Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ten Valuable Insights into Korea Business

We have to admit US-North Korea talks top the list of newsworthy topics this week, although the Steel and Aluminum trade issues are not to be overlooked. 

I do have my opinions :)

All said, this read shares: “Ten Valuable Insights into Korean business.” This is something I often incorporate into advising and mentoring.

As food for thought, I am not advocating we drop Western norms and practices. In fact, it was developed in collaboration with a senior Korea manager more as a reference.

Specifically, we looked to share a perspective and explain to the local team the company culture in Korea — the Westerner employees lacking first-hand knowledge in the mother company and seeing the Company only in their local operations.

Ten Insights
• Trust There is a very strong trust within teams and in the company. This is often because of a legacy in achieving many bold accomplishments — often seemingly impossible tasks.

• Family Traditional family norms permeate the work culture (Elder brother as boss, senior managers, etc.) and the related concept that co-workers are seen as family.

• Challenge A one-word summary of the Korean workplace would be Challenge — both in what it has overcome and in what it expects of its global employees.

• Input Companies are very hierarchical but actively demands input from all levels. In fact, top management make decisions based on the expectation that the lower levels have considered all possible outcomes and challenges.

• Teamwork Once a decision is made all dissenting or differing opinions unite to embrace success.
• Solution In Korea, employees do not bad mouth or put down their company. In fact, employees feel that such an attitude is “part of the problem” and not “part of the solution.” Even among friends, negative thoughts are not shared.

• Relationships From higher ranks to the lower ranks, they are very hierarchical. But, here are also very protective organizations. On one level, norms dictate that Seniors are demanding of their Junior employees. One reason is to make sure Juniors learn the work expectations, practices, and culture.
On another level, workers must ensure that mistakes are not made that could reflect badly on their Seniors the department or the company. Once a Junior works for a Senior that Jr. is part of a network of other employees under the umbrella or protection of the Senior.

• Expectations There are very high expectations that must be met. Doing a great job is what you are paid to do…
• Collaboration The American workplace process is often to receive an assignment, clarify details, go off, work hard, and come back to the manager with the result. The Korean staff will take a different approach. They will receive an assignment, work and discuss it collectively with others, and go back to the manager on multiple occasions informally to make sure they are following the path the manager wants. This method takes times, but Korean workers know when the manager sees the result, it will be what the senior requested.

And in closing…Adaptability     Flexibility and acceptance of change. Projects are subject to lots of change — some speed up, while others stall.


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