17 February 2016

Research improves the communicative efficiency of international companies


How can international companies communicate more effectively across national and cultural borders?

Mie Femø

This is the main question addressed by Mie Femø Nielsen, who collates and analyses data on corporate communications around the world together with her students and peers. In 2015 alone, data was collated in the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Uganda, India, Japan, the UK and Denmark, laying the groundwork for new knowledge about the challenges facing companies and best practice in communications.

Mie Femø and her fellow researchers and students from the Faculty of Humanities visit multinational companies, talk to focus groups and interview a wide range of staff and executives, in order to identify the weak spots in co-operation and communication across cultures and nations. The team video-records meetings as well as informal social interactions, e.g. coffee breaks. They also record virtual meetings, i.e. the participants’ interactions in their respective work places, their use of electronic devices during meetings, and on-screen mediation between the parties. Based on this empirical data, the team compares the employees’ perceptions of the communicative challenges with the reality of their interactions. Selected members of staff are then interviewed again about potential improvements to communication.

The studies cover companies with divisions in multiple countries, as well as those with multiple cultures represented in their divisions. For example, one office in Copenhagen employs staff representing 18 different nationalities, making it an ideal setting for studying the challenges associated with intercultural communication.

Globalisation creates and expands more and more virtual collaborative relationships in which the people involved never actually meet each other. At the same time, ever more stringent requirements are placed on meeting predefined targets and minimising error rates. Mie Femø’s empirical studies look at ways of improving and intensifying this virtual co-operation, e.g. by treating technology as a partner in the development of trust-based relationships. The goal is quality communication, improving efficiency and reducing the risk of errors and misunderstandings.


A wide range of companies, both in Denmark and abroad, are interested in the research-based support for improving communication offered by Mie Femø Nielsen and her colleagues and students. They run workshops for companies on how to improve collaboration and knowledge-sharing across linguistic, cultural and national boundaries, e.g. by focusing on the creation of mutual respect between professions and cultures.

In 2016, Mie Femø Nielsen, Brian Due, Thomas L.W. Toft, Gitte Gravengaard and Ann Merrit Rikke Nielsen (eds.) will be publishing the two-volume work Kommunikation i internationale virksomheder (Communication in international companies) (Samfundslitteratur publishers). The book is aimed at students seeking to improve their skills in international communication as well as professionals who want to update their knowledge and find inspiration for effective tools to optimise their day-to-day co-operation within international companies. It will also be published in English as an e-book.

Read more

In the book Strategisk kommunikation (Strategic communication) (Akademisk Forlag, 2nd revised edition 2014), Mie Femø Nielsen provides a basic introduction to strategic communicative work.

The article Universitetsstuderende styrker virksomheders globale samarbejde (University students enhance companies’ global co-operation) (25 May 2014) describes how the fieldwork carried out by Mie Femø Nielsen’s students with Maersk Line IT helped to improve co-operation and horizontal communication within the company.