More and more companies are multinational; employees are working for companies headquartered in other countries. The world continues to get smaller. There are certainly many employee development issues that arise. There are companies that take their existing US curriculum and roll it out to other countries. Then they wonder why they didn’t get the results they wanted. Our purpose here is to give you some insights into successfully taking curriculum across borders.
Know Your Audience
- Who are the people who will be participating?
- What do you know about them (job levels, education levels)?
- What language skills are you dealing with?
- If training will be in a second language, how well do they speak? Understand? Read?
- Are they ready for this topic? Are they receptive?
- What do they already know about this topic?
- What do they need and want to know about this topic?
- What does their management want them to be able to do as a result of their participation in this program?
- What is the best way to deliver this information to them?
- What leadership or management support will be needed? How will you get it?
- What technology barriers are there?
- Has the information been proofed for language or culture sensitivities?
- Will translation be needed or helpful?
An audience analysis takes on a different role when done for an unfamiliar country. Assumptions cannot be made. And “They speak English” needs to be explored more fully.
- Has someone in country reviewed the content and materials for relevance?
- Are hard and soft copies of the program where they need to be?
- Do any materials need translating or additional information?
- What is the best shipping method and how long can you expect that to take?
- Do precautions need to be taken for copyrighted material in the countries you will be dealing with?
When dealing with audiences in their non-native language, you build support materials differently. Building more content into participant materials helps them to see and hear terms and content that they may be unfamiliar with. Giving it to participants in advance gives them a chance to review and be better prepared. It actually can start the learning earlier and set up for more powerful learning transfer in the classroom. I have found audiences in other countries that diligently do their prework!!!!
Getting materials through customs can be challenging. Ship paper separately from media and samples where appropriate. A colleague of mine learned the hard way to ship paper separately from samples and media. Because product samples were in the box to China and needed more scrutiny, the entire box did not make it in time for the training – including her participant materials.
Tips for Preparing to Facilitate
- Be aware of the key points that must be covered and objectives that must be achieved for your program to be considered successful.
- Watch timing. The culture may need extra time for breaks or meals. Allow at least one third more time if using a translator.
Be ready to course correct when you are there. If something isn’t working, talk to people and change it.
- Allow an adjustment day when you arrive in the country before you have to teach when possible. It is part of self care and helps with jet lag and time zone issues.
- Be well rested before the trip and try and sleep on the plane.
- Avoid references to American sports to make a point. Pit crew examples of team work and referencing “hitting it out of the park” will likely fall flat, depending on where you are. Use analogies that are relevant to them.
- Don’t rely on questions like, “do you understand” to get a read from the group. Asians will likely say yes out of respect. Figure out how to ask good questions to get the information you need.
- Show you have done your homework. Use local cities as examples. Use soccer or the local sport, use music or films to connect with the audience if practical. Sharing the last movie you saw, favorite singer or group, particularly for a younger audience, will help build bridges and create comfort.
- Be careful with the words you choose. Avoid cultural or geographic references. Jargon and slang are often not translatable or relevant. Take a second look at acronyms and abbreviations. Homophones are very confusing (hear and here). It is best to take a conservative approach and avoid references to the human body, animals, sex, alcohol, politics, or religion.
- Choose methods that will work where you are going. Role plays won’t work everywhere. Group teach backs won’t work everywhere. Lecture is preferred some places and will not work other places. Ask questions and be prepared to be flexible to meet varied styles and preferences.
- Make role plays, exercises, examples relevant to the people being trained. If you don’t know, research it. Watch CNN Asia, for example. Harvard, Wharton and Macenzie all have newsletters that give great international information. The internet is full of information, check the country’s website, check the AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) for the country you are visiting. Or, run the exercises by a local contact for feedback before doing them. Your goal is relevance and avoiding confusion.
- Find out what is going on in their country regarding politics, holidays, transportation, work issues, economy, leaders, and the weather.
You will find different preferences around the world. Just because you know a country has a preference for a certain method does not mean you only do that. It just means be sensitive to what is working and be flexible if something is not working. On a recent Asia trip, a group gave feedback to the facilitator to “you speak more, we speak less, it is what we are used to.” This does not mean we totally gave up all facilitated discussion and activities. But we did compromise and did more “teaching.” When working with other cultures, it is important to keep the learner in mind.
Content adapted from The Essential Guide to Training Global Audiences, Irwin and McClay, Pfeiffer