How software developers can overcome Cross-Cultural Communication mistakes in IT offshoring?
The IT talent pool available in India is highly skilled. These educated IT professionals are good English speakers. They should always try to go that extra mile in cross-cultural communication to understand customer’s needs when working on an IT offshore project.
All offshore IT projects begin with a transfer of knowledge. This activity between stakeholders and developers is not always easy because the Indian developers have been trained in the Indian educational system. The Indian educational system, though imparting superb technical training, misses the mark on communication and soft skills. How can developers and stakeholders overcome this?
Three Possible Solutions:
1. Research the Company
Select one offshore employee to thoroughly research the company they are going to work with. Research what problem the company is trying to solve through their products, how the past and current products (including the software currently being assigned) solve customer problems and are different than past solutions, what kind of problems they want to avoid in their product roll-out, and how customers will interact with the product, among other aspects.
Another, often missing element is in understanding the client’s vocabulary. Each discipline and profession has a particular language. What is the corporate lingo? The best customer service representatives know how to talk to their customers in a language they understand. This is irrespective of crossing cultures.
2. Create a Training Program to Deliver to the Indian Team
Based on the research conducted, develop a training module and deliver it to the India team for every project, discipline, or delivery to a new customer base. This may seem too time-consuming and unnecessary at first. Developers may scoff at this idea thinking they are already experts in their work, and this training is not directly related to their work. This attitude can have detrimental effects. There have been several cases where the offshoring team was not given access to this critical training, resulting in the client abroad canceling the job within the first few weeks.
3. Learn Soft-Skills
Soft-skill training is imperative for being able to deliver projects effectively. Soft-skills and language fluency go hand in hand. Managers and on-site have noted many concerns after realizing that an ability to speak English does not equate to fluency.
Top 5 Communication Challenges Noted by Managers of Indians in Offshoring Projects:
>Use plain, conversational English.
- Indians are often too formal and wordy.
- On-site is not always able to understand technical terminology.
>Soft-skills and command of the language.
- Lack of vocabulary and expressions may limit understanding.
- Use of inflection or clear enunciation while speaking.
>Question / Paraphrase
- Understanding and use of a wide variety of questions.
- Lack of paraphrase skills.
- Use of reflective listening.
- Learning to be and to extract specifics.
- Use of “I language.”
>Other forms of communication
- Phone and voice mail skills.
- Best practices for e-mail communication.
Some of these skills come with practice, while some are cultural-dependent. The bottom line is if the foreign-based team is unable to understand the India team due to a basic lack of communication; the project suffers, less opportunity to maintain relationships exist, and overall the benefit for the on-site side is lost.
To avoid these mistakes, invest time in these suggestions and personalized coaching for those employees who would value it most. The cost in short term will seem high, but in the long term, your company and team could see longer-lasting projects, assignment of more projects and, better job security for your team and your company.
While some may think that these issues are not important as they have not been affected by them, please do not let the illusion of this steer you away from understanding its core importance. Communication skills are a cornerstone of business. These skills are challenged even more when interacting cross-culturally. It is important that companies and their employees take this seriously for their own career development as well as company strategic growth.
Click here to read more about the effective methods of communication for virtual teams.
This article is publishing under the series “Bridge the communication gap of virtual teams” by Bridge Global IT Staffing. Stay tuned for more articles from this series…