Five Challenges of Training a Global Workforce

Five Challenges of Training a Global Workforce

Expanding business globally offers many benefits, but it also brings a myriad of challenges.  And near the top of the list of challenges is how to get your new international workforce up to speed in the way you do business.  This requires training.  But not just any training.  To ensure quality and effectiveness of learning, special considerations must be made to meet the unique needs of location and cultural norms of the audience.

These are five challenges to consider when training a global workforce:

  1. Cultural Differences. Groups and individuals view and behave at work differently around the world, so taking a “my way or the highway” approach won’t cut it.  Depending upon the region or country, employees are motivated in different ways, employers have varying expectations of employees (and vice versa), and cultural norms affect the approach of business relationships, seniority, and communication styles.  Additionally, each country brings its own specific regulations regarding hours, compensation, and training protocols.
  2. Language Barriers. One of the most obvious issues of training an international workforce comes with the different languages and varying levels of language competency of employees. Not only are there a multitude of languages present in global teams, but each language possesses countless regional dialects and even hyper-localized dialects that can present tricky issues for communication.
  3. Regional-Based Customization. Curriculum designed for Europe won’t work in Asia, nor will curriculum tailored for South America address needs in North America. Core topics may remain the same, but intense specialization is required based on location and culture.  Not getting customization right will negatively affect productivity and compliance.
  4. Time Zone Differences. Live webinars and calls are difficult to coordinate when dealing with a 14-hour time difference, as with the western U.S. and Singapore, or nine hours with much of Europe.  Scheduling and logistics require more thought, coordination, and communication.
  5. High Cost. The expense of global training increases for translation and customization of materials. Every one hour of new or customized content often requires 10 hours of development time.   Further, if training in person, travel expenses boost cost dramatically.  This can’t be avoided.  I was once asked, “Is training worth the investment?  What if I pay to train them and they leave?”  My response: What if you don’t train them and they stay!

Training internationally requires being open, willing, and nimble in recognizing and accounting for these five challenges.   A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.  The more you learn about your audience, the better they will learn from you.   Doing so provides an important step in ensuring success of any global expansion.

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