preparing managers for overseas jobs

Preparing Managers For Overseas Assignments

Preparing Managers For Overseas Assignments

Author: Jamie Farrugia

Several years ago, Teri Morgan accompanied her husband on a planned two-year business assignment to Colombia. The couple, with two small children, received no cross-cultural training prior to departure, nor was any support available once they arrived in South America. All questions – from how to socialize on the job to where to buy a light bulb – went unanswered.

As a result of bewildering cultural differences, the Morgans were back on U.S. soil within six months. The difficulty of living and doing business in another country is illustrated by the high expatriate failure rate.

Culture-Specific Training

How does cross-cultural training work? Most firms create country - and culture - specific programs. A person facing a transfer to Pakistan, for instance, will learn about the Pakistani legal and educational systems; economic, political, and social structures; and common social and business practices. By identifying South Asian values, the client can spot potential points of cultural conflict. An executive being sent to Moscow to negotiate a joint venture would learn about the Russian conflict-oriented negotiation style. The executive would know that if he wanted $2, he would have to ask for $8.

With the Japanese, he would learn to slow down the proceedings, get to know his counterparts, and work toward a consensus where everyone wins. In developing and conducting training, most cross-cultural firms rely on specialists on a foreign country, former expatriates, or foreign nationals.

Here are ways on how to implement a cross-cultural training program:

1. Get to know more about the location. Gather some information related to the local culture, the local residents, environment and politics.
2. Formulate a module that deals with the establishment of policies and procedures to be used in the local setting.
3. Provide the employee to be assigned in the overseas intensive orientation about the work environment of his designated country to ease cultural adjustment. His family should participate in the orientation as well.
4. Conduct pre-departure training which consists of exercises that enhance the employee’s interpersonal skills.
5. Check on the well-being of the employee once he is already in the assigned country. Give him some counseling sessions and additional training if needed, as well as opportunities to experience the new culture in an informal setting like social events.
6. Make sure that the training program provides some kind of a welcome mode for the returning manager. It facilitates the employee’s re-entry into the home office structure and home culture.

Families Need Training Too!

For companies sending large number of employees overseas, group training is available. Most training firms offer separate training modules for an employee’s spouse and children. Spouses learn about how and where to buy groceries, the public transportation system, and how to communicate with teachers and neighbours.

The program also helps spouses learn about options for work. In training programs geared toward children, various techniques are used to communicate cultural differences, including role playing, games, making crafts or food from the country of destination, and listening to other children.

Cross-cultural training courses vary from a half-day session for employees facing a business trip overseas to more than three weeks when language training is involved.

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About the Author:

Jamie Farrugia is a successful investment banker who frequently writes for Surf The Recession from his own experiences, the online resource bank for help on how to beat the recession.

You can find more of his excellent work at

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