Training Managers

Introduction

The increasing globalization demands a dynamic work force management by the companies today. They not only need to train managers for expatriate assignments but also to handle a multi cultural workforce. There are three categories of employees we encounter while dealing with an MNE (Multi National Enterprise).

The fast paced work environment calls for an improved training methodology for the Globetrotting managers today. The training needs are also changing and it needs consistent up gradation to be synchronous with the demand it caters to.

Training and Development

Training and development can be defined as 'Systematic process concerned with facilitating the acquisition of skills, knowledge and attitudes which result in improved organizational performance.'(Molander, 1996, p.258)

We'll narrow down on Pre-departure training, as it's evident from the figure that it is the most crucial aspect that affects the success of an expatriate after his selection.

PRE-DEPARTURE TRAINING:

Pre-Departure training is also known as Pre-Field training .According to Baker et al. (1996) the purpose of such training is to ensure that the expatriates and their families are prepared for the new culture and environment, and also that the expatriate have sufficient skills and knowledge.

Figure 1.1 shows the pre-field orientation of expatriate training. The process is divided in motivation, skills/knowledge and environment that it in turn has internal and external approaches.

Now we'll specifically concentrate on the cultural element of training which makes or breaks an international assignment.

CROSS CULTURAL TRAINING (CCT):

The cross-cultural training (CCT) can be defined as “Any intervention aimed at increasing an individual's capability to cope with and work in foreign environment” (Tung, 1981, in Zakaria, 2000). The CCT has become important today as it mitigates the culture shock which one is bound to experience while dealing with a new culture. The most important thing is to identify the sources of cultural differences and its impact, so that we can have a comprehensive training approach as the cultural misunderstanding sometimes puts the company's reputation at stake.

Cross-Cultural Training -Advantages

The advantages from cross-cultural training have been listed as following (Zakaria, 2000: 2):

  1. A means for constant switching from an automatic, home culture international management mode to a culturally adaptable and acceptable one
  2. An aid to improve coping with unexpected events and cultural shock in a new culture
  3. A means to reduce uncertainty of interactions with foreign nationals
  4. A means for enhancing expatriates coping abilities

Hence cross-cultural training can help improve the corporate culture and practices by constant induction of foreign nationals in organization. Presented in figure 1.3 is a model for analysis of the whole process.

Designing Cross-Cultural Training

Hun and Jenkins (1998) identified the following issues in CCT:

  • Perception of time- While in some cultures like USA, Germany punctuality is important, in South America it's not. Some cultures like China and Japan prefer slow relationship building, while others don't.
  • Linguistic barriers- Though English is widely used as business language the pronunciation varies widely. Some countries prefer local language for business.
  • Different business practices- Addressing a senior (by first or last name) depends upon the power distance of the culture.
  • Ambiguity- Avoid stereotyping as individuals can differ.
  • Body language- Expressions and gestures may convey different meanings in different culture.

The CCT needs to be customized based on the length of stay, type of function, degree of socialization and the personality of employee. The family also needs to be trained because of its perceived influence on the expatriate success.

The Training Methods:

The various cross-cultural training methods can be explained as follows (as described by Bhawuk and Brislin, 2000):

  • Cultural assimilator: It's a tool consisting of numerous real life scenarios describing cross-cultural interactions and expectations. The scenarios can be critical incidents involving misunderstandings between host and expat. The first usage was on the American soldiers in 1972.
  • Contrast American method: It involves demonstration of behaviors that are exactly opposite of what is in the current context of culture. This was used by Stewart in America to train expats hence the name.
  • Self reference criterion (SRC): Unconscious reference to one's own cultural values in interaction with other cultures.
  • Area simulation: The simulation is creating situation of interaction with other culture.
  • Cultural self awareness model: This includes video tapes along with themes and role plays.

Rigor of training

According to Black et al. (1999) an important factor in success of CCT is training rigor. More rigorous training increases the participation of the trainee through assessment centre, language training and simulations.

PRELIMINARY VISITS:

For a more informed decision making, a short trip of the expatriate and spouse to the destination might be useful. It is more suitable for a long term assignment where one has to make decisions based on availability of housing, school etc.

