Focus on Ukraine

There is a great interest in training programs that address personal development, interpersonal skills, brainstorming, and public dialogue.

The largest country entirely within Europe, Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Locked between Russia and the rest of Europe, Ukraine has been figuring out its way through political and economic challenges often not even noticed by many in the West. It all ended in November 2013 when then-President Victor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement of association with the European Union (EU), which just days earlier seemed like a sure thing for many Ukrainians and Europeans. The months that followed saw an unprecedented civil unrest; serious casualties; Yanukovych’s escape to Russia; and election of the new president, Petro Poroshenko. Russia, which has been opposing Ukraine’s integration into the EU, went as far as annexing Crimea, and supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine engaged in fierce fighting with the Ukrainian army.

The end of 2014 saw Ukraine with a newly elected, largely pro-European parliament and a long list of badly needed reforms aimed at eradicating corruption, stabilizing the hryvnia, and revitalizing the economy—all of that while dealing with separatists armed and supported by Russia.

What does that all mean for global business? Ukraine’s Index for Investment Attractiveness is growing. It is wide open to continue existing partnerships and engage with new Western partners. Its new government has three ministers from Western countries. Ukraine and Ukrainians are living through a tremendous crisis, which is also ripe with great opportunities.

Ukrainian higher education produces highly qualified professionals as far as their technical skills are concerned. However, practically no time is given to development of soft skills. There is a great interest in training programs that address personal development, interpersonal skills, brainstorming, and public dialogue. Other hot topics include leadership, time management, sales and marketing, and presentation skills. Issues of cultural diversity are coming to the forefront, as well.

Trainers experienced in working with Ukrainians prefer to have at least two-day programs. It takes a while to break the ice and to build rapport. Western trainers often are suspected of not understanding the local culture, economy, and geopolitical situation. Demonstrating your local expertise and openness to learn about it is essential. Incorporating training activities rooted in Ukrainian culture such as Ukrainian crafts, folk dance, and games is becoming an important trend.

Money is even tighter than in previous years. As a result, many companies prefer to have trainers on staff rather than engage significantly more expensive outsiders. Individual practitioners and companies providing training find themselves doing a lot of free demos or pilot programs to get potential clients interested. Lots of effort has to go into building relationships and establishing one’s name on the market. Publishing high-quality articles on a subject of interest goes far toward establishing one’s expertise.

Ukrainian culture has a rather polychronic approach to time, which means that schedules and agendas do not govern people’s lives and things are done when it feels right (or “when we get there”). It often leads to training programs being rescheduled at the last moment without any compensation to the training provider. Those who insist on “late cancelation fees” in their contracts often find themselves without clients. Ironically, time management trainings are very popular.

Trainers often are called in if a client company must respond quickly to a specific emerging need. In this case, an expectation is that training will provide an immediate answer and offer a solution that can be applied right away. There are more and more trainings that offer a quick solution (“in half a day, we will teach you everything you need to know to change your life”). Multi-day trainings that were popular a few years ago are becoming a harder sell.

Tatyana Fertelmeyster specializes in Eastern European cultures, multicultural teambuilding, and global talent development. She is a senior associate of Global Dynamics Inc. For more information, visit Elena Shliakhovchuk is a Ph.D. candidate, specializing in cultural intelligence and literacy, repatriation, and migration issues.