One of the best aspects of my work is getting to know how different industries work internally, and especially what their take is on training their employees. Being able to meet different HR, L&D and Training Managers and speak to them about their work is eye opening. In my last visit to Paris, a certain company really grabbed my attention in terms of their proactivity and dedication to training.
It is rare for companies to have their own departments dedicated to intercultural training - especially in organisations who already have a global presence. Rare but not unheard of. Ten years ago a French natural resources company established a department solely dedicated to providing intercultural training for its employees in over 53 countries worldwide.
The department provides a jammed pack calendar of training session for its global workforce all year round. Training topics including: e-learning, intercultural negotiations, international management and "working effectively with foreign counterparts" to name a few. The team also responds to unique and ad hoc requests from the company’s subsidiaries. These sessions support the efficiency and progress of new oil exploration projects, partnerships, building sites and skill development of employees across the globe.
What makes them standout from others in the industry, is the fact that they have moved with the times and recognised the need to invest in the development of their workforce in order to compete internationally. Such commitment is not often seen, especially in this current economic climate where learning & development / training budgets are being slashed.
Despite the fact that this is occurring across the board it is still surprising that companies overlook the importance of such training. The assumption that doing business and ways of communication is the same at home and abroad is naive and frankly detrimental for any business attempting to go beyond national borders - big or small! As previous articles have shown, international mergers that have succeeded are the ones that recognise, respect and reconcile the differences in national and organisational cultures. The successful ones manage to maintain their mergers by realising that building trust and relationship isn't as simple as entering a formula into an excel spreadsheet and pressing enter. But rather their effective leadership and management is solely down to them adapting and overcoming the organisational/national/personal differences. Moreover they are the ones who have first hand experiences of intercultural issues that have come to light during their merger - miscommunication, misinterpretation of body language and faulty translation etc.
Investing in intercultural training to any degree is more cost effective and forward thinking than having to deal with the losses and repercussions of a failed business venture. However it is no use preaching to the converted. But maybe it's time to drill a little deeper into that budget to find that cultural fuel that will keep your business in motion?!