Organizations, like people, turn inward when there is a crisis. That is what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021. Expats were rushed home as employees hunkered down at home, brushed up on their Zoom and Teams proficiency, and found the most comfortable clothes and slippers for the long run.
Even before the pandemic, there was a movement around the globe to turn inward, prompting a downturn in training for cultural agility. The pendulum now is shifting back again toward global cooperation and synergies.
Employees who were onboarded or promoted to positions with global responsibilities over the last four years have had little incentive to learn the tools, strategies, and insights to work effectively with colleagues from different cultures. Like their peers who came before them, they do not know what they do not know. They need to be prepared to see and build skills to deal with their global and cross-cultural blind spots so they don’t repeat the errors made before them.
WHERE SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS START?
- Core competencies and KPIs. A first step is to review the organization’s competencies and add global mindset and cultural intelligence (CQ) to key performance indicators (KPIs) for leaders and managers. Creating a roadmap for cultural intelligence should be near the top of any training and development plans for the next five years.
- Introductory training and talent development for a global mindset. This can include workshops and Webinars on working globally or cross-cultural collaboration skills. Within the last few weeks, we have been inundated with requests for cross-cultural competency training. One of the top 10 pharmaceutical organizations is asking for global Webinars on cultural competence for an entire division. To better build bridges of understanding, the company wants to run all of the Webinars at 7 a.m. Eastern so its associates in the U.S., Asia, and Europe can participate simultaneously in the same program. In the past, these programs were delivered for each region separately, and we had to communicate the key learnings, perceptions, and action plans for each region to the U.S. leadership, who then shared this information with each location. Other programs include one-hour sessions on communicating across cultures for employee resource groups (ERGs) and other employee development groups. Organizations realize that to rebuild trust, employees must be able to effectively communicate across cultures and avoid the many pitfalls of intercultural communication. Words can have different meanings across cultures. The best of intentions can be undermined by a lack of understanding.
- Total rewards, talent development, and expatriate assignments. Organizations must quickly re-establish their global talent pipeline. International assignments are one of the best ways to prepare executives for the C-suite and for organizations to ensure alignment around goals, objectives, and company policies and procedures. An international assignment is one of the most effective ways to learn humility, vulnerability, and how to see the world from multiple perspectives. Training for international assignments went from 0 to 40-plus in two weeks, for countries where the majority of citizens have been vaccinated. A major Korean company plans to send 50 Korean expats to the U.S. and wants to be sure each of them and their U.S.-based employees receive cross-cultural training to better understand each other’s management and communication styles. This is one of scores of proactive interventions being requested to support international assignees and their families.
- Country-specific strategic cultural briefings. Companies are back to expanding, and they need briefings on specific cultures. We’ve recently scheduled programs on China, India, France, Denmark, Korea, and the U.S.
- Global/multicultural teambuilding. Research demonstrates that culturally diverse teams underperform homogeneous teams unless cultural training is provided. If CQ training is provided, culturally diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams. Teams are brushing off the lockdown dust and now need to globally expand their focus for marketing, sales, supply chain, recruitment, procurement, and more. Recent requests include: U.S. and Chinese teams; European team integration; government and regulatory affairs for U.S. and global counterpart teams; and train-the-trainer programs for cultural champions who can support a major technology transfer between the Northeast U.S., Singapore, and Puerto Rico.
- Corporate universities. Such universities will be charged with providing the skills needed to succeed globally. This can best be accomplished when culturally diverse employees can come together in person or virtually.
- Promotion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). During the last 18 months in response to the murder of George Floyd and others, organizations are taking a hard look at their organizational readiness to create more inclusive organizations. This involves organizational assessments, training programs, and the creation of strategies such as mentoring to overcome past inequities. There is also a significant increase in diversity training emphasizing empathy, equity, inclusion, and awareness of structural racism. Most of this training is focused on domestic diversity issues and solutions. The awareness and action to reduce bias may not easily transfer to the global stage. Newly hired chief diversity officers will benefit if they incorporate a global mindset and cultural competence as a strategic part of their portfolio. Those not familiar with the field can be coached in this area.
If you have any questions, challenges, or best practices regarding talent development for CQ, building a global mindset, or related topics, please send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org