Education and training are an important cultural value for Austrians. The 2010 Continuing Vocational Training Survey conducted throughout Europe placed Austria in the top four countries, showing that 87 percent of enterprises actively train their employees.
The large number of small training providers points to the importance of personal relationships and trust between the client and the provider. Cold calling is not an effective way to break into the market. A personal recommendation is far more successful, in particular from someone who has seen and experienced your training. So marketing yourself by speaking at conferences, offering lectures, and running workshops at academic institutions and organizations works better than simple professional social network recommendations.
Your expertise is best presented face-to-face. Know that training programs are decided months ahead of time. Apart from your professional qualifications, titles, and achievements, pricing will be important. HR managers thoroughly assess the value for their money.
When introducing yourself at a training program, include your academic credentials, experience, and theoretical background. Agendas, pre-reading, and printouts given out beforehand will reinforce your credibility as a trainer. Articulate the context; target objectives and tangible ways to achieve them; formulate a clear, step-by-step path for the training; and detail the short-term applicability to learners’ jobs. Keep your English clear and distinct as participants often have varied levels of proficiency.
Let everyone know the timing for breaks and the exact finishing time. Remember that coffee breaks are essential for interacting with your participants and getting their perceptions of the training. This can help you tailor your training after the break. Being overly enthusiastic during the training will take away from your professional credibility, while self-deprecating humor or being provocative in a sarcastic manner usually is appreciated.
Carefully strike the right balance between interactive methods and lecture style, as too many exercises and games may create a perception that you are not serious or adding value. Keep the strong connection between knowledge and value in mind, making sure to outline the “why.” Austrians do not like doing anything without understanding the reasons behind the exercise, simulation, or game. Keeping critical incidents brief and tailored to the audience will reassure Austrians that they are getting information that is relevant and specific to their context. Be sure to include a debriefing after training to reiterate the lessons learned.
Be prepared for lots of challenging questions on theory. This is not meant to challenge you personally, but a useful way out can be to present both sides of the issue and guide the discussion with questions such as: “If you were a boss, with many irons in the fire, what would you want to hear?”
Austrians have a proverb that says, “Not being scolded is praise enough.” So do not overdo praise to avoid being perceived as phony.
No matter how well the training went, don’t expect a 10 out of 10 on evaluation forms. Perfect is not possible for Austrians—it always could be better. Austrians won’t criticize openly, so it’s best to ask open questions along the lines of what should be maintained in the training and what could be improved to fit their needs.
Do not forget to hand out glossy “Participation Certificates” and information-heavy material for learners to take away.
Finally, focus on building long-term relationships through courtesy and regular contact, and you will have plenty of opportunities to train in Austria— and also to enjoy some apple strudel and cakes during your time there.
Nayantara Ghosh- Ersek and Elisabeth Weingraber- Pircher are senior associates with Global Dynamics Inc. (www.globaldynamics.com). They each specialize in cross-cultural training, management and leadership training, negotiations training, and global teambuilding. They each have lived and worked in multiple countries on four continents and train in five or more languages. They can be reached at email@example.com or 305.682.7883.