If you follow RLI’s blogs and social media, you’ll know we believe cross-cultural training is a must-have for any forward-thinking business in order to secure international expansion and ensure employee relocation goes smoothly.
Cross-cultural training allows you to enter international markets without having to worry about misunderstandings as you learn how to communicate with your international partners and clients through the etiquette they’re used to. That means that investing in cross-cultural training can insulate your business from common miscommunications. By doing so, it could even save you money.
But how much does cross-cultural training cost?
Cartus relocation estimates that the cost of cross-cultural training is usually less than 1% of the overall cost of relocation. But we think the value is equally important.
Expense or Investment?
Businesses are increasingly seeing cross-cultural training not as an expense, but as a necessary investment. But as every financial expert knows, an investment is only worthwhile once due diligence has been undertaken. Cross-cultural training has come to the fore as a business necessity in recent years. There are now more companies and consultants than ever vying to promote their service. This makes it even more important that businesses undertake thorough checks on their cross-cultural training providers. Some providers will be a much better investment than others, so ask yourself these questions:
Is the provider part of a professional body or network?
How much industry experience do they have?
What’s included in their training package?
Make sure that they provide more than basic knowledge which you can access online. When looking at the provider, its crucial that they can supply your employee with both objective information and a subjective perspective of living in their new location’s culture.
It’s no bad thing to learn the basics of etiquette, but a truly worthwhile cross-cultural training package will go deeper, into the subtleties of communication in the relocation destination, whilst also avoiding basic cultural stereotypes or outdated information. It will deal with differences in communication, how to show respect and how trust is earned in the new culture.
These are the topics which have deeper consequences for businesses and how they must form their international strategies. Cross-cultural training shouldn’t provide simple preventatives for uncomfortable situations, but instead acknowledge that some degree of mistakes are inevitable and cover how employees can move past them to create better relationships. They’ll also push the employees to think about their own culture and how it influences their actions at work.
Cross-cultural communication is now becoming more about cultivating global dexterity instead of strict teaching that relies on employees sitting quietly and memorising facts. Global dexterity instead navigates how employees can maintain a sense of self and their own cultural identity while they’re adapting to their destination culture.
The Costs of Miscommunication
According to a report in the Engineering Management Journal, up to 40% of overseas assignments are unsuccessful. That could amount to a sunk cost of anything from $21,327-$79,429 (the average international relocation cost) on failed employee relocation. This could eat into any profits you have made from entering a new market. Family unhappiness is the biggest reason for relocation failure. This means that it’s essential your chosen provider also offers cross-cultural training also for spouses and children.
It also doesn’t make business sense to see cross-cultural training as something that’s merely ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential. Seeing cross-cultural training as merely optional undervalues the soft and hard skills and concrete knowledge that it brings to the table. It’s actually fundamental to relocation success.
You may worry that it isn’t cost effective to implement cross-cultural training for your short-term assignees. Employees are often given a ‘grace period’ for initial mistakes by colleagues.
It’s our opinion that the potential financial pitfalls of miscommunication are far more costly than any investment into cross-cultural training.
Some professionals single out cross-cultural training as an exceptional cost that their business can’t afford. Instead of opting for official training, they may try to patch up knowledge gaps with online content or courses which don’t have the accountability factor crucial to trainee investment and learning.
How much do you spend on other forms of training?
How valuable have they proven for your business?
Businesses routinely spend hundreds if not thousands on helping their employees develop leadership skills or through team building events. Why wouldn’t companies add cross-cultural training to a comprehensive training package for their employees? It can offer immediate value by not only equipping your relocating staff with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in their new culture but making sure that any off your staff from overseas feel welcome in your team.
Invest in Expats
Some companies believe that they can avoid investment in cross-cultural training by nominating expats who already worked in the area for relocation. For example, if your company is opening an office in Spain, you might believe that you can nominate Elena, your employee who moved from Madrid 5 years ago., without providing cross-cultural training.
This is a common mistake. While Elena might have more extensive day to day knowledge of living in Spain, she may have forgotten aspects of Spanish business etiquette because she had to adapt to English business culture instead. Even if she does remember a lot about business etiquette in Spain, the office culture may have become more relaxed or perhaps even more strict than what she remembered from 5 years ago.
Some companies even assume that if an employee has been on business trips, a short-term working assignment in a country – or even just has family in the relocation destination – they will not need cross-cultural training.
But it’s likely that their grip on the culture is still quite rudimentary. Seeing a culture from a limited business perspective is very different to living within it for an extended period While they may be confident with business etiquette, they could be anxious about family life or interacting with professionals like doctors and schoolteachers. Without cross-cultural training that prepares them and their families for all aspects of life in their destination culture, they may still be likely to fail the relocation.
While it’s a mistake to assume that you can just relocate expats without providing training, they can still be valuable to cross-cultural training if nominated for relocation. They could help steer the class when included in cross-cultural training programs. Expats can apply what they know and enquire about what they’ve already learned, which can give more direction to a course than when employees don’t know what to ask and so stay silent.
Get in touch today and discover how we can help you guarantee smooth, fuss-free international employee relocation.
Article written by Lois Arcari, Contributor to RLI.