We hear a lot about U.S. companies outsourcing much of their business overseas, but we also have to remember that there are foreign companies who open businesses in our home soil as well. With globalization in full swing like never before, we need to take this into account. My experience working for this Turkish company (Who will remain nameless) was for a short time. I worked 5 months in this plant, but overall the plant had only been in full operation for a year and a half. With that being said, here are the 5 things I learned from working at a Turkish company in the U.S.
1. Communication is Key!
I never thought about how difficult it would be to communicate with Turks. Turkish is not a strong language that most Americans master. On the flip side, English is not a strong suit for Turkish citizens either. Jackie Booe, a licensed teacher and former adjunct professor at the under grad level, states that Turkey reports 17% of its population can speak English. That's a low percentage to say the least. It was hard to know if we were on the same page with our Turkish teammates because it was difficult understanding their English at times. At the same time, I am sure it was difficult for them to understand our English. Other than hello or thank you, my mastering of the Turkish language was sorry.
2. It's helpful to have experienced staff travel to set the foundation
There were only 2 experienced Turkish members from the company that were trying to run the plant with around 100 employees. In other foreign companies, who have opened plants in the U.S., it was important to bring a group of experienced employees who could serve as a foundation to their American counterparts to learn from. In the Netflix documentary American Factory, a documentary showcasing a Chinese Company Fuyao Glass opening a new plant in Ohio, there were a group of Chinese workers brought from China that were team leads and primary trainers to try to reduce the learning gap. Well, that was not the case in my experience. There were many issues that only a few people could solve so this caused a lot of wasted time. Whenever there was a problem, we just felt like chickens with our heads cut off.
3. Having support and supplies so far away is NOT good for business
On the technical side, our IT department was all the way in Turkey. If we had an issue, we would have to get one of the Turkish teammates or have to use Google translate. As we all know, Google translate helps with basic communication however, when needing to explain more complex issues, there was a lot of confusion trying to diagnose the problem.
On the production and logistics side, a lot of our raw material came from countries overseas such as: Turkey, Bulgaria, and not so far away Mexico. Let's say for instance, we had an inventory issue where systematically we had stock of a part, but physically they were nowhere to be found. This would slow down down production, if not completely stop it, because our supplies were so far away. We would then have to wait for the material to be delivered which would not be as fast as we'd liked.
4. Our leadership had a misunderstanding of how Americans work
A lot of us American employees felt that the expectations the leadership had for the workers were unreasonable. It is possible that they believed we would work similar to how their workers in Turkey, China, and Mexico worked. Now, I don't mean to sound rude, but labor laws in the previously mentioned countries are not as modern as ours. There is a reason why we have the word "sweatshop". Brittanica.com provides a great definition of the word sweatshop: "a workplace in which workers are employed at low wages and under unhealthy or oppressive conditions."
Now, lets be realists. We know that in countries like these mentioned above have efficient workers, but they're CHEAP. Why do you think we have all these U.S. companies choosing to move most of their physical work overseas? It's because they know they can take advantage of the cheap labor in those countries. On the other side, American workers expect higher wages and more favorable work agreements. It seems these Turks failed to learn the expectations of the modern American worker and it is costing them.
5. Globalization is good!
Although my experience was not the greatest, it is important to note that we live in a world were competition is no longer domestic. In today's world, you are competing with people all over the world. This Turkish company had clients in the U.S. and for this reason, they wanted to be closer to better serve their client's needs.
I got to meet Turkish people which I may have never done otherwise. I'll be honest, I didn't have Turkey on my list of countries I wanted to visit. However, I learned that they are hardworking people who have families and responsibilities just like every other person. Although, I may not be a part of their organization, I am grateful for the experience I gained during my time with them. I wish them the best in their future endeavors. I hope they can better adapt and learn so they can be a successful and competing business in the U.S.