The cross-country challenge

Managers are increasingly expected to operate across cultural and national
borders. Margaret Kubicek looks at innovative development means for achieving

How to become international is fast becoming an issue for many companies,
and, as a result, they are looking to give managers the right exposure and
experience at critical stages of their careers.

Managing people of different nationalities, heading-up remote and virtual
teams across time zones and increasing stints abroad are just some of the
challenges facing today’s international manager.

With innovative use of technology and new developments in training becoming
critical to global success, organisations need to consider how best to support
their international managers and encourage a transcultural mindset in their
people. We asked practitioners and pundits how best to do this.

Jean-Luc Augustin
HR director, Reed Elsevier

We have four different businesses – science, education, legal and business –
which are attached to the principle that we want to be a global company. We
think managers of the future will be able to work across boundaries, so we
encourage our people to make cross-business and cross-country moves. We are
working long-term on our company culture to create a frame in which our
managers can move more easily between countries and businesses.

Anthony Mitchell
European Partnership MBA director, Ashridge

We are moving away from programmes taught solely at Ashridge to study
modules at corporate universities. We have run a consortium MBA for Deutsche
Bank, Bosch, Merck and Lufthansa for five years and. until recently, we had 12
modules based at Ashridge. Now we will have six based here, four at consortium
corporate university facilities, and two will be virtual with specially
designed materials and exercises to help candidates individually and within
virtual teams. The aim is to provide experience of working in virtual project
teams, which is something organisations are trying to achieve. As they become
more international, organisations need to find different ways of communicating.

Christine Communal
Lecturer in international management, Cranfield School of Management

Capturing the international knowledge and experience that exists in an
organisation is key and I am working with multi-nationals which are developing
cross-cultural information on their websites. One individual’s experience
abroad should provide added value to the company because mistakes are learned

Cranfield is also developing a technology tool with a number of companies to
help them manage the adjustment process when employees are sent abroad.

We track whether the employee is struggling emotionally. The feedback is
confidential but the company gets individual country reports.

Rick Woodward
Training and development director, Kimberley-Clark Europe

In the case of remote teams, how do you manage people when they are not
always there? It is about building community. When you are remote from each
other you have to work at that. We have launched a new programme of remote and
virtual team training in Europe and the US and we are increasingly blending
e-learning with our training.

We help people assess when face-to-face meetings are preferable to using
communication technology. If you are ever going to meet, doing so initially is
the time to do it. This sounds blindingly obvious, but there can be pressures
to get moving without it.

Ian Shaw
Development and communications director – Europe, Nestlé Purina PetCare

Nestlé is the biggest food company in the world. It has an international
training centre on the banks of Lake Geneva and runs a series of programmes,
with more than 2,000 people a year passing through its doors. The chief
executive meets with them personally. Nestlé has made these top guys very
accessible to people coming in from all over the world, and whereas most
training programmes run for a week or less, these tend to run for two weeks.
The essence is to create excellent networking chances so good practice from
across the world can be leveraged onto others.

Miko Weidemannis
Group HR director, Heidelberg Cement

We have 40,000 people operating in 50 countries. As part of our strategy for
international success, we run a year-long programme for young international

Group project work takes place between the modules, alongside their normal
jobs, in which small teams of participants from different parts of the world
solve a problem.

A lot of our activities are built around teambuilding and the main aims for
us are networking opportunities and overcoming cultural differences. When
people don’t know each other and you want to create long-lasting connections,
nothing beats face-to-face contact.

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