobeSmart is a Web portal that allows a range of employees to learn about the history of a country and to assess their own communication style to determine how they may need to adjust their behavior in a particular country.

    KLA-Tencor has Asia-based employees use GlobeSmart to relate more effectively to U.S. colleagues. For example, the site has wisdom for Asians regarding American e-mail culture, Stasi says. “Asian employees needed to understand that they did not need to copy U.S. executives on local e-mails,” Stasi says. “In Asia, this is viewed as being polite, but in the U.S. it contributed to e-mail overload.”

    Beyond GlobeSmart, KLA-Tencor is putting more attention on helping managers throughout the company deal with other cultures. That’s partly because of the international, “virtual” nature of product teams today, Stasi says. In one case, a KLA-Tencor device is manufactured in Singapore and Malaysia, with software written in India and the team leader located in the U.S.

    “Because that’s the wave of our future, everyone has to think globally,” Stasi says.

Workforce Management, November 21, 2005, p. 30Subscribe Now!

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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