Uruguay is a relatively small country in South America—about the size of the state of Washington—with approximately 3.3 million inhabitants, a number that has remained unchanged for many years. It is a country made up of immigrants from several cultures; as a result, trainers coming to Uruguay can expect to find an interesting combination of cultures.
Uruguay once was recognized as an educational benchmark, but it has since lost that status. Since those entering the job market may not be fully prepared (especially in terms of soft skills), anyone doing training should pre-test students on their abilities. In most cases, given the existing gap between what the work market needs and what the employees have learned through formal education, companies have had to take on the responsibility for training soft skills on their own.
Today, the new generation of employees no longer chooses the university as the only way of developing their skills, and having an MBA is no longer a differentiator in the market. Younger employees seek out employers that offer in-house training. In fact, one of the most attractive features a company can offer today is training and development.
More than 90 percent of Uruguayan companies were born as family enterprises, and they tend to be high in emotional sensitivity and in-group solidarity. Therefore, any training that considers emotion and affectivity as a source of learning will stand out positively from traditional lecture-style training approaches. Modern concepts such as ontological coaching and neuroscience have great acceptance within companies today. There is also a strong preference for trainers to demonstrate the applicability of the learning in company-specific, real-life scenarios. An effective training session will be highly interactive with role-playing and group exercises.
Given the small population and the relative closeness of the 1.3 million inhabitants of Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo—where the majority of business is concentrated—it is best to use personal connections whenever possible. Uruguayans are also fairly conservative and traditional, and as result, any references to a trainer’s academic honors, certifications, and diplomas will be well received. The trainer’s credentials, past experiences, and ability to tie the program to the unique aspects of the company’s culture will help to get the program off to a good start. It is also helpful to have one of the company’s leaders introduce the trainer and explain why the training is important to the learners’ careers and the company.
Trainers should note that professional Human Resources practices are fairly new in the country, and there is often little appreciation of the value of investing in training by company leaders, who frequently have inherited their positions. Trainers should emphasize the educational value of their training and should provide information on their backgrounds, such as books or papers they have written or prior professional speaking engagements. It is also a good practice to commence a training program by stating the agenda and presenting the expected educational outcomes.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
When conducting a training session, trainers should try to build an emotional bond with students. This includes going out to lunch or dinner together and inquiring about their families, as well as providing them with a personal overview. Trainers should take time for the participants to introduce themselves to the group and to enjoy a break with the group during the program. Uruguayans share “mate” (pronounced “mat”)— which is similar to tea and enjoys a cult-like status among South Americans for its many health benefits—with the closest people, so during the break, there’s a good chance someone will invite the trainer to share one. A group photo including the trainer is a welcome touch. After the training has been completed, trainers should try to stay connected to students via e-mail to be sure the training is being used.
Uruguayans are very gregarious; trainers who go with a positive and friendly attitude and know how to deliver a program that relates to them will have a great experience. As we say in Uruguay: Vamos que vamos! (Let’s go and do this!)
Beatriz Martínez is a senior associate with Global Dynamics, www.global-dynamics.com. Based in Montevideo, Uruguay, she specializes in cross-cultural training, Human Resource management, leadership training, coaching, corporate culture, and assessments. She can be reached at programs@globaldynamics. com or 305.682.7883.