Did you know that different cultures view time in a variety of ways? It can be easy to take a narrow view on the concept of time and think that all cultures value punctuality in the workplace and strict deadlines like we do.
How we view time is usually based on how our cultures have developed and how they continue to evolve over time. Every country in the world can be placed on a spectrum when it comes to scheduling, according to Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map. From most punctual on the left to least punctual on the right, here it is:
For example, most industrialized western cultures including our own and Germany, Switzerland and the UK, are used to schedules. We have had years of a reliable economy and base schedules on systems and processes that we know always come through.
Less industrialized nations, such as Kenya and Saudi Arabia, have needed to be flexible to adapt to an ever-changing atmosphere. This means they value flexibility and adaptability over more rigid schedules. Workplaces that operate on a more linear time schedule, as we do in the U.S., tend to be more productive. It’s important, though, to realize that neither way is wrong. We simply need to know how to work with those on a more flexible time schedule if they are part of our workforce.
Which Nations Exceed and Why
When you are in an environment of constant change and upheaval, it doesn’t make much sense to create rigid schedules that very well may change in the next week or even day. This is the case with nations with an unstable government or economy. Those nations that have dealt with and continue to deal with instability simply view time differently. Workers in Brazil are not likely to arrive on time daily and knock out a numbered list of tasks in order. Those in Japan, however, would thrive with this system.
What This Means for Your Business
Knowing how other cultures operate is always beneficial for business owners and HR managers. This becomes especially important if you work with other cultures. If your business outsources work to other countries or consistently does business with those from other countries, these differences are crucial. They also matter if you tend to hire a number of workers who have been raised in other countries.
Intercultural Understanding if You Work with Other Countries
The challenges of cross-cultural management can often impact how productive your business is. The key to successful management is understanding differences and working around them. Knowing that your business partner in Mexico is not disrespectful when he logs on to a conference call ten minutes late is important. You can also use this information with outsourced employees.
Keep in mind that they may view scheduling in a different way and that you need to educate them on your processes. This will help you manage them in a more effective way and not become frustrated by their differing mindset.
Managing Employees from Other Countries
Communicating the importance of timekeeping best practices is also critical for your workers who come from different cultures. Even though they now live here, they may still fall into old habits or patterns.
Punctuality in the workplace may have been less important than always showing they could adapt to different tasks and jobs in their home country. Though these qualities can still be assets, your HR team should also educate them on why you value timeliness.
Having an Employee Time and Attendance Policy
All of your employees should adhere to a set attendance and time policy. This includes workers who have been born and raised in the States as well as those from other cultures. Your policy should include a clear guide on what is paid and unpaid time off, when and if employees are allowed to leave early or come in late, and disciplinary procedures.
Make sure you have an open door policy so that employees can ask questions and easily communicate with the HR department when needed. You should also consider putting tools in place such as remote scheduling and employee time and attendance software to assist your team in meeting attendance goals.
Stressing the Importance of Punctuality in the Workplace
Do your employees know why timeliness is important to your overall work environment? Telling workers they need to adhere to a policy without showing them why can lead to frustration. Make sure you communicate with them and show them how punctuality leads to more production, less stress on the HR department, and an overall happier workplace. You may also want to put a reward system in place for those who exceed at showing up on time and alerting HR promptly of schedule changes.
We can learn a lot from looking at other nations and how their attitudes and views on time have evolved. The culture we live in values being on time, working set hours, and adhering to a schedule. These help us meet deadlines, increase workflow, and be more productive.
Make sure you communicate with those from other cultures and understand that they may view time differently. When you can see the bigger picture, you can often find ways to help them adhere to your policies while still appreciating the flexibility they value.