Jennifer Burge
CEO
WorldWise Coaching
/
View from the Top

Communication, Transparency Will Be Key in Post-Pandemic World

Mon, 01/31/2022 - 13:00

Q: To what degree has the pandemic improved intercultural communication, given the common experiences it has generated?

A: The pandemic has created greater opportunities for individuals and businesses to communicate across borders. People are more open to the idea of communicating and doing business through new digital tools, which can translate to greater success. However, more communication does not necessarily mean efficient communication, messaging that hits its intended mark with the message the sender intended. The majority of professionals need advanced tools to effectively communicate and access new markets outside their native country. “More communication” rarely means “better communication” and I have seen more miscommunication than opportunities won as a result. However, it is important to recognize the opportunities that emerged from the pandemic, especially because it opened new channels that would have been very difficult to achieve in the past. For example, the Arizona-Sonora women’s empowerment conference “Mega Women of the MegaRegion” WorldWise Coaching organized on International Women’s Day 2021, we opened a communication channel for women in mining in Arizona and Sonora, which had never existed. I am sure there are more examples of specific industry groups who took advantage of the non-requirement to travel in order to solve complex issues and create new networks with similar goals. It definitely had a strong impact for women in the megaregion.

Q: You have said that Mexico works in a “collaborative” model versus the US “individualist” model. To what degree has the pandemic changed these?

A: Both models have become more rigid. Individualistic cultures, such as the US, the UK, Australia and Canada, have intensified this pattern and people are often working in silos. While different communication channels have opened during the pandemic, working from home has made isolation a habit. Meanwhile, in collaborative cultures like those in Latin America, there has been more cross-border collaboration and more trade agreements have been created. In fact, COVID-19 has been shown to benefit intercultural trade in these countries. 

In Mexico, the collaborative community has worked very well. However, it has not resulted in innovation or growth. The country could benefit enormously if it were to be more open to people outside its borders. The Mexican business culture is based on trust, which is why the pandemic has brought these work communities closer and strengthened them to the point of excluding others.

Q: How can misunderstandings between countries be adequately addressed?

A: Communication and transparency are key to solving any miscommunication. Data should always be there to support the information that is presented. Mexico has a great opportunity if it can focus on the availability of real-time data that confirms the value of investments. Skepticism only further confuses investors about what is happening in Mexico. The country would greatly benefit from data-laden success stories, detailed case studies and factual information available to the public that could counter myths and unjustified opinions.

Q: What gaps still exist in the industry regarding female inclusion and how can Mexico make progress on this matter?

A: Over my twenty-five years of experience in more than fifty countries, it has been made obvious to me that what an industry presents on the surface is rarely the reality of what is happening. When I started working in the Mexico mining industry, I saw many organizations, associations, and publications interviewing women in mining, so it appeared that there was strong support for women's empowerment. However, the more heavily involved I became in the industry, it became clear how much traditional male hierarchy and discrimination persists. So, while we have heard a great deal of discussion about female empowerment, there has not been much action.

To include more women in mining, we must provide greater educational opportunities and incentivize young women to join STEM programs. You will only be able to encourage women to join the sector if they see that successful female role models exist in it. However, there have been major setbacks, especially during the pandemic as women working from home became nearly 100 percent responsible for all of the tasks at home, such as taking care of children, cooking, and cleaning. This unequal distribution of unpaid work not only affects women in Mexico but worldwide. In my opinion, the biggest hurdle is making childcare more accessible and affordable to mothers.

Also, women need to better support each other. Excessively competing with one another does not help the cause for women’s advancement as a whole because it contributes to negative workplace morale which is extremely damaging to teams and productivity.  We also need men to be more supportive in the workplace by providing advancement and development opportunities for women and helping to eliminate the idea that mining is only for men. If you look at any industry anywhere in the world, the unique set of skills and leadership style women bring to the table provide significant benefits to shareholders. It is important that people recognize how the natural leadership, organizational, and entrepreneurial talent of women improve work and team building everywhere. It is not only the right thing to do to promote the rights and advancement of women, it has been proven to be good economics.

Q: What gap have you have identified in the industry related to ESG issues and how can it be closed?

A: There is an enormous gap between what companies say and what they do. In the US, the inclusion of women is often mandatory, especially for ESG criteria. It is no longer socially acceptable for companies to omit ESG from their mission and priorities. While researching information on mining companies around the world, it became glaringly obvious that most of them publicly state on their website that the inclusion of women is their priority. However, the majority do not provide any data or transparency about their actions to ensure this happens.

In mining, effective communication is essential, not only regarding inclusion but other social matters too. Communication with local communities is key for companies to have a positive impact on them and in fact to be able to operate on their land. Companies that are merely going into a community to extract resources and leave will eventually be stopped from operating at all. Moreover, for the future conversion to electric infrastructure that much of the world desires to be a reality, we need more mining and it must be responsible. Positive ESG performance can be achieved only if companies understand the value of communication at all levels and communicate effectively internally and externally with stakeholders, especially within communities where the mines are planned and operated.

Q: What are the main goals of WorldWise Coaching for 2022?

A: The same as today, we will be focusing our efforts on the effective management of cultural change, intercultural collaboration, cross-border business strategy, and promoting women in mining globally. Currently, I am expanding to Vancouver, where I will lead the mining committee for AMCHAM Pacific. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with several Canadian mining companies which have operations in Mexico, to understand how to help them solve cultural issues and cross-border operations specific to mining. Our mission is to build an even stronger mining community in Vancouver and across North America. It is an important mission, as we have seen that COVID-19 is going to be around for quite some time. Cross-border businesses often underestimate the positive impact of effective intercultural communication on mission-critical areas of their operations such as supply chains. In antiquated traditional hierarchies, inflexible communication methods often persist where one person may not have the authority to go directly to speak to another who can make a time-sensitive decision or take immediate action. This must change for North America to stay on top as a competitive region. 

We are heavily involved in the area of Mexican Labor Reform under USMCA. The magnitude of cultural change involved is a massive shift for trade unions, which have not operated with much transparency and flexibility in the past. With the entry into force of the USMCA in 2020, change was mandated in this area. The passage of time has not reduced the scrutiny of companies’ effective action or inaction on this subject. The intention of this reform is to raise productivity by focusing on the collective rights, safety, and employee satisfaction of the Mexican workforce to the same level as that of the US and Canada. Successfully accomplishing this will benefit everyone in North America.

Lastly, WorldWise is entering into collaborative projects with several universities in the US and Mexico. I have been developing some new projects in San Luis Potosi and the experience has been very exciting. Our latest efforts are related to multinational companies that carry a great deal of economic impact in the state and within Mexico. Based on my recent experience in San Luis Potosi it is apparent that the state seems to agree that the way to increase economic activity and global visibility is by leveraging its well-known major industries and preparing its universities to better engage internationally.  We all believe they can best be leveraged by training, educating, and shaping the way people communicate to do so globally.

 

WorldWise Coaching LLC is based in Phoenix, Arizona. The company is built on over two decades of international business experience in North America, Europe, Asia, & Australia and provides private executive coaching and customized team training in the field of intercultural business communication, global business strategy, and multicultural team building.