Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Everything Korea, May 22 Episode a Korea Perspective

Culture plays the dominate role in the Korea workplace and in overseas operations.

This week we’d like to share my book that tackles many of the issues that surface…. as well as providing workarounds.

The title is Korea Perspective

Follow the links or just ask, and we’ll forward a PDF copy.

My goal is for you to “move forward within the Culture. “

To discuss about more a Korean facing business question, Stacey stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet or chat by phone. 

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

Monday, May 15, 2017

Everything Korea May 15 Episode: Immersion, Where to Begin?

To qualify, specifically when working with teams outside Korea,
I fall back on to 3 fundamentals with regard to Korean business.

Hierarchy—place and order
Hierarchy is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Korean culture and deeply embedded in the Korean workplace in Korea and overseas.

Reaching back to Korea's Neo-Confucian past, social stratification is apparent in Korea's top companies like the Samsung, Hyundai, Kia Motors, LG and SK. More so, South Korea’s authoritarian military regimes of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s reinforced the model.

For Koreans hierarchy brings place and order to society and the workplace. Unlike the West, within this hierarchy no two individuals have the same place within the social matrix--age, education, family, employment and title /position with a company or organization determining where one stands within this matrix. So deeply does it impact Korea that rankings from one’s academic class standings to consumer rating of the major Group global brands can matter considerable.

Status—upmarket and Lux
Traditionally Korea was a status conscious society. For the elites this manifested in a wide range of status markers from treasured Celadon pottery, refined behavior, ritual robes, distinct cuisine, and table manners. Today a former rigid class structure no longer dominates—class distinction and status more determined by one’s education, employment, job position, and personal income. More so, we have seen considerable upward social mobility within Korea—a direct results of the nation’s economic successes.

Going hand and hand with the upward mobility has been the demand for luxury and premium goods and products. In fact, these (most often Western) lux items have taken on the role of status markers. This list can include designer eyeglasses, handbags, and watches, as well ties, scarfs, belts and name brand clothing.

Although some Koreans have shown concern over the desire for pricey goods, in the eyes of many Korean customers, the more expensive and more rare the more desirable the brand. Consumers equate value with a high price tag.

All and all what we see unfolding is an ever growing demand for upmarket goods and product in Korea—this consciousness driving a repositioning of Korean brands globally, too, -- Korean brands wishing to be seen as premium and among world’s leading consumer goods from cars to home appliances to electronics.

Generations—shared experiences

South Korea’s dominant age groups have great impact on Korean business culture, so there is value in understanding the differences in Korean generations. In South Korea, a generational group is defined more by its shared experiences than by a specific number of years.

For instance, older Koreans (60:70ers) who lived through the Korean War and its aftermath are more conservative, strongly allied with the U.S., and uncompromising towards North Korea.

In contrast, a group called Generation 386 (a phrase coined more than a decade ago,) are comparable in some aspects to American baby-boomers).

A third generation of South Koreans, those in the age group of 26-35, is commonly referred to as the New Generation or Shinsedae. Many of this group have studied abroad, worked most of their careers on overseas support and projects, are fluent in English (and often another language or two), and have a global perspective.

This group grew up after the 1997 economic meltdown in Asia, which strongly impacted South Korean culture. This younger generation of Koreans is less concerned about ideology and more pragmatic. Their primary concern is finding a job. They are also a strong “gotta have it” consumer class and individualistic as a result of the impact of globalization, the Internet, television, and the high percentage of students who attended U.S. schools and universities.

All three noted, I see hierarchy, status and generations as a lens to better understand the Korean mindset, both within their society and in the workplace across their global organizations.

Questions, comments, thoughts?

Monday, May 08, 2017

More than once, actually frequently….

A firm looking to enter Korea or one doing business with a Korea-based company contacts me and inquires on best practices.

Forthcoming, I provide a roadmap.

After some deliberation, the firm decides they will initially handle the launch or project themselves… and when time is right seek out my assistance—their team quite savvy.

In my experience organizations hoping their team will adapt quickly to Korea business rarely works.

Even if the plan includes hiring Korean or Korean heritage staff, which is helpful in language issues, it has little impact on dealing with more complex issues.

In the long run not fully comprehending Korean company culture, practices, norms and expectations will be costly, not only in fiscal terms, but in poor productivity, stress and frustration.

All said, there are positive options.

Provide immersion support across your organization to all those involved in the ventures. This includes offering your home office as well as the lead teams immersion training and then mentoring /coaching.

It will produce results, and is much less costly than the consequences that can include lawsuits, employee turnover, missed goals and low productivity--not to mention mounting tensions over missing expectations.

At minimum, key management need access to high level mentoring /coaching and someone to answer their questions on topics ranging from strategy to the impact of routine management changes at their Korean partners. They also need frequent updates on Korea and the market.

Here if you want to chat…

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Everything Korea, May 1 Episode Korea Immersion—Still the Best Practice

Immersion. It’s my approach when working with new executives, team members and their partner--service providers.

It’s not only a best practice followed by top Korea-facing companies, but a lesson-learned over the years on the consequences of not providing this support.

More than a few clients, for example, offers up to 18 hours of my Korea 101 ℠ programs, not to mention ongoing mentoring to the executives. We also provide immersion with New Employee Orientation and even for their summer intern programs.
Bottom line “Immersion” gives teams the skills to “work within the Culture.”

Oh, one more thing. 
All partner-providers, account representatives, and their support teams should receive immersion training…. 

