Volume 03: Accommodating Global Learning
In the last few decades, our world has become increasingly smaller. Advances in technology have created opportunities for businesses to expand, not only in services provided or products offered, but in workforce and presence across the globe.
Balancing time zones, languages, cultural differences, and leadership expectations in a training environment are relatively new challenges for Learning and Development (L&D) professionals. How are these elements managed while still providing the expected necessary training for new employees?
Communicate With Consistency
Gone are the days when all that was necessary to be considered global was translating communications into various languages. Mergers, acquisitions, and revitalized corporate structures have created companies with a global presence across continents and cultures. Creating relevant and inclusive training programs may present a challenge in this changing landscape.
Communication is critical. “Constantly communicate and clarify expectations,” is the advice offered by Chris Whitaker, director of training and development with Aptean, a software company with employees in over 100 countries. When creating L&D strategies and programs with a global perspective, Whitaker says, “You have to make sure that everyone has a crystal clear understanding of the vision of where the company is headed.” But these strategies can’t just be verbally communicated; employees have to see them in action in the corporate structure.
In a global market, Whitaker recommends a structured methodology for training, communicating what needs to be done and prioritizing it. He suggests developing some content inside the organization for instructor-led training, then identifying key strategic partners who can enrich the training experience from an external perspective. He also promotes integrating instructor-led, electronic, and virtual training with self-paced eLearning.
Being Local In A Global Environment
Organizations tend to have a culture of their own. According to Rob Lauber, vice president, Yum! University, Yum! Brands’ corporate philosophy is well defined from an organizational perspective, under the leadership of the CEO. Training and communications are developed based on that foundation.
Lauber states that the most valuable resource in this process is a subject matter expert. With over 1.5 million employees in 120 countries and more than 2 billion customers each year, Yum! Brands has to think from a global perspective. But expecting leadership to have an understanding of all cultures in which the company has a presence is unrealistic. To understand how new concepts will play out across the globe, Yum! Brands utilizes a core group of subject matter experts who review initiatives for cultural appropriateness.
Once training initiatives are reviewed for appropriateness by a group that represents their multicultural scope, the translation and specific methods for implementing the initiatives are left up to the local markets.
By leaving the training program implementation up to the specific culture, Yum! Brands, which manages restaurants and franchises such as Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell, recognizes people for doing good work while giving local managers a lot of autonomy. The training program designers provide a framework to work within and are consistent in the message they deliver.
Be Culturally Appropriate
An issue of significant importance when developing global training programs is being sensitive to the many cultural differences among employees. “What is fine and appropriate in the United States may not be fine and appropriate in another country,” says Max Herrell, program director with GE Transportation Learning. Having locals in other countries review programs and provide approval before a global rollout is a necessity. Subtle nuances, even as seemingly insignificant as colors, can mean different things from region to region.
Generational learning styles also may be different from one country to another. At GE Transportation Learning, subject matter experts ensure the content is technically correct and accurate for the region they represent, helping to provide insight and eliminate cultural oversights.
Avoid Being “Corporate-Centric”
Organizations have to recognize that employees may have a perception that programs are inherently American when coming from the corporate headquarters. “Openness to good content and ideas originating outside of the United States is key,” Whitaker shares.
Whitaker believes that a significant benefit of an organization having a global presence is the incorporation of ideas from all over the world. Engaging locals in the structure and implementation of initiatives may lead to the discovery of new ideas that could positively change the corporate landscape. In turn, these employees will see their ideas in action, feel valued as a part of the collective workplace, and feel a higher level of commitment to their employer. Leadership and managers must be open to the varying expertise of their employees around the world while staying grounded in process and best practices.
Lauber has seen that technology-based training leads to higher job satisfaction rates. When Yum! Brands employees have access to Web-based courses and online assessments, they feel more confident in their ability to successfully fulfill their job responsibilities, and the company has seen a reduction in turnover by 50 percent within the first 90 days of employment. Side-by-side training with mid-level managers still plays a huge role in instilling confidence and impacting day-to-day work life, but, on a global scale, the company has to provide the tools necessary to successfully accomplish that and to choose the right talent for the right positions.
According to Mary Woolf, director of learning technologies at Yum! Brands, one challenge of using learning technology globally is the reality that not all regions have the same level of access or support. Many companies are utilizing smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices that are more readily available than computers in some areas. However, when developing programs in a mobile technology platform, an organization must keep in mind the differences in learning on a mobile device versus a computer.
GE Transportation Learning has redesigned their training to move away from the standard approach of the new employee in a classroom setting for weeks before any hands-on experience begins. According to Herrell, GE Transportation Learning provides safety training, and then employees are assigned to work on a project with support systems, such as videos and tutorials, built into tablets. “It’s ‘just what you need, when you need it’ training.”
With more organizations expanding their own borders all over the world, L&D professionals must meet the needs of a culturally diverse population while also satisfying the expectations of corporate management. By engaging new employees in training strategies and implementation, we can ensure that we all continue to learn from each other in the process.
Thanks to contributors who shared their insight and experience for this article:
Max Herrell, program director, GE Transportation Learning
Rob Lauber, vice president of Yum University, Yum! Brands
Chris Whitaker, director of training and development, Aptean
Mary Woolf, director of learning technologies, Yum! Brands
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