Q&A

Cendant
Mobility answers questions on intercultural training

How
are companies using intercultural training?

When
companies began providing intercultural training to their employees several
decades ago it was primarily in support of international assignees and their
families. Increasingly companies are now offering intercultural training to
non-relocating employees as well.  

In
our competitive global business environment, employees require greater
intercultural understanding and competence to facilitate their work on virtual
international teams, to navigate cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and to
enhance performance when pursuing business objectives through international
business travel and short-term assignments.

We
are also seeing an increase in the use of intercultural training to raise
workforce awareness of the challenges and skills needed within an organisation
on the path to globalisation, to demonstrate the relevance and impact of
culture to business, and to promote the broader cultural mindset required to
increase the company’s overall level of competitiveness.

These
intercultural programmes are typically offered through the corporate
institution’s open enrolment systems, as a core element of leadership
programmes, and to address a division’s specific business objectives in any
given country.

Often
overlooked as an intercultural training intervention, language training equips
corporate employees and their families with the tools to decode the operating
norms of the national culture in which they are expected to succeed. Foreign
language capability is a part of the communication skills critical to any
global workforce.

In
terms of the timing of training for assignee families, is pre-departure (in
home location) or post-arrival (host location) delivery recommended?

There
are valid arguments to be made for each. 
On the one hand, forewarned is forearmed.  Proactive training, pre-departure, can serve to reduce pre-move
anxieties, provide insights and information to the employee and spouse so as to
avoid missteps early on, manage expectations of the upcoming transition, and
produce a strategy for entry into the new environment. On the other hand,
training delivered post-arrival provides a venue for deeper exploration of
real-time experiences. It can serve as an effective debrief of observed
behavioural differences and challenges of the assignment.

Both
models review personal and professional objectives of the assignment, equip the
assignee and partner with the skills and tools to develop a deeper
understanding of the host country business and social environment, and work
with the couple to formulate a concrete action plan. An ideal solution might be
to offer a combination of pre-departure and post-arrival training.

If
children of international assignees will be going directly into school in their
host location, is there any benefit to their participation in a training
programme?

Although
it is commonly believed that children are better adapters than adults, this is
not necessarily true. In our experience, youth intercultural training provides
great benefits, particularly starting at around age eight. We find that
children this age and older have the maturity and intellectual capacity to
grasp the concepts of culture relevant to their needs on the international
assignment, for example, how friends are made, how school might be different,
and what some common activities are for children their age. As with the adult
programme, the child will be provided with tools for understanding, comparing,
and contrasting the values, beliefs and assumptions of their home country and
host country cultures. They are also introduced to how changes in the family
dynamic might affect them due to the international assignment.

How
important is it for the accompanying spouse/partner to attend the cross-cultural
training for the international assignment?

It
would be difficult to say who it is more important for – the employee or their
partner. In fact, we advise the couple to attend the programme together for
maximum benefit. Still cited most frequently as the number one cause of a
failed international assignment is the spouse/partner’s inability to adjust to
the host country. However, this fact is a rather simplistic indicator of the
complex organisational issue of assignee couples’ multiple support needs.
Cross-cultural training is one among several tangible support elements in
assignment preparation

A
comprehensive intercultural training programme covers both the social and the
business world, each relevant for both partners. If the accompanying partner is
able to work while on assignment, the business- focused portion of the training
may provide insights for their own purposes. If they are not working on
assignment, it will still serve to give the couple a common frame of reference
for understanding the new environment and may have application for volunteer
work or other non-employment activities in which the partner engages.

A
quality cross-cultural training programme will also contain practical daily
living information, provide an explanation of the international assignment
adjustment cycle that can be expected for all family members to varying
degrees, and develop competence for personal and professional performance
success in the host country location.  

What
are the competencies that can be targeted with intercultural training?

The
competencies targeted depend upon the type of intercultural programme provided.
In the case of a cross-cultural training programme targeting international
assignees, the curriculum will build on the competencies related to cultural
perspective, cross-cultural communication, multiple perspectives, and
adaptability & flexibility.  

What
about when that family is due to return home from their assignment – are there
intercultural programmes for repatriation?

Yes.
The return transition often proves to be more challenging for the employee and
family than the move to the host country location. Repatriating employees and
their families may experience an unanticipated degree of change and feelings of
loss. On a personal level, they have generally changed more than they have
realised: friends and family have changed during the absence; the community has
changed; and the corporation itself has typically undergone some sort of
restructuring, or other fundamental changes. In addition to reconciling these
changes, the family may also experience the loss of host country relationships,
the loss of access to preferences acquired on assignment (entertainment, foods,
media choices, and so on), and often the loss of on-the-job autonomy and status.
Depending upon the degree of adaptation each family member made to the host
country and culture, each may experience varying degrees of disorientation back
in the ‘home’ culture.

Intercultural
programmes for repatriation can address this adjustment process, assist the
family in identifying all that they have gained while on assignment, and
facilitate the creation of an action plan for leveraging and applying their
experiences going forward.

What
is important to look for when choosing an intercultural service provider?

If
your company is active internationally, a service provider’s global delivery
platform will be important. Look for the presence of trainers and client
service representatives in the region of your activity and for technology that
supports the sharing of information across regions.  

Check
out the credentials of the training consultants and service staff. Ask about
quality control and how the provider ensures consistency in the quality of
delivery worldwide. And, make sure the provider’s service standards meet your
expectations. As in the screening of your own talent, check references. You
will want your provider to represent you well, to provide you and your
employees with top service, and to deliver on your employees’ skill development
for meeting business objectives.

Cendant
Mobility

Cendant
Mobility is the premier provider of global mobility management and workforce
development solutions serving the corporate, military, government, and affinity
markets.

Through
its industry-leading outsourcing, consulting, language and intercultural
training, logistical support, and supplier management, it helps organisations
and their mobile workforces achieve success worldwide.

With
more than 50 years experience, Cendant Mobility helps clients balance cost management
and service performance to accomplish their organisational objectives.

Cendant
Mobility has nearly 2,100 global clients. It assists more than 130,000
transferring employees annually, represented by cross-border activity in more
than 140 countries.

Cendant
Mobility is a subsidiary of Cendant Corporation (NYSE: CD). Visit www.cendantmobility.com

Ian
Paine

Ian
Paine is managing director and senior vice-president EMEA/AP
region, Cendant Mobility

Paine
has been with Cendant Mobility since 1997 and has worked in
international-assignment-related areas since 1988.

His
international business career has encompassed assignments in Croatia, Greece
and the US. A frequent speaker and writer on the subject of expatriate
assignments, he was a member of the International Planning Committee of the US
Employee Relocation Council.

He
holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and speaks French, survival
Greek and inaccurate Serbo-Croat

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