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Cultural Considerations on Global Business Practice

Business Management and Enterprise (Year 12) - Environments (U4)

Kanwal Singh

Levels of Education

For businesses operating culturally diverse markets, workplaces must consider the differences in levels of education. Employees may be educated at varying levels, such as a high school level or university level.

Despite the continual processes of globalisation, education levels in different countries can differ greatly. Countries have different educational courses and it is important for a business to consider how it will integrate local employees into their operations.

When employing workers, it is expected that per the task, employees must possess certain levels of knowledge and skills attributed to education. However, as the average level of education may differ between countries, businesses may assume that the average worker is capable of fulfilling tasks at an equal level to workers in other countries. This may not be case, so businesses must use their management skills and knowledge to be able to work out which employees are most well suited to particular job roles.

By accounting for differing levels of education, businesses can employ and allocate their workers to positions that best suit their level of ability. They can also restructure tasks and operational structures to account for educational differences in order to minimise harm to business operations.


Customs refer to the traditional and widespread way of thinking and behaving in different cultural and business situations. Businesses must consider the way in which they conduct themselves, ensuring they adhere to specific cultural situations.

For example, in Asian cultures, the consideration of ‘face’ is exceptionally important in negotiations and communication, which refers to the manner in which two people behave towards each other in order to avoid loss of self-respect or prestige by the other party. The notion that no one 'wins' against another in a negotiation directly contradicts the Western perspective, in which one party leaves disadvantaged and the other as the victor.

Other customs could include bribes, attitudes to authority, power structures and behavioural differences which influence the way in which employees interact. Businesses must consider the way in which various customs and cross-cultural beliefs interact within a business environment to facilitate their global business practices.

Holidays and Celebrations

When operating overseas, businesses must consider the differing cultural holidays and religious celebrations. Such celebrations are often recognised in the national calendar and are frequently national holidays. Workers expect to be able to take part in these celebrations and for a business to deny workers the opportunity to do so may cause cultural offence and a loss of motivation through cultural alienation.

When operating within a new market, a business should seek advice regarding key holidays and celebrations. This ensures they are not offensive to overseas partners. The human resources division can ensure rosters and timetabling is in accordance with these key dates.

For example, during Chinese New Year, both employees and businesses in Taiwan and China will often take an entire week off work. Businesses should try and avoid causing cultural offence by avoiding operation during this time in China and not scheduling meetings in the days leading up to Chinese New Year.

Religious Beliefs

Religion is often relevant to work practices, holiday entitlements, clothing (i.e. uniforms), and facilities layouts. For different religions, their beliefs and faith may contribute to how sensitive they are to factors affecting culture and religion.

For example, employees with Muslim beliefs and attitudes may be greatly affected in a location where pigs (pork is not consumed by Muslims) are slaughtered in the local area.

If business fail to recognise these religious variances in their employees, it could lead to demotivation, unhappiness and alienation among them. This would result in higher absenteeism and lack of attendance at work, adding to overall inefficiency.

Religious beliefs should be catered for in the workplace. This includes providing time off for those who need to take leave for religious festivals, catering to dietary restrictions, prayer rooms and etiquette surrounding interactions with people of different religions.

Business Etiquette

Business etiquette refers to the customs and practices that are expected in business communication and negotiations. If a firm fails to recognise the etiquette of different cultures, this can be offensive and can damage relations in supply chains.

For example, this includes the concept of ‘face’ (discussed earlier), giving gifts or even overall manners. By absorbing the etiquette of the other culture into their operations, businesses can ensure stronger relationships are built.

Communication Protocols

Communication protocols are the ways in which individuals and businesses communicate with their internal and external stakeholders. Businesses that can communicate concisely in a cross-cultural context display a sense of professionalism and can create efficiency through the avoidance of miscommunication and confusion.

This can include understanding status, organisational hierarchy, modes of communication and accepted greetings. When communication is optimized, opportunities for future deals and arrangements can be made more efficiently due to the mutual understanding between cultures. Businesses should invest resources into setting rules and regulations surrounding communication in the workplace and educate those working for the business in cultural sensitivity workshops.

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