LANGUAGE TRAINING:

The employee may just not understand the manager due to obvious lack of language skills and this will create problems (Sirussadaporn, 2006)

Though English is considered the main language for doing business, foreign language training becomes essential if there are strategic inferences to be made. It also increases effectiveness and negotiating abilities of the expatriate. It also depends on the length of assignment. Also HCN needs to be trained in the corporate language (if different) for greater efficiency.

TCN AND HCN EXPATRIATE TRAINING:

Sometimes training to HCN and TCN are not given so much importance as the PCN.

This can lead to perception of inequitable treatment among employees. The training needs of a HCN or TCN can be very different depending upon the situation. It depends upon various factors such as the length of the assignment, the cultural similarity or dissimilarity of the location etc.

Hence due consideration should be taken to customize the training accordingly.

Case Study

As most of the literature available is from US perspective, we will take an Australian case study for a difference, (done by Dowling and Welch) to avoid a biased conclusion.

A case study was done with structured interviews with each company's personnel director, expatriate line managers and spouses.

Four companies were selected. A and B are Australian firms, C is subsidiary and D is division of an MNC. Further details of these companies and the structure of their International operations and HR functions are given in APPENDIX-B.

Although the case study had a much wider span we will narrow down on Training and development part of it.

All the four companies provided pre-departure training but mostly ad hoc. Company A had limited and informal training though they provided a Pre Visit. Company B had more structured approach. Expatriate and family were guided by consultants with videos.

Company C had no formal training schemes. Pre departure training to was just literature on the relevant country of posting plus language training if necessary (e.g. posting to Japan).

Company D used direct contact with previous expats and pre visits as a tool. Language training was provided if necessary. Cultural training was provided for the family. Moreover during the assignment HR manager visited the expat to mitigate the feeling of isolation, and Repatriation interviews were conducted.

The study concludes that years of international experience is probably an important differentiating factor with regard to training and predictors used for expatriate selection. The more experienced companies tend to take a broader outlook on training while the novice ones are more concerned with output. The former ones view training as only a part of supporting the employee. The employee is well taken care of in terms of compensation and the feeling of isolation is kept to the minimum by constantly keeping in touch with him, providing him information about the home country through magazines, news papers and in person

Conclusion

It is essential for the expatriate to be well informed of the challenges he might face in a foreign land. A well planned cross-cultural training will help the employees to prepare for coping with the changed work environment, beliefs and values that they might encounter. A well structured training will offset the uncertainty to a large extent and provide a sense of security and boost employee morale.

It can be beneficial to the employer as well. The cost of expatriate failure and company reputation are saved. With increasing globalization a dynamic work force that's on constant move is inevitable and so is the training that must be imparted for its optimum utilization.

Appendices

APPENDIX-A

Culture

'Culture is a learned, shared, compelling, interrelated set of symbols whose meanings provide a set of orientations for members of a society. Those orientations, taken together, provide solutions to problems that all societies must solve if they are to remain viable'.(Terpstra and David 1985, quoted in Westwood 1992, 30).

Differences

  • U.S. and Russian managers value tactful acquisition of influence.
  • Japanese managers value deference to superiors.
  • Korean managers value forcefulness and aggressiveness.
  • Indian managers value no aggressive pursuit of objectives.
  • Australian managers value low-key approach with high concern for others.

Similarities

  • Strong relationship between managerial success and personal values.
  • Value patterns predict managerial success.
  • Successful managers favor pragmatic, achievement-oriented values.
  • While less successful managers prefer static and passive culture.

Classification of Culture:

  • National/Societal Culture
  • Hofstede's dimensions of “national” culture -- Power distance, Uncertainty Avoidance
  • Individualism-Collectivism, Masculinity-Femininity
  • National subcultures (ethnicity, profession, gender)

Organizational Culture

  • Artifacts, values & assumptions that distinguish one organization from others.
  • Organizational subcultures (dept., function, profession)

Individual culture

  • Thinking/behavioral tendencies resulting from socialization
  • Individual subcultures (mindsets)

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