The world is getting smaller and the multinationals are getting bigger. This means that your employees have to communicate with more and more different cultures. This can be difficult, because cultures differ and effective communication is an intricate game. The rise of just in time training offers an efficient solution: practicing worldwide at the moment that it’s necessary.
It’s not news that cultures differ. Scientifically speaking, these differences are expressed in the six (initially, four) cultural dimensions of Hofstede and the seven of Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner. The majority influences interaction. Even something like small talk has significant influence on solidarity, maintaining and repairing relations and intercultural understanding, both internally as externally1. In addition, there are enough cultures where a ‘no’ is not expressed, but communicated in other ways.
Cultural knowledge and experience
How can you, as a multinational, prevent relations and results suffering because of this? And how can you, as L&D manager, make the staff happier and more successful in intercultural communication? They should know the culture with which they are communicating and they should be able to apply this knowledge in daily practice. Experience is crucial: over the years, you find yourself in new and similar situations, you understand how things should be done, which message has which effect, and you become successful. That experience, however, is not always available.
Not a one-time impulse
A manager who has been living in Hong Kong for ten years will be proficient in the right techniques by now. But the consultant who travels there for a project? Or that same manager after a relocation to Calcutta? You could send him to a course on Indian communication, but he probably could not be missed for a day in the office. Next to this, such a one-time impulse only has effect on the short term. Practical for one negotiation maybe, but a manager will not want to spend so much time preparing for a one-off thing.
Just in time training
More continuous training is necessary to learn how to apply knowledge and to compensate for the lack of experience. Repetitive training, so the effect doesn’t get lost, and available at every necessary moment. This just in time training consists of video role plays, available on the internet on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Practice can be spread over the entire world, generically or specified to a certain group. For example, a team of consultants that goes to Hong Kong for a month, will receive a few video role plays to learn the intricacies of local communication in the weeks before their project. In this way your organization embraces the opportunities of globalization and everyone communicates better.
Wonder how market research multinational MetrixLab is training communication worldwide? Check out their case study below!
1Pullin, P. (2010). Small Talk, Rapport, and International Communicative Competence, International Journal of Business Communication, October 2010 vol. 47 no. 4 455-476.