With culturally aware professionals having a distinct advantage over their peers, cross cultural training is an essential part of any professional person's development.
International businesses increasingly cite cultural competence as a core requriement during the recruitment process. Why? Because culturally aware staff are more productive and successful in international roles.
Although cross cultural training is gaining significant traction within areas such as multinational business, global industry, academia, diplomacy and other areas of public and personal life, the frameworks of cultural training are not necessarily clear to those new to the subject.
To bridge that gap, we have answered some of the more frequently asked questions about cross cultural training:
What is the definition of cross cultural training?
No formal definition of cross cultural training exists, perhaps pointing to its sometimes rather broad interpretations and applications. However, most attempts to define this field of training agree on similar points, namely that it is any sort of training course that focuses on aspects of culture and cultural differences.
The term 'cross cultural' explicitly refers to any sort of interaction where more than one culture is involved. Many interpretations see this as relating only to national cultures, for example, American, Chinese or the UAE, although technically it can refer to any sort of cultural difference, say regional, generational or company culture.
The majority of formal, commercialised cultural training focuses on cross cultural differences in business, such as etiquette, communication or leadership. Other cross cultural training can take place in the public sector, say for those working in/with diverse communities, as well as in the military, NGOs, hospitality and sports.
Simply put, cross cultural training means any training that helps people overcome cultural challenges in work, or in life, when interacting with others whose culture, values and beliefs we are not fully aware.
Why is cross cultural training important?
The benefits of cross cultural training are many:
It helps people overcome bias and prejudice, which can otherwise stop them making good decisions.
It improves communication skills and softer skills such as emotional intelligence which ensure individuals maximise outcomes during meetings and avoid confusion or offense .
It increases trust between people, which helps break down barriers, seal business deals and get things done.
It drives sales by helping business people understand a new market and appreciate how to articulate their pitch in a way that will appeal to their prospects
It promotes synergy and drives trusting team relationships which frees people to concentrate on the more important matters, rather than becoming embroiled in team disputes or difficulties.
What are different approaches to cross cultural training?
There are many different approaches when it comes to the content, delivery and ethos of cross cultural training. This fundamentally comes down to context, i.e. who is the training for, why, when and how? The training course developed for a group of high flying business leaders in the USA, is going to be very different to that of a group of engineers travelling to Nigeria for the first time.
Content can vary considerably between cross cultural training courses, educators and vendors. Many incorporate teachings from the likes of academics such as Hofstede, Trompenaars and Hall who each developed their own theories on how and why cultures differ. This training usually takes the form of looking at ‘the other’, i.e. the rationale being that if we can study and understand ‘their’ behaviour and actions then we can have strategies to deal with them.
Other training may take the opposite approach in stressing that first one must understand ‘the self’, i.e. why you do what you do (not what others do). The idea behind this approach being more about realised empathy and developing cultural awareness through emotional intelligence.
Who needs cross cultural training?
What are the different types of cross cultural training?
There are many types and variations of cross cultural training. Sometimes they come under different names such as Intercultural Training, Cultural Competence, Diversity Training or Cultural awareness. They can be very close in look, feel and content or can be very different depending on whether they are pre-designed training courses or bespoke solutions.
Generally cross cultural training can be divided into two different areas - Country focused vs Skill focused. Country focused training will only look at one (or a few) culture, i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Turkish. The content will look at specific areas of the culture whether that be etiquette, communication or negotiation.
Skill focused training on the other hands is a more generic type of course which looks at areas such as communication, management, persuasion, leadership, negotiation, sales, etc and then addresses cultural differences within that framework. There very well may be country specific information or there may not, as these courses are more about developing rounded skills as opposed to focusing on one culture.
How does cross cultural training take place?
Traditionally most training took place in a face to face training environment such as a training room. This is still very much the case however it is much more common today for online training, webinars and e-learning to be used.
Since many multicultural teams are spread geographically, the value in good quality online eLearning cultural training has become more important.
What are cross cultural trainers?
A trainer who runs a cross cultural programme will be someone who is an expert in one or many aspects of cross cultural communication. They may either be a country expert, i.e. someone who has lived and worked in another country, or a skills expert, i.e. someone with hands-on management, presentation or negotiation experience.
With a background in business (or the public sector) and formal education in intercultural communication, cross cultural trainers provide learners with both practical and academic insights into the topic. Interested in becoming an intercultural trainer?
How long does cross cultural training last?
How long is a piece of string? Training can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 3 days. The length of the training is usually determined by budgets, time, the geographical spread of teams and practicality.
The majority of face to face training takes place over the course of a day, although cross cultural webinar trainingwebinar training may be delivered in 2 hour chunks.
How much does cross cultural training cost?
As above – it all depends on what you want and how you want it.
A simple, off-the-shelf training course will naturally be a lot less than a tailored training course involving meetings, research and design.
Where do I find cross cultural training?
There are providers of cross cultural training within the private sector as well as sometimes through NGOs, public bodies and government initiatives.
A study in 2017 predicted the cross cultural training sector will grow 15% by 2021 driven by demand to support employees working in multicultural environments. It also highlights the top 5 global training vendors who are all examples of where to find such training.
Any more questions? Send them our way!