Often overlooked these teams, too, need to “work with the Culture.” Korea facing clients differ greatly in nuance and practice from the other American, European and Asian brands they may support. To learn more, Stacey my personal assistant (Stacey@koreabcw.com) can schedule a time for us to discuss on how best to offer Korea 101 ℠ immersion programs for your team.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Everything Korea April 24, Western Brands Look to South Korea

Busy times here, with one eye on North Korea and another on Korean business.

That said, we’re back in the media and discussing Korea market entry.  I was honored to be interviewed by Kathrin Bussmann, the Founder & Principal of Verbaccino.
The interview is shared in The Worldly Marketer Podcast.

TWM 057: How Western Brands Can Succeed in South Korea

Here’s a link to the show: http://bit.ly/2pT4Gcm Please feel free to share it with your friends and social network. 
And if you’re able to leave a quick rating and/or review for the show on iTunes, we’ll be very grateful.
Meanwhile, we look and encourage your Korea-facing business questions and Comments, go to questions@koreabcw.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Everything Korea, April 17 Episode Working with Koreans, Part 3

I now turn to sharing some thoughts for local western teams working with Korean teams based in Korea.

With the shift to ever-increasing daily interactions with Korean HQs via web and phone conferences, western teams need even deeper practical insights into working within the Culture along with new skill sets. 

In particular, the Executive Coordinator/ Advisor model has had its limitations...but the Koreans assigned as expatriates do learn local norms and adapt over time. This mean the Coordinators molded to local operations with a little need for many in the local teams to become skilled in Korea workplace norms.

In contrast, Korea-based teams follow deeply imbedded HQ and company norms. They are not likely to model or adapt to their overseas subsidiaries.

This now means strong skills in managing the relationship and understanding the Korean workplace “in’s and out’s” and “do’s and don’t” as well as effective communication take on a new heightened significance. 

Over the past years, I’ve shared solutions in my books, articles and case studies…

That said, I find that each situation required my having to drill deeper to truly grasp and provide solid resolution…. Thus best to contact me and we can discuss…

Stacey, stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet, or chat by phone. For urgent matters, Text me at 310-866-3777

Monday, April 10, 2017

Everything Korea, April 10, Working with Korea 2017, Part 2

In this Part 2 of my “Working with Korea 2017” series, I cover several scenarios with best practices for supporting overseas team.

All take finesse and collaboration, plus recognize norms and practices differ… as well as require working “within the Culture.” To again clarify, my perspective is based on years working with Korea and especially in daily mentoring and providing strategy for their overseas operations—Koreans and Westerners.

Scenario One

It’s common for a Korea expatriate, frequently called a Coordinator, to directly request members of the team to gather information or data on the local operation. Usually, Korea has asked for this information and the Coordinator is executing the request. These always have a sense of urgency.  

The Challenge is the local departmental head may be circumvented (often unintentionally)…. and requests disrupt operations and designated priorities.  More so, the line of management for the department is blurred—i.e. staff confused on “who is in charge.”

The Workaround centers on an effective working relationship between the Coordinator and the department head.  An understanding must be reached that when requests from Korea (or from the senior Korean leadership at the subsidiary), it is first brought to the department head… and they handle who will execute.

In particular, the local western manager is more familiar with their team, individual workloads, any special situations and skill sets.  In fact, with a clear communication channel the work will be performed with better results by the individuals tasked with the assignment, and less stress on the Coordinator asked to acquire the data.

As a caveat, one burden on a department can be when a high percentage of work and tasks teams are engaged are to support Korea and not the local operations. Part 3 in the series will provide some thoughts on shifting workload dedicating to Korea requests to actually running the local operation.

Scenario Two

As noted, a Coordinator’s role is to support the local operation. Local teams and specialists are hired with a high degree of knowledge and experience. A clash occurs when decisions best left to those in the know are deflected.

The Challenge occurs when Coordinators override a decision or unilaterally make the call. This can range from the hiring of new employees to pushing off a much-needed program to the next year.

Again, the Workaround is a clear defined role for the Coordinator. They are advisors who can provide much-needed input and an HQ / mother company perspective… but not assume line manager responsibilities.

In other words, clarity must be established in regard to as long as they are acting on behalf of the mother company considerable weight must be given to their input. That said, even when they have the company’s best interest in mind, their own personal views must be gauged and moderated.

Scenario Three

Perhaps the most challenging situation is moving Coordinators to make a decision.

The Challenge- In most Korean companies leadership decide on direction and major issues. In turn, the working team's role is to implement or gather needed information. This role/ skillset changes when working level Koreans are assigned as an overseas Coordinator.

The Workaround- When conducting a meeting where a decision must be made recognize that your Coordinator will have considerable say in the outcome. First, since the topic and subject matter may be new to your Coordinator, I recommend you share prior to the meeting any needed background documents (best provided in PPT format).

In addition, have an informal pre-meeting Q&A with the Coordinator to brief and update them on any specifics. Note: they may need a day to review proposals and agreements, so timing is critical.

Even in the best cases, expect that the Coordinator may want to postpone any decision until they can carefully review and perhaps confer with Korea. I suggest all documents and meeting PPTs be immediately forwarded to the Coordinator.

I'd create a sense of urgency with a timeline for execution and implementation. Regardless, expect some delays and be patient.

Over the years, I've found that Coordinators appreciate when their overseas co-workers recognize that the internal approval process takes time and be ready to offer, as needed, additional supportive data or documents.

BTW, if you are a vendor and your firm provides services to a Korea-based partner, it’s best to provide both the western and Korean teams with background information prior to any meetings. Moreover, be prepared to share the meeting's content in digital format afterward with the Korean team, too.

Questions, Comments?

Email me at questions@koreabcw.com  Your comments, all kept private and confidential.

Other questions? Stacey, stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet, or chat by phone. For urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777.