Cultural training – nice to have or must-have?
Babel Language makes the case for why, in this global age, the price of cultural misunderstanding and miscommunication far outweighs the cost of training to prevent it.
Babel Language writes:
Many organisations have come to view cultural training not as an expensive add-on but as an investment to ensure that international expats settle in to new roles, project teams perform well, business in secured in new territories, JV relationships are strong enough to overcome inevitable challenges and that their global talent becomes culturally competent.
However, some organisations do not see the need to spend money on something they are managing themselves or they are curious but not convinced about the benefit of cultural training. I hope to set out the case for why we believe in this global age the price for cultural misunderstandings and miscommunication far outweighs the cost of training to prevent it.
In short, cultural training provides an efficient way of quickly developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours for successfully working internationally. Tangible benefits include increased productivity and retention, improved customer service and reduced complaints, improved relationships between clients, stakeholders and peers and increased job satisfaction.
There’s lots of ways of learning about new cultures. The internet abounds with web-sites and Amazon lists a huge number of books. But passively gathering information on a culture will never replace the richness of exploring one’s own personal and organisational context in an instructor-led training session. Organisations don’t just need their talent to have read a (possibly limited or even incorrect) website or access a tool, but to have produced the benefits of real training – a change in their delegate’s behaviour.
Good cultural training has up-to-date and relevant country information. Crucially, it is delivered by knowledgeable experts in a way that ensures delegates practice new behaviours that can be applied straight away in their day-to-day activities. These new behaviours may include taking a different approach to obtaining a partner’s buy-in or resolving a conflict, understanding ‘unwritten’ rules of a new workplace, tailoring presentations for non-native English speakers, writing effective Emails to improve team exchanges or negotiating successfully with a new client. In an ideal world, cultural training should always be most than just a one-time event but followed-up with specific support and coaching.
When speaking with our own clients after our training, they tell us:
- You cannot over estimate how relevant this type of awareness is for this firm. This would be very valuable for our international pals to learn how to understand us”.
- “Thought-provoking course which gives a great insight into other cultures and how to adapt and improve your own communication for the greater good”.
- “Excellent day, wish I had done the course 10 years ago when I joined the organisation”.
So is cultural training an unnecessary expense? Well, only if its cost and the associated benefits are not measured. If an organisation is failing to measure the costs of botched expatriate assignments, underperforming global teams, supplier delays, missed opportunities, failed joint ventures, etc. then it may never know how preventative these costs could have been with effective cultural training. In fact, in our experience, insightful organisations fully understand the accelerated speed with which projects succeed, assignments go smoothly and relationships flourish all as a result of “must-have” training. Given the enormous costs associated with global projects, how could developing cultural competencies required for their success, ever be seen as simply a “nice-to-have”?
Babel delivers language training in all major world languages, coaches delegates to be culturally competent in their global roles, briefs expats for starting new jobs overseas and helps create high-performing remote teams.