Inside Aperian Global: Joyce Lee
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked Joyce Lee, one of our Web Tools Marketing Managers, based in Boston, USA, a few questions.
Joyce, what attracted you to the cross-cultural consulting industry? How did you join Aperian Global?
Culture is always close to my heart. I grew up in Hong Kong, where Chinese traditions clash with Western values. The biggest cultural impact in my life was the move to the U.S. 17 years ago. My family and I had a huge cultural shock for the first few years. I went to college in the Midwest. This was the first time I realized that U.S. culture is very complex. It is not what we see in the Hollywood movies. The culture in the Midwest is completely different than the East or West Coast cultures. I also have had the opportunity to work in global companies for most of my career. I have encountered a lot of conflict due to the lack of understanding of cultures and work-styles.
I have been working in the Learning and Development industry for 8 years, and have been involved in many client engagements related to leadership and sales development. In those conversations, many clients asked to include Aperian Global’s tools in the training programs to increase cultural awareness for their managers. That’s how I became familiar with Aperian Global and was impressed with the quality of work that they do. I am very fortunate to be able to join this world-class organization, one that aligns with my passion for culture and leadership development.
From your experience of dealing with change management projects, what are the main challenges for those involved in an INTERCULTURAL change process?
The challenges that we face for the intercultural change process are twofold. One of the most common issues is resistance to change from the employees in other regions. Those employees may not have direct access to corporate headquarters. For example, when you are trying to implement changes company-wide, employees from high context cultures, such as China and Japan, may have doubts and concerns around change, as they need to understand the full scope and impact in order to be on board. The other challenge is communication. Most U.S.- and Europe-based employees are more open to discussing their perspectives on the change strategies or initiatives that the organization is implementing. However, the employees in other regions where they may not open up that quickly to voice their opinions may feel neglected as they want to share their points of view in a less public setting.
How can organizations ensure that their communication of change management processes is handled inclusively?
One size does not fit all when it comes to communication. Organizations should be adaptive in terms of different communication styles in different regions. For example, in most western cultures, where people are more eager to express themselves in an open setting, company meetings and intranet forums may be good channels to collect feedback and promote change initiatives across the organization. In contrast, senior management should empower their mid-level managers to be advocates to promote change initiatives in high-context cultures. Mid- and front-line managers could have their own small group meetings to discuss the challenges and concerns about the change strategy. Senior management could provide tools for mid-level managers to open up the conversation. They should also encourage the mid-level managers to be their messengers to convey the message back to the employees in those regions.
In addition, transparency is a key element. Good leaders should articulate a clear plan for how the change strategy should be executed. What are the goals for the change? How can we measure success? What are the key milestones? Leaders should also report progress on a regular basis to keep their employees informed of the latest status.
You have a bilingual background, being both a native English and Cantonese speaker. From your experience of interacting with both groups, would you say these populations respond differently to change? Why (not)?
YES! Americans are positive when it comes to change. They generally believe change is good for long-term business sustainability. They are not afraid to test out anything, even if the outcome may not be as desirable as they first thought. On the other hand, Chinese tend to be more conservative when it comes to change. They prefer to maintain stability rather than shuffling things around, even if the change may improve efficiency and increase profitability. Change implementation will receive a lot of negative feedback, especially from people with seniority in the organization.
Lastly, tell us something that we don’t know about you yet.
I spent seven months working at Walt Disney World as an intern during my college years. It was a great experience to deal with people from around the world. Plus I got to get on all the rides at Disney every week!