The Importance of Cross-Cultural Training
Planning to attract some top talent from across the world for your business? If so, have you thought about organizing a cross-cultural training program?
When employees are relocating to a new country, the cultural shifts can be a major hurdle that prevents them from delivering the best performance. Quite often, cultural discords are a cause of friction that affects the workplace environment.
Unfortunately, cross-cultural training is one aspect that’s often neglected during a relocation.
Let’s find out how a cross-culture training program is an important aspect of international relocations.
What is Cross-Cultural Training?
In reality, there is no exact definition of the term. This has resulted in a broader interpretation related to various aspects of cultural differences.
Overseas relocation is a big step for any employee. There are various factors, both professional and personal, that can make the process stressful. On top of that, the challenges of adjusting to a new culture can make the task even more difficult.
From the employer’s perspective, the importance of cross-cultural training lies in providing the relocating employee the best possible support.
The main purpose of cross-cultural training is to help employees overcome cultural barriers. Each individual has an in-built complex cultural pattern. These result from a web of ideas and emotions that depend on various national and social factors.
Basically, the idea of culture can be classified into six levels.
- National Identity- These are patterns related to cultural dynamics based on nationality.
- Social Identity- This level is dependent on factors like gender, ethnicity, religion, generation, and other social structures
- Organizational culture– Each organization has a distinct culture based on its vision and mission.
- Functional culture- Even in the same organization, the culture of various departments can vary based on their functions.
- Team culture- A functioning team can have a unique culture based on its objectives and the ideas promoted by the team leader.
- Individual culture- Individual cultural identities are based on a person’s experience, upbringing, and education.
However, most cross-cultural training programs do not focus on these individual cultural levels. They are designed to help employees in developing a comprehensive view of a culture and its core values. The process deals with various factors like etiquette, communication modes, or leadership.
The goal is to help them in accepting and respecting the different aspects of a new culture and adjust themselves to it. Such training also provides employees with tools that can help in cultural bridging gaps and adapting to a new environment.
Benefits of Cross-Cultural Training
For any individual traveling to a new cultural environment, demystifying the various elements of the new culture is a must. If we take a closer look, there are multiple benefits of cross-cultural training.
Firstly, an international assignment is always a challenge for an employee. To deliver the best possible performance in a new location, cross-cultural agility is a must for an employee.
Cross-cultural training can help the employee to be more effective while interacting with new colleagues. This helps them to stay productive from day one without requiring a long period of adjusting to the new environment. The result is a productive work environment and a highly efficient global team.
Beyond that, a cross-culture training program also helps in developing employee self-confidence. As individuals, we have certain mental and cultural barriers that can be obstacles in understanding others.
Through cross-cultural training, these barriers can be chipped away to promote better mutual respect and understanding. This leads to better cooperation and trust between employees.
The impact of cross-cultural training is also important in nonverbal communication. Gestures, handshakes, eye contact, etc. can be easily misinterpreted due to cultural gaps. The right training helps employees to stay alert about the shift in cultural interpretations in a new location.
Other than that, the training also helps in motivating a new employee. It teaches them to work effectively beyond their cultural comfort zone and remain open to various perspectives.
The fact is, the knowledge shared by cross-cultural training is applicable in all aspects of life. Thus, the training also helps the family of the employee to adapt more effectively to a new country.
Through the employee, the family members can develop a deeper understanding of the new culture. This helps them to stay prepared and avoid a culture shock or any other unexpected side effects of global mobility.
The training can also provide effective strategies for dealing with cultural shocks. Without having to face the unknown, they will be able to adjust more quickly to a new environment. Due to its positive impact on the entire employee family, a cross-culture training program can be a great support mechanism for a relocating employee.
When an employee has a better ability to adapt to a new environment, the chances of underperformance and failed assignments. The instances of failed negotiations and lost contracts due to cultural missteps are quite common in the competitive global market.
Proper training can result in the reduction of such events. This results in significant cost-savings for the employer.
If the top-level managers are culturally sensitive, they can effectively leverage the diversity among the employees. Cultural knowledge can also help in improving an employee’s ability to be effective leaders across a global platform. Such leaders can motivate other employees and also show better leadership abilities.
Since HR managers have to deal with a highly diversified global workforce, this form of training is extremely important for them.
At the same time, a well-designed training program can help in reducing the repatriation attrition rates. In fact, a culturally sensitive workplace is appreciated by employees and builds a brand reputation. Overseas customers appreciate companies that make an effort to learn their culture and are more likely to collaborate with them.
Pitfalls of Cross-Cultural Training
There is one common problem with many cross-culture training programs. Even though they look good on paper, they often have minimal impact on employee performance. That is one reason some experts point out the ineffectiveness of such training.
One major mistake that many training programs make is they focus solely on cultural differences. In reality, gaining knowledge about cultural differences is good but not enough.
Such knowledge will not help the employees to go against their natural behavioral patterns and adjust to a new environment. When the main problem faced by the employee is adaptability, you need to focus on specific solutions for that issue.
Also, the training should not be limited to a single program, web-based tools, or a manual. That approach can result in employee indifference.
To get positive results, it needs to be incorporated effectively into the work environment. Ideally, there should be some form of training support to assist the transferees and global teams at all times.
Since the concept of culture is complex, it needs the right amount of patience and practice. That means you should provide the employees with the right environment to practice the skills they have learned.
It is also a common notion that short-term assignees do not need cross-culture training. The fact is, they are in more need of such training as they need to hit the ground running. Unlike traditional assignees, such employees do not have the luxury of time and no time to rectify mistakes either. So, they need training that is specifically designed to meet the purpose.
Then again cultural training is often considered as a “soft” need. So, unless the costs and benefits related to cross-cultural training are quantified, the benefits of the training are difficult to point out.
In any case, a poorly managed global project due to cultural rifts can be a disaster for any company. If the cultural training is not planned in the right manner, it may not be effective in preventing such scenarios.
What are the Different Types of Cross-Cultural Training?
One advantage of cross-culture training programs is they can be customized to meet the specific needs of an organization. Even so, they can be classified into two major types.
Country Focused Cultural Training
This form of training focuses on a particular culture like Japanese, Chinese, or Indian. It helps an employee to get familiar with the various aspects of the culture including etiquette. Special importance is also given to communication skills that can be helpful during business negotiations.
This is a generic form of training and is based on the specific responsibilities that an employee needs to handle. The training can focus on various business aspects like management, leadership, marketing, negotiations, and helps to bridge the cultural gaps across these frameworks. It may or may not be country-specific in nature.
The simple truth is, cross-culture training is critical for the global success of any brand. Even though cultural differences are subtle and often invisible, they can make a big impact on employee performance.
In a globally competitive environment, it is necessary to offer the best support to your employees to derive top performance from them. That makes cross-culture training programs a must for a multicultural team.
The team at ARC can help you in developing a comprehensive cross-culture training plan for your employees. Being an industry leader in providing relocation services at a global scale, we understand the importance of custom-designed cross-cultural relocation training for employees.
To learn more, feel free to contact us.