La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

Intercultural business communication and Financial Shared Services Centres

Martin Fahy
Sophie Cacciaguidi

Die zunehmende Globalisierung führt zu neuen Problemen der interkulturellen Kommunikation. Diese Studie zeigt anhand einer Analyse von Phänomenen der Betriebskommunikation in Finanzdienstleistungszentren auf, wie mehrsprachig geführte rückwärtige Dienste von multinationalen Unternehmen in Irland ihre Abläufe zu rationalisieren versuchen und dabei neue Probleme schaffen. Manager sehen sich als Führungskräfte, die eine reine Finanzdienstleistung erbringen und wo möglich Kosten reduzieren, wobei sie die Sprachenfrage am liebsten ausschliessen. Teammitglieder sind dagegen oft motiviert, in einem solchen Betrieb zu arbeiten, weil sie internationale Erfahrung erlangen und ihre englischen Sprachkenntnisse verbessern wollen. Die Teams konstituieren sich aber in der Regel auf Grund von nationalen Zugehörigkeiten. Die mangelnde Erfahrung und Beratung bei interkulturellen Konflikten und sprachlichen Problemen führt zu Gefühlen der Isolation und zu Stresssituationen. Das Zusammenziehen von Finanzdienstleistungsteams unterschiedlicher Sprache an einem Ort ist zwar technisch und wirtschaftlich machbar, stellt aber eine Anzahl kultureller und linguistischer Probleme, die nicht einfach damit gelöst werden können, dass man Fragen der Sprache und Kultur aus den Prozessen verbannt. (Red.)

While many companies have successfully addressed the issue of product localisation, they have experienced limited success in the areas of international and cross-cultural management. Indeed today, most firms acknowledge that the cultural diversity of the international marketplace has led to increased intercultural communication problems. Anecdotal evidence suggests that their response to the overwhelming complexities of managing intercultural interactions is to drive out the differences by institutionalising familiar mono-cultural work practices and routines across the entire organisation. Employees are compelled to leave their ethnic, linguistic or national cultural identities on the sidewalk before going to work each morning: the organisational and national culture of the multi-national corporations (MNC) trumps all other traditions as success within the organisation is intrinsically tied to a willingness to behave like everyone in the organisation and to share its dominant values (Weaver 2000).
This paper provides an analysis of selected linguistic and intercultural business communication issues in Financial Shared Service Centres (FSSC). Based on in-depth case studies and interviews, it focuses on the (i) shared experiences of those instrumental in introducing shared services centres within organisations - including the cultural and linguistic challenges and difficulties encountered; (ii) intercultural business communications problems arising in FSSCs, specifically those arising in business meetings.

The Shared Service Phenomenon

FSSCs are centralised multilingual back office processing operations designed to provide transaction-processing services to operating sites in Europe. Since the mid-1990, they have become an established part of the business landscape and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. When first conceived, the objective of the shared services concept was to create, almost exclusively, vast key punching factories for huge volumes of paper invoices or journals and other transactional documents. The rationale for this move was prompted by a number of factors, including: the enormous pressure of MNCs to cut costs in highly competitive markets; the comparative high cost of European back office services when benchmarked against back office costs in North America; the opportunities for centralisation presented by the harmonisation of European accounting, taxation regimes and the liberalisation of telecommunication markets; the emergence of enabling technologies in the form of International Direct Dial, International Virtual Private Network, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems and Inbound International Toll Free Services. Most importantly, through FSSCs, the opportunity arose to employ highly skilled multilingual staff at lower cost to specialise in data entry and transaction processing. This undoubtedly reduces the amount of management required to deliver a quality service while improving productivity, standardising processes across operating units and across countries at a single corporate location with a multilingual taskforce.

The Research Approach

The research consisted of a three-part empirical analysis of FSSCs in Ireland. The first part of the study involved a postal survey of firms which had established FSSCs in the previous five years. The second part concerned detailed case studies of five MNCs based on semi-structured interviews, conducted on site, with FSSC managers, team leaders and country teams. The final part of the study involved observation of a two-day off-site strategic planning meeting of one of the FSSCs at which seven core teams (each consisting of 8 to 10 staff) developed work programmes designed to achieve strategic thrusts set by management. [...]

Ti interessa il testo completo dell’articolo? / Le texte complet de l’article vous intéresse? / Sind Sie am vollständigen Artikeltext interessiert? / If you are interested in the entire article