The world is changing. With the increased rapidity of e-commerce, falling travel costs, and constant evolution of a global economy, there are very few large businesses which do not operate or trade on an international level.
As learning and development professionals, we are therefore faced with several problems in reaching colleagues overseas in order to ensure that they have access to the same learning opportunities. After all, it’s vital that international co-workers are developed to the same standards as those people which we access more easily.
In doing so, there are a lot of challenges to address with limited resources. Here are three of my most important!
What are the most effective yet cost efficient methods?
It is worth bearing in mind that we need to consider a couple of things. Firstly, any organisation requires a roll out that is affordable and effective, or why have a budget! In doing so, we have to acknowledge the historically low engagement and high dropout rates associated with internal training. Secondly, and conflictingly, we want to meet the needs of the company culture in a global context, but at a perceived increase in cost due to changes required for different international audiences.
I once heard the following story:
An American learning provider was delivering a programme in Japanese and during a presentation, she was consistently put off by a man in the audience pulling faces at her. When she voiced her disapproval to the Japanese hosts, the provider was immediately given an apology. It actually transpired that the attendee had not intended to offend anyone! He found the presenter’s facial expressions so flamboyent that he had inadvertently begun imitating her!
The moral? International cultural differences affect every aspect of learning and development, as in Japanese business, which relies heavily on nuance and subtlety in non-verbal communication! In short, we can’t assume what works in one country will work elsewhere. This means that it is vital to take the time to understand culture and create and adapt training to overcome cultural differences.
Cultural sensitivity and understanding becomes even more vital when delivering learning on potentially sensitive topics. Discussions of harassment or equality, for example, can only work when they begin in a way which is relatable!
As international organisations increasingly target emerging economies, we cannot assume that international colleagues have access to the same resources which we do. For example, remote or developing areas may have limited or slow internet access, whilst technical equipment such as displays and computers may not have the same specifications. This means that innovative or cutting edge eLearning may not be accessible to a global workforce, requiring that it either needs to be remodelled or redesigned. As such:
Think about all the practicalities of the learning you want to deploy.
Indeed, complexities of deployment and culture can often be related! One workforce may have a culture of 24/7 learning access and agile working, whilst another diligently adheres to their office hours! This complexity raises questions of whether your learning can ever be received in the same ways throughout a global workforce. To answer this question, it is vital to collect and utilise feedback on every programme you deliver, because learning and development can always be improved, however thinly it may be stretched!
My colleague Kerry Pascall has extensive experience of the challenges of delivering learning to a global audience, and her latest conclusions and recommendations are available in a brand-new whitepaper. For more information on global learning, or to discuss your learning and development needs, please get in touch!
Alex Phipps-Morgan, Bray Leino Learning
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