Intercultural Training for Global Teams & Units

Intercultural Training for Global Teams & Units

For boundary-spanning teams and units, GROVEWELL offers training that conveys the insights and practical skills gathered from 60 years of intercultural research and experience, and that are applicable to the everyday events and challenges of people collaborating while far apart.

To visit GROVEWELL's cornerstone explanation of leadership training, click here.

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A Brief Primer on Intercultural Training

Intercultural training includes, but does not emphasize, the transmission of facts about unfamiliar cultures. Rather, its focus is on behavior modification so that participants can more effectively build relationships, collaborate, and work effectively with counterparts in a variety of countries.

Intercultural training is grounded in a practice-oriented research tradition that began in 1959. For information about the origins, purposes, and methods of intercultural work, click here.

Cultural training for boundary-spanning teams and units is not identical to cultural training for international assignees ("expatriates") and their family members. To learn more about the best practices for expatriates, click here.

Two basic types of intercultural training:

  1. Culture-general training introduces the “culture concept,” that is, the way culture has come to be understood by anthropologists, interculturalists, and others who study culture professionally.
  2. Culture-specific training addresses the day-to-day interactions among people from two or more cultural backgrounds (for example, French and Chinese) who are purposefully interacting. This training enables participants to develop new behaviors and skills for productive interactions with counterparts from abroad.

Culture-general training may be delivered on a stand-alone basis. But that's not highly effective because global businesses need employees in one specific culture to be effective and productive in daily interactions with counterparts in (or from) at least one other specific culture.

Therefore, the most effective and immediately applicable training begins with culture-general training, and continues with culture-specific training. A typical sequence of training events is:

  1. at least half a day of culture-general training, then
  2. at least a full day of culture-specific training.

How Intercultural Training Is Delivered

A component of training with broader objectives

Cultural training usually occurs as an integral component of training that's designed primarily to support the attainment of broader organizational objectives. For example, consider these GROVEWELL programs:

  • Influencing Colleagues Across Organizational Units & Mindsets is about influencing colleagues within global organizations. It begins with, and becomes infused by, the intercultural perspective. Details
  • Working Effectively on International Projects is primarily for the managers of large global projects. It also begins with, and becomes infused by, the intercultural perspective. Details

Increasingly delivered using blended learning methods

With global units typically scattered around the world, and with the rise of virtual communication, intercultural programs increasingly are using both face-to-face and virtual delivery options, creatively combined to fit each client’s needs and constraints.

FACE-TO-FACE, OR “IN-ROOM,” CULTURAL TRAINING applies a wide variety of delivery methods, including many that invite active involvement by all participants. This is important because the basic objective of the training is behavior modification, not merely knowledge retention. Cultural training frequently makes use of simulation exercises, such as GROVEWELL’s own Randömia Balloon Factory.

Although the dynamism and active involvement of in-room training cannot be consistently equaled by virtual methods, it’s also true that bringing numerous trainees from far away is likely to be prohibitively expensive. These days, however, there’s an alternative:

VIRTUAL TRAINING, PRIMARILY VIA WEBINARS, is able to attain, surprisingly well, most of the outcomes of face-to-face training. When webinars are expertly planned and facilitated, role plays can occur, small groups can meet and report, and spirited discussions can occur. (We’ve even found a way to include a version of our Randömia Balloon Factory simulation in our virtual trainings!)

Webinar training is an effective option when it is supported by focused efforts to create webinar materials of transparent clarity; to inform participants of what to expect; to enable participants to build virtual acquaintances with each other; and to support their online learning with offline readings, exercises, and small-group collaborations.

BLENDING FACE-TO-FACE AND VIRTUAL TRAINING is how GROVEWELL has been serving a major global client during the past five years. In this particular case, GROVEWELL and our client partnered to develop the following learning process for the training cohorts (in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Paris, Shanghai, and Wuhan):

  • over a six-week period, four facilitated webinars of 1¼ to 1½ hours, followed by…
  • one full day (or two half days) of face-to-face, or "in-room," training, followed by…
  • two weeks later, a final facilitated webinar of 1½ hours to achieve course closure.

Whether face-to-face, virtual, or blended, GROVEWELL has almost no cultural training programs that are "off-the-shelf." (An exception is our Global Leadership Essentials program.) Each of our cross-cultural trainings is customized with a specific client and its business and global objectives in mind. We’re most effective when we actively partner with your people, or at least when our preparations are informed through interviewing of several of your key global players.

Keep in mind the old adage that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This certainly applies to business activities across cultural boundaries! Ask any manager who invested time and expense to address cultural differences after these nearly derailed a critical global initiative.