Home Working in the Netherlands Self-Employment The issues facing modern business in a global, digital world
Last update on February 13, 2020
Written by Nyenrode Business Universiteit 

Doing business in the modern world has revealed unforeseen challenges with the growing digital-first, global and sustainable mindset.

Over the past few decades, the way we do business has changed rapidly. Corporations are larger than ever before, while small, family-owned businesses are fading away. Coupled with a reliance on technology and a push towards sustainability, business has changed — and students looking to break into business have to adapt. Nyenrode Business Universiteit explains these modern issues and how an EMBA education can help students get ahead of the game.

Effects of globalisation on business

Globalisation has made doing business across borders not only possible, but commonplace. Business manufacture, sell and hire in countries in locations all over the world, meaning that its employees must be able to communicate across cultures and understand foreign regulations and laws.

Language and culture in international business

English is the determined global language of business, requiring that those who wish to enter the international market speak English comfortably, if not fluently. Business schools in the Netherlands are already ahead of many other universities in Europe, with most conducting their MBA and EMBA programmes in English.

Beyond language comprehension, however, is cultural awareness: international businesspeople may interact with clients, customers and partners in various locations across the world. Even if you’re both speaking English, you must be aware of business customs that can affect those relationships. For example, the Dutch are known for being direct when speaking; in Japan, however, speaking so directly is seen as impolite. To encourage a better understanding of the impact that culture can have on business, some international business schools not only encourage but require students to spend time in foreign countries during the programme.

International business regulations and laws

As access to international markets and talent increases, so too does the complexity involved in regulatory compliance and local labour laws. The regulatory environment in another country may be too strict to be cost-effective; it may even be too lax, which can invite scrutiny in the home country of the business, especially when it comes to labour laws. Executives must be able to understand the consequences of entering each new market, whether in a sales or personnel capacity.

Impact of technology on business

The free movement of workers has turned Europe into a giant talent pool, and offshore outsourcing to overseas countries is still growing. However, as globalisation spreads, the cost savings of outsourcing will diminish — future-thinking executives will be able to foresee when outsourcing becomes less cost-effective, for example, and pivot at the right moment.

Focus on social responsibility and sustainability in business

A global survey from Nielsen, The Sustainability Imperative, showed that the importance of a company’s commitment to sustainability has grown — 66 percent of consumers said they would pay more for a sustainable brand, for example, a growth of 16 percent from two years earlier. Furthermore, 67 percent of survey respondents would rather work for a company that is socially responsible.

EMBA programmes

But it’s not just the consumers and the employees that are embracing sustainability; in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 17th Annual Global CEO Survey, most CEOs believe that it is important to try to reduce their impact on the environment. Instead of operating in a silo, the PwC report explains, sustainability has become part of the core business strategy.

Digitisation in business

But neither globalisation nor sustainability, to an extent, would be possible without the incredible advances society has made in technology. The impact of technology on business has been unprecedented — it has pushed globalisation along, brought about new industries, and simplified complicated jobs while forcing some into obsolescence. While it’s not imperative to understand the finer details behind artificial intelligence, automation, cryptocurrencies or biotechnology, it is important to understand their impacts on a business and the industry in which it operates.

For example, call centres (now called contact centres thanks to the multiple channels, through which customers can get in touch, such as social media) have been used for over 50 years, but many are still using outdated technology and processes. Because of this, these companies are not only leaving customers dissatisfied — customers have come to expect an omnichannel brand experience — they’re missing out on a wealth of behavioural data and revenue.

Technology, globalisation and the push for social responsibility have made doing business both easier and more difficult for corporations and SMBs. By understanding these issues and their current and potential impact on business, the leaders of the future can better adapt and increase their chance of success.