Commentary 1, Part 2
In contrast to Part 1 (LINK) in which I discussed the disadvantages of dispatching dedicated teams from Korea to manage a local overseas operation, another alterative is the hiring of Koreans permanently living abroad. The thinking is that these first and second generation Korean locals will be able to better represent the brand than Korean expatriates dispatched from their headquarters.
This approach does have merit.
Koreans living abroad have been educated and employed locally and have considerable localization insights. They are hired with the assumption that their understanding of the Korean language and heritage enables them to bridge the cultures.
While language and cultural understanding are huge pluses, a gap occurs as a result of the very advantage that local knowledge brings. These employees tend to be more comfortable with western business practices than with Korean workplace norms.
I have encountered two common situations.
One is the Korean locals who truly hope their heritage will help them overcome the cultural barriers but find working with their Korean counterparts to be more difficult than expected. The new hire eventually leaves for another opportunity with a western company and the more comfortable work environment.
The second situation occurs when the Korean local does not want to offend corporate management and becomes passive, avoiding pushing back against decisions and plans that are contrary to local practices and will not work outside Korea. Like with the previous outcome, they become frustrated with the situation and eventually explore other employment options.
Local Korean or Westerner
This said, perhaps the real challenge is not the recruiting of a local Korean but the hiring of a highly qualified individual—Korean or Westerner. Outside broad fields, such as Law and Finance in which Korean locals support launches very well, Sales, Marketing and Operations leadership require seasoned veterans in their market sector.
As always we welcome your comments and thought.
Look for the next in the series in which we discuss seeking out the right local management, partners and vendors.
In this series of commentaries I depart from a previous focus on sharing insights specifically to non-Korean global teams working for Korean companies.
Instead I now provide a roadmap and best practices to Korean management and overseas divisions. This includes new Korean brands eager to launch their products and services outside Korea.
The series is also applicable to established Korean brands already in overseas markets who could benefit from benchmarking “what works” and “what doesn’t.”
Frankly, too often I see the same missteps re-occurring. What is frustrating is witnessing one company enduring the challenges in their market entry only to see the same scenario repeated by another Korean brand entering the global market. .
So what are these common missteps and how can they be addressed? That is goal of this commentary.