Slovakia, with a population of more than 5.4 million, is a central European country that borders Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Austria. This country was created 25 years ago when Czechoslovakia separated into two: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Like its neighbor, the Czech Republic, Slovakia has been able to make the transition from a communist system to a capitalist one in record time. A great benefit for organizations that want to do business in Slovakia is that it is part of the European Union, a free trade, duty-free market consisting of more than 500 million consumers.
Slovakia has a diversified economy. Currently, organizations here manufacture and export cars, heavy machinery, metals, food products, pharmaceuticals, textiles, chemicals, and electrical products in large numbers. It historically has been known and lauded for a strong agricultural sector. It has a modern telecommunications system. The Slovakian government has welcomed foreign involvement through legal reforms and policies that encourage direct investment.
In spite of the many economic challenges Europe has faced in recent years, Slovakia has experienced some of the most consistent economic growth of all the countries that belong to the European Union. It has benefited from the diversity of it economy and the skills of its people. Slovakia has a literacy rate of 99 percent. Education is free, even at the college and university level.
THE STATE OF TRAINING
Most of the companies in Slovakia are located in the capital city of Bratislava, which has a population of approximately 440,000. Much of the country’s corporate training is conducted onsite in a dedicated training room at the office or in a manufacturing facility.
Similar to the training conducted by its neighbors, especially the Czech Republic, most training programs in Slovakia are short and focused. Programs that run from two days to a week are popular. The most requested topics are: technical training, sales and marketing, and customer service.
- In Slovakia, trainers are expected to lecture. If you do not begin your training by doing this, your participants may lose respect for you. Your training participants will defer to you, and treat you, their trainer, as an expert they can learn from.
- Age and job title are respected. Do not call a trainee by his or her first name unless asked.
- “Small talk” should be minimized when interacting with your trainees. Do not talk about religion, politics, or family life if you want to connect with your trainees.
- Silence is valued in this culture. Your participants want to hear what you have to say, and learn from you. They will not challenge you. They may be quiet if they disagree with your point of view. It often is felt that challenging the trainer is disrespectful, and harmful to the training environment. Do not take classroom silence as a sign your training is not going well.
- English is not spoken widely in Slovakia. It is likely you will need to translate your training materials into Slovak. Hiring a trainer who is fluent in this language, and then training him or her on the outcomes expected will be critical to successful knowledge transfer and learning. Concurrently, a key training project will involve training select management and staff in “Workplace English.” Many global organizations have had great success by providing “English Language Coaching” to a core group of professionals in their company. After this initial rollout, interested professionals are offered small group training in “Workplace English.” This language training is highly desired in Slovakia. Your company will quickly be able to generate significant returns on its training dollar. In addition, it will position your company as the “place to work.” This training program will attract top professionals from throughout the country, and serve as a valuable recruitment and retention tool.
- Slovakia has a group-oriented culture. Training participants do not want to be singled out. They may fear making an error in front of their peers. When praising or providing constructive feedback, always include the group.
Dr. Neil Orkin is president of Global Training Systems. His organization prepares corporate professionals for global business success. For more information, visit http://www.globaltrainingsystems.com.