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Creating an Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program

Date Published: Dec 28 , 2022

As more organizations expand their global footprint, cross-cultural training has become increasingly important. In the most basic sense, cross-cultural training teaches individuals how to interact effectively with those from other cultures. This is applicable to expats working abroad, employees interfacing with foreign customers, multinational working groups, and managers with international oversight.

Below we take a look at the four main types of cross-cultural instruction. Next, we walk through the specifics of creating an effective cross-cultural training program that is applicable to any cross-cultural training type.

Learn More: Managing Effectively Across Countries and Cultures

Creating an Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program

The Four Main Types of Cross-Cultural Training

Categories of cross-cultural training programs can be further broken down into subtypes, but these four examples are the most common.

1. Expatriate Cross-Cultural Training

Designed to smooth the adjustment to a new culture, expat cross-cultural training improves the chances that your employee working abroad succeeds in their new position. Expatriates who struggle to adapt to the working norms of their host country are likely to fall short, costing the company a considerable investment. Expat cross-cultural training increases awareness around:

  • National culture and local customs

  • Communication preferences and linguistic differences

  • Business etiquette and working styles

2. Cross-Border Business Training

A growing number of organizations interact with customers, clients and partners in a cross-border context. Any employee in a front-facing position with foreign cultures should receive cross-border business training, and ideally, everyone in the organization will obtain some coaching to enhance cultural appreciation. Cross-border business training helps companies to:

  • Break down barriers to understanding

  • Bolster international communications and collaboration

  • Be more effective in the global marketplace

3. Multicultural Working Groups

Cross-cultural training for multicultural teams focuses on creating a diverse and inclusive business environment. Employees are far more inclined to be innovative and productive when they feel appreciated and that they belong to the team. Cross-cultural training for multicultural working groups takes teamwork to a new level by increasing the understanding of:

  • How to communicate in a team with varying language skills and communication methods

  • Values and motivators among team members

  • Important cultural events and practices among team members

4. Global Executive Training

As the name suggests, global executive training prepares executives to perform at their peak in an international business environment. Cultural misunderstandings can be costly for a company, especially when committed by an executive. With so much on the line for global managers, many receive instruction on:

  • Varying business norms in specific countries and regions

  • Effectively communicating with employees and partners from other cultures

  • Inspiring and motivating people across borders

Learn More: 10 Signs of a Successful Team

What to Include in an Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program

The purpose of cross-cultural coaching is to build bridges of appreciation between people disconnected due to cultural misunderstandings. This is the key to creating an effective cross-cultural training program. The specifics of your program will vary, but are likely to cover these areas of concern:

1. Communication Styles and Intentions

This is arguably the most significant element of cross-cultural instruction. It is not enough to know a language; cross-cultural appreciation means understanding the intention behind the words expressed. What may be a courtesy in one culture is disrespectful in another. Saying “yeah” in one place may be a clear affirmation, but ambiguous or dishonourable elsewhere. Decoding the intention behind communications in cross-cultural environments extends to gestures and body language as well.

2. Management: Feedback, Motivation and Hierarchy

Management styles vary considerably across cultures. Feedback and perceptions of hierarchy - two notable aspects of management - can be particularly challenging in diverse environments.

Offering constructive criticism to subordinates is critical to moulding performance. How and when this is provided can be the difference between feedback that is taken as a positive corrective measure and one seen as debasing. Thow in differing cultural assumptions on the matter, it can be all but assured that feedback is negatively interpreted. In short, appropriate forms of feedback and related modes of motivation must be executed with aplomb by supervisors with cultural understanding.

Similarly, in some cultures, subordinates regularly offer their ideas. While in other places, this behaviour is unheard of and may be interpreted as disrespectful. The underlying issue relates to perceptions of hierarchy and how the ranks are treated and honoured - another essential when creating an effective cross-cultural training program.

3. Relationship Building and Conflict Resolution

In many countries, it is expected that co-workers’ relationships will extend beyond the office. Elsewhere, employees log in their time, enjoy a professional, if not a personally-distant relationship with one another during work hours, and then head home. Much of this derives from culturally-influenced concepts about disclosing information and personal feelings.

How relationships are built, maintained and mended all have culture coursing through it. Invariably conflict will arise in the workplace. How this is resolved has cultural implications as well. Conflict may be directly addressed, or worked out quietly. Knowing which is expected is essential for effective management.

4. Working Styles

It is common to have a cultural blindspot about the way work is performed. Accepting that there will be cultural dissonance relating to styles of communication, management, and conflict resolution is one thing - but does culture influence the way people approach and execute work? Yes, it absolutely does.

Some cultures are more methodical in completing tasks, others more elliptical. In certain societies, there is considerable transparency around decision-making and work allocation; in other places, this is an utterly opaque process. Workloads, working hours and work-life balance are other aspects of working styles to consider when creating an effective cross-cultural training program that boosts your team's efficiency and morale.

Need help getting your diverse team on the same page? Priority Management has been building productivity-boosting training programs for teams worldwide for over 40 years. And we are one ourselves! With offices around the globe and deep training expertise, we can help you get the most from your dynamic work group.

Priority Management is a worldwide training company with 55 offices in 15 countries. We have successfully trained more than two million graduates in Priority workshops. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline. Simply put - A Better Way To Work! Clients range from Fortune 500 companies, small-to-medium businesses and government/military employees.

Click Here to learn more about how Priority can help you and your team WorkSm@rt, develop essential management skills and the competencies to....make life and work better and happier!

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