If your company is an international organization, you know all too well about the perils of communication getting lost in translation. The perils may not lie in a language barrier, but in a difference in etiquette, communication style, or even in how feedback is given and received.
Stretching your organization across different countries and cultures introduces a complicated layer to your workplace environment, including your employee training.
Learn what companies can do to create an effective cross-cultural training program.
What is Cross-Cultural Training?
Cross-cultural training acknowledges the differences across different cultures through instruction for employees who work for global organizations. Differences in communication styles, tone, body language, and work ideals can play a big part in how a company operates, particularly when employees are working with coworkers from all over the world.
Cross-cultural training might initially seem superfluous, especially when you’re in the thick of adapting and retooling the way you work. But never before has cross-cultural training been so important, especially as virtual workplaces remove the borders that previously segmented your team.
While you’re brainstorming new ways to keep your team engaged and connected, don’t forget to consider the cultural ramifications of your international organization. Cross-cultural training serves to help employees feel seen, understood, and empathetic to their coworkers, no matter where they are.
Why Create Cross-Cultural Training?
Why bother with cross-cultural training? You expect the same from your employees no matter what country they’re from, or culture they identify with, right?
While that may be true, different cultures approach work in different ways, which can result in employees feeling frustrated or stressed if there’s a lack of sensitivity to cultural norms. Taking the time to help colleagues understand each other makes all the difference in setting expectations and building a rapport among employees from different cultures. Still not convinced? Here are some of the issues cross-cultural training can solve for your organization:
- Addressing Communication Issues. Some cultures tend to address issues by focussing on the positive, while others offer negative feedback when there’s a problem. In the same vein, some cultures prefer to soften the blow with their language while others are straightforward and blunt. To be clear: There is value in different types of communication. Still, helping coworkers understand differences in cultural communication can help them adapt, ensure clarity, and reduce hurt feelings.
- Teaching Policy and Etiquette. Certain cultures have specific ways of doing business. Whether addressing a professional greeting or topics that should be avoided in casual conversation, cross-cultural training helps coworkers learn more about their colleagues and how best to interact with them.
- Reducing Stereotypes. In the past, cross-cultural training could sometimes fall into a pattern of creating and reinforcing stereotypes. Stereotypes like “all German professionals are extremely unemotional,” or “all Japanese employees are very respectful” aren’t necessarily hurtful, but they aren’t particularly helpful, either. Good cross-cultural training helps dispel stereotypes by offering context, using real-life examples, and helping employees remember that their colleagues are individuals regardless of their culture.
- Adapting to a Global Workforce. For some organizations, rapid growth into a global workforce can leave employees feeling hesitant and unsure of how to proceed in relationships with their new coworkers. Cross-cultural training offers the tools and practice necessary so employees are better able to adapt to their changing workforce quickly and confidently.
Five Steps to Get You Started
You know you need to address the cultural issues surrounding your global organization, but you might not know where to start. After all, chances are that you’ve introduced a bevy of new policies and initiatives during the last year or so; you definitely don’t want cross-cultural training to be lost in the shuffle, without any real impact. These five steps can help you start thinking about the proper framing for your cross-cultural training and how to deliver it to your employees.
Your employees might already feel overloaded with all of the new ways of working they’ve learned over the past year. Marketing your cross-cultural training via a hearts and minds campaign helps employees understand exactly why it’s necessary for moving forward. Highlight what’s in it for them: smoother communication, better feedback, and more empathy toward their colleagues. Don’t deploy your training without first setting the stage and getting employees (and executives) onboard.
The global workforce is changing at a breakneck pace and we’re all learning at the same time.
Rather than being paralyzed by the issue (or worse, ignoring it completely), address it head-on. Show your employees that you’re aware and willing to address cultural differences, even if they come with growing pains and uncomfortable conversations. You’ll find that developing cross-cultural training is a worthwhile investment in the long run. Want help? Tell us about your training project here.