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Consult on Issue

Different strokes for different folks

Released at: 07:00, 24/07/2014 HR CONSULT

For most foreign companies coming to us for advice on recruitment trends in Vietnam, the most commonly asked questions relate to culture, particularly the working style of Vietnamese staff. Cultural differences are a key problem, affecting teamwork and a business's operations, and are crucial in an emerging market like Vietnam as it opens up and welcomes investment from all over the world.

Working style

    Asian people tend to be family-oriented and Vietnam is no exception. They value family traditions and sentiments. Ideas and feedback from their surroundings are also greatly appreciated. Vietnamese pay much attention to feelings, while on the other hand are quite sensitive and flexible. They take advice from relatives, friends and family regarding key decisions in life, such as choice of university and where to work. They prefer building up a small team or following any trends in the company. They love to share and be cared for both at work and in their personal life. While Westerners recognise the value of the individual, Vietnamese recognise team and community values. They tend to seek compromises. Being direct or straight to the point is not common.

    Many multinational companies (MNCs) have struggled to penetrate into other countries because of culture shock. While Western countries work on performance-based criteria and Japanese companies on discipline-based criteria, Vietnamese work on people-based criteria. This leads to different relationships and interaction between leaders and employees, with there being some degree of equality in Western countries, a clear gap in Japan, and a sense of working closer together in Vietnam.

    The cultural differences within Vietnam are significant. Southerners are more open and straightforward, northerners are more thoughtful and diplomatic, while those in the central region are more detailed, careful and family-oriented. Southerners are therefore better suited to jobs with sales or trading functions, while diplomatic and technical/engineering jobs are a better fit for northerners and people from the central region.

    Understanding the values of Vietnamese people helps new companies setting up in the county to gain insights into people management, which provides a firm foundation for their business operations and development.

Employee motivation

    Vietnamese employees are motivated by compliments and, conversely, discouraged by criticism. Leaders must therefore be tactful and delicate when providing feedback and compliment their staff when a job is well done. It is also recommended that employees’ families are cared for too, as family (parents, spouses, and children) play an important role in employees’ lives. For this reason many foreign companies in Vietnam organise activities to engage employees’ families with the company, such as short trips, family days, and inviting family members to special company events.

    People management in Vietnam requires a great deal of leadership skills, in managing them, motivating them, inspiring them, and engaging them. Vietnamese workers, though, are industrious, keen to learn new things, and are highly adaptable, and many foreign leaders agree that “being a leader in Vietnam is an interesting job. It isn’t difficult or challenging if you take the time to understand your staff. They will reward you with much more.”

(*) This column was prepared in cooperation with Talentnet Corporation. To get more advice on Vietnam’s labour market, email vo.ha.uyen@talentnet.vn.

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