Monday, June 17, 2013

Kia Motors America, A Bridging Culture Worldwide Case Study Success Story— A 2013 Revisit

By Don Southerton

As a disclaimer, the viewpoints of this report are solely the opinions of Don Southerton and Bridging Culture Worldwide.

Kia Motors America
I support a number of Korea-based global organizations. Many are in the automotive sector. This is because the top Korean auto maker (Hyundai and Kia Motors) has a huge overseas operations and the auto sector requires extensive infrastructure and staffing to support their network, including parts, sales, marketing, logistics, manufacturing, finance, R&D, design, legal, and compliance with a myriad of local, state and federal regulations.

Moreover, tier 1 vendors and suppliers now support the carmakers. This creates the need for these third party partners to better understand the mindset and corporate culture of Korea-based firms, such as Hyundai and Kia Motors.

First reported in 2010 and updated again the following year, I prepared a case study sharing how Kia Motors America, a subsidiary of the Hyundai Motor Group, highly proactively provided their team with support. This included Korean culture training for new employees and ongoing Korean cross-cultural workshops for the team.

For over 7 years and in cooperation with KMA’s Human Resource Organizational Development team Bridging Culture Worldwide has offered multiple week sessions of Korea 101 and 201 cross-cultural training. Program lengths vary to accommodate schedules but usually the first 6 weeks focus on history, Kia heritage, and popular culture. A second six weeks program looks at the modern Korean workplace and its norms, practices, and expectations.

In May 2013, we extended the training outside the corporate offices in California to a well-received web-based program offered to Kia Motors’ ever-growing US nationwide team.  

Kia has also provides ongoing support and coaching to key management and leadership. This includes Korea culture coaching to new non-Korean executives. Here we share Korea’s heritage, Kia history and corporate culture, workplace expectations, and etiquette, while providing answers to questions that surface day-to-day. We also prepare executives for their first visit to Korea and the norms/ expectations for meeting with senior Korean leadership and high-level meetings at Kia Motors HQ, R&D Center, etc.

Over the years we have supported KMA marketing teams, public relations, service, product planning, HR, legal and strategic developments teams. Our support has been diverse from working with Kia technicians competing in Kia Motors Company’s Global Automotive Technical Skills Competition in Seoul to sharing insights into the Korean workplace with university students working as interns at KMA each summer.
In closing the key to the success of Kia Motors America’s Korean cross cultural training has been the strong endorsement of the firms’ CEOs, senior American and Korean management, and the HR and OD team. As an organization they realize that their teams need support. In turn, we craft programs targeting their needs and flexible enough to meet demanding and ever-changing work schedules. Expecting employees to “ get it” without training and coaching rarely works. We are proud to work with Kia Motors and their team.

If you have questions on implementing a program to support your team, please feel to contact us at or call 1-310-866-3777

Copyright 2013 BCW

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