In today’s workplace, it is not unusual to have a mixed population from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Thanks to technology advancements, many companies are expanding to different markets, with offices located around the world.
As a result, the ethnic representation of your workforce may look like a United Nations panel. These individuals bring their own ideologies and backgrounds to work, which may affect the way they interact with other employees, management and customers. In addition, they may respond differently to the ideals of the organization.
As the diversity of the workplace changes, business leaders are faced with developing training programs that will accommodate the wide range of backgrounds present. While most companies offer some type of training program to their employees, should these programs take into account the various cultural norms of the individuals present? What role should cultural diversity play in the development of training programs?
The idea of cross-cultural training isn’t new. Classes in understanding the differences between nationalities have been offered for decades. One of the biggest problems with cross-cultural training programs, however, is that they mainly helps attendees to identify the differences between cultures (Germans may be more direct, Japanese business leaders are careful not to offend others, Americans have more individualistic values, for example). These programs can be instructive and help employees to better understand each other. Unfortunately, these programs rarely address the issue of helping employees adapt their behaviour. Business managers who want to maximize their success must offer culturally diverse training programs that can reach employees of all nationalities.
How should a culturally diverse training program look?
Tailored to your organization. Effective training programs aren’t “one size fits all”. To ensure that the needs of all employees are being met, identify any individuals from different cultures and determine how they may view the training.
Experienced. If you are hiring an outside agency to provide the training, do they have experience dealing with a diverse workforce, and specifically with the nationalities represented in your organization?
Research based. Does the training program use validated methods of training that have a track record of success?
Accommodating. To be effective, training programs must accommodate the differences within each nationality. Does it take into account breaks needed for religious observances? Does the training adjust based on the specific needs of the individual’s norms?
Personalized. It is impossible for one program to account for every nationality. Ensure that the needs of your individual employees are met by using follow-up sessions. Meeting with employees individually allows training programs to address specific cultural differences as a follow-up to training allows the employee to express any concerns or questions they may have in a setting that may be more comfortable.
Culturally diverse workforces can offer a depth of perspective that can be an advantage over other companies. Ensure that your diverse workforce is operating at peak potential by providing practical training programs that will meet your employees’ needs.
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea®. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.