From the Desk of the President

Beware of the Global Holiday Black Hole

By Neal Goodman, PhD

What holiday is it today? This article is being written on March 2, 2010. Today happens to be Battle of Adowa in Ethiopia, Peasants’ Day in Myanmar/Burma, Texas Independence Day in the United States and the beginning of the Fast of Nineteen Days in the Baha’i faith.

Ignorance about holidays around the world is not an option for global business.  Here is a real-life example of why:

A large international company rolled out a new global sales training initiative to help implement a new financial incentive package to salespeople who would receive bonuses if they shared customer information across national boundaries. 

The day for mandatory training or the sales force in Moscow was determined by headquarters in California. As the trainers entered the training room in Moscow to deliver the program they were met with a hostile audience who clearly was not receptive to any new program being presented by representative from headquarters. The trainers had unwittingly walked into the Global Holiday Black Hole (GHBH). The date selected was a major family holiday in Russia. 

The exact business efficacy loss due to this type of being lost due to ignorance cannot be measured, but based on over 20 years of experience witnessing such confusion, consternation, anger at being ignored, feelings of being disrespected, etc. I estimate the costs to be in the millions of dollars on a global basis.
To avoid the GHBH all employees of global businesses must know the major holidays around the world and exactly how they are celebrated. 

  • Are offices open, closed or is it an optional work day? 
  • Is there regular mail delivery and banking?  
  • Is this holiday for specific religious or ethnic groups?  
  • Will the days preceding or just after the holiday also be impacted (of course they will especially if the holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday)?  
  • How can global scheduling, announcements, deployment of new processes, delivery of training and services take place without a corporate wide common calendar?

A solution to the GHBH we have installed in many organizations is a company-specific global calendar that highlights the holidays in every major country where the company operates and offers tips on how the holiday is celebrated.  We have found that the global calendar has not only helped in scheduling training programs but has increased cross-cultural understanding and improved relationships between employees who now acknowledge each others holidays in emails and phone calls.

Beware – The next GHBH could be tomorrow.

Neal Goodman is the president of Global Dynamics Inc. He spent many days digging himself out of GHBHs before creating his first global calendar in 1988.