Why is cultural intelligence a skill needed in the logistics industry?
Where does the need for cultural agility come into this? The answer is, at every level of a business. In an industry that is evolving so fast, companies need to adapt to cope. Everything from business models to HR strategies needs to be assessed. Here are some of the benefits of becoming culturally agile in this fast-changing industry.
- Many services providers in the logistics industry have grown through a series of acquisitions, which means systems and cultures within the company may be fragmented. Cultural sensitivity is essential to make sense of all this and draw up overall recommendations that will work across cultures if required.
- Cultural intelligence helps develop an in-depth understanding of working styles in other cultures. A culturally intelligent workforce will demonstrate better tolerance, trust and understanding of global colleagues. Cultural differences become strengths in problem solving, rather than obstacles, while improved collaboration drives the ability to respond quicker to market changes.
- Managers overseeing the bottom of the supply chain – drivers and warehouse workers, for example – will need strong motivational and conflict resolution skills to keep employees happy, efficient and productive. Understanding the mentality of a packer or a truck driver in, say, India, is important for the manager at head office in the US. This manager also needs to understand the issues facing team leaders in different countries of operation. Cross-cultural training offers a great advantage here.
- In an industry where cooperation with competitors could mean greater efficiency, relationships really are global, and often virtual. Being able to understand quickly how someone from another culture is thinking on a conference call, or during negotiations, is highly advantageous.
- Culturally sensitive leaders make better managers. They are able to better understand the dynamics of multicultural group at a meeting, for example. They are better at negotiating with other cultures, and at conflict resolution between cultures.
- ‘Last mile delivery’ is seeing a wide range of start-ups, many of them with new and disruptive business models; Uber, for example, has already introduced Uber Freight. Companies that are culturally agile enough to compete in this new world, understanding the needs of both customers and contractors, will be at an advantage. What works in Hong Kong, for instance, will be very different from what works in Peru.
- Logistics is by nature a global business that requires employee mobility. Cross-cultural training is essential for expatriates and their families; it will reduce culture shock and make the individual more effective and better poised to integrate with their new workplace.
- Being culturally aware helps individuals to recognise areas of their own communication that could be improved, to make their daily interaction with international colleagues more effective, and more enjoyable. How emails and memos are worded, for example, and whether and why, with some cultures, face-to-face brainstorming is preferable to a WhatsApp group.
- Attracting top talent is essential in a competitive marketplace. Companies that celebrate diversity, inclusivity and cultural sensitivity are likely to be more appealing than businesses that are perceived as inflexible and old-fashioned in their outlook. The diversity of a company’s workplace should reflect the diversity of its market – or consumers may not take that company seriously.
- What about the future? Autonomous vehicles, increased use of robotics in warehouses and drone deliveries are all becoming a reality. All pose a threat to the traditional workforce. Understanding how to communicate this change to employees and harness the talent of individuals to re-train them requires great cultural sensitivity.