In this Part 2 of the Culture Puzzle, I’ll look from the perspective of Korean companies and their willingness to adapt and embrace new ideas while localizing their overseas operations outside Korea.
With this, how adaptive are Korean teams and management when they have operations in another country outside Korea?
The simple answer is it varies from region to region, country to country and even within a company that has several local subsidiaries in a county.
Layer on an openness to change varies with individuals, plus if there a local DNA that fosters, coaches and encourages all to adapt vs. one where the pressure is to stay the course.
So what is changing?
Frankly, over the past decades little has changed in the expat model. The Korean expatriates, often called Executive Coordinators, are consistently highly engaged in the local operations, decision-making and the approval process-- often holding on to what worked in Korea.
More so, I see few differences from the past in their workplace dress, protocols, work habits and grueling long hours—even with generational shifts occurring. So too, within expats, we can find rigid thinking and risk avoidance overshadowing the openness to change.
Surprisingly, where I see the potential from change is from within the companies in Korea. In fact, in what was once a sea of rigid conformity in 2018 the Korean domestic workplace is undergoing radical change.
It is here we’ll potentially see an openness to change that gets transplanted to Korean overseas operations. This newer generation and more progressive management when assigned to an overseas position may bring their progressive values, attitude, and onlook towards the workplace.
This includes as examples no tolerance for "bullying" and companies that have become more sensitive to work life balance with broad mandates in place. Workers are now, too, boldly voicing publically concerns when policies are not followed.
Employees, leadership and government, too, are pushing back on old practices and there is a widespread acceptance that Korean business, domestic and overseas, must embrace innovation to be competitive.
In Part 3 of the Culture Puzzle, I will share my workarounds and work-throughs for local teams finding resistance to change, openness to new idea and flexibility… all needed the wake of pressure to better react to local trends and market conditions.