Intercultural Training: Why Your Team Needs It and How to Create It

Intercultural Training: Why Your Team Needs It and How to Create It

| Professional Skills of the Future

If you oversee or manage an international company, you likely have firsthand experience with the challenges of cross-cultural communication.

Unfortunately, these problems are not limited to just the language barrier! Similar to translating a text from one language to another, the richness of idiomatic expressions and, occasionally, even the intended meaning can be lost. Similarly, comprehension may suffer when two distinct cultures interact, leading to reduced efficiency. In the United States, the population speaks more than 350 languages.

Because the number of cross-national teams and professionals employed in hybrid or remote positions is rapidly growing in today's world, intercultural communication and training are a must-have for corporate culture. However, they still raise questions and problems from an organisational perspective that must be addressed.

Everything about Intercultural Learning: what it is like and what it offers


Intercultural training can be defined as any training that focuses on the characteristics of different nationalities and their interaction with each other as part of building a career and business. To sum it up, this type of training is intended to bridge and eliminate "gaps" between representatives of different cultures and enable their partnerships or working together on a project. In particular, intercultural training has the following benefits and knowledge features:

  • Solve communication problems. Therefore, in some countries like South Korea, it is customary to focus on the positive aspects of work and not mention anything about any failings. In contrast, others focus on criticism and negative aspects. A conflict may occur if representatives from two cultures with opposing viewpoints meet. Creating interaction strategies that balance universality and compromise is crucial in this context. Both sides should hold equal significance for all participants.

  • Promote both mutual respect and proper etiquette. Some cultures possess distinct behavioural norms and business practices that may perplex or concern foreign colleagues. Consequently, as part of intercultural training, the participants learn about these differences, interpret them correctly, and apply them. Simply put, they master international business etiquette.

  • Helps to overcome stereotypes and prejudices. You will find that every nationality harbours at least a couple of stereotypes, like the belief that "all Japanese are excessively respectful" or "all German professionals exhibit meticulousness." Intercultural training helps you understand particular situations in light of the context, and engaging in conversations fosters sharing experiences and scenarios amongst colleagues. Consequently, authentic and meaningful connections develop based on individuality and genuine character rather than a fictional one.

  • Helps you adapt to a global market or a new environment. Suppose a company is just entering the international market and plans to develop in many countries simultaneously in the future. In this scenario, employees must grasp the cultural differences between their colleagues and clients to integrate effectively into the market. The same applies, for example, to relocation when an office moves to a new country: To achieve full integration into an environment and effectively adapt to its requirements, a thorough understanding of cultural contexts is essential. Intercultural training provides tools and practices that make employees feel more confident during international change and easily manage even the most diverse teams.

  • Broadens horizons and stimulate the emergence of new ideas, projects, and creative initiatives. Intercultural learning always exposes participants to other people's norms, values, patterns and even habits, often allowing them to look at many situations and problems differently. It could even be the start of a new brand vision or new products, collaborations, and projects. Enhancing your overall intellectual growth and gaining insights into the thought processes and perspectives of others, especially those that are familiar to you, consistently contributes to your professional advancement.

  • Engage employees in the company's development and teamwork. Cross-cultural training immerses individuals when undertaken by all team members or within a business. It fosters inclusion, nurtures a sense of belonging, and ultimately enhances productivity.

Hence, the primary purpose of intercultural training is to minimise conflict risks, facilitate swift resolution, eliminate communication barriers, enhance internal corporate relationships, foster innovation, and ultimately confer an indisputable competitive edge. The better you know your team and its members, the easier and more effectively you can manage it, which means overall work productivity will increase. In today's globalised world, intercultural learning is how to succeed in the current multicultural environment.

With all this, intercultural training can be divided into two directions depending on its purpose - focused on studying a specific country or on the skills needed by the team.

  • Country-oriented education is devoted to only one (or several related) cultures, for example, Asian (which may include Chinese culture, Korean, and Japanese together). Through this training, participants will deeply understand cultural etiquette, behavioural norms, communication conventions, and negotiation protocols specific to a particular country.

  • Skills-oriented training, on the other hand, is more general and intensive. This may enhance communication, management, leadership, sales, and negotiation skills. It is crucial to consider how to apply these skills within specific cultures when collaborating with partners or clients and how their manifestations (such as emotional intelligence) vary from one country to another.

Likewise, intercultural trainings are occasionally categorised into the subsequent types and formats:

  • Intercultural training for expats. This involves supporting employees who have relocated to a new country, helping them adjust and adapt. The Training focuses on quickly and painlessly adjusting to new circumstances and learning cultural norms and rules to benefit employees in their new work and living situation.

  • Training for multicultural teams. This is the most sought-after type of training, where a cross-national team collaborates to learn effective methods of interaction with one another. Sometimes, this partially involves team building, as employees exchange their cultural experiences and knowledge, aiding in its assimilation and interpretation. Simply put, they learn to work together correctly and interact seamlessly.

  • Training for managers. This specialised training program is designed exclusively for individuals in management positions. It delves into effective strategies for overseeing multinational teams, addressing conflicts within these teams, and optimising communication-particularly relevant when dealing with remote employees across different time zones.

  • Business training before entering the market. The company's most important representatives come together to examine the foreign market and discuss the particulars of interaction with foreign consumers, suppliers, partners, etc., regarding their culture, geography, and what is commonly called "mentality."

Intercultural training can also take varying lengths of time depending on the topics and views a company needs to cover. This could be a 2-3-hour lecture or about a week of practice and working on cases in the spirit of "How can we resolve a conflict with a representative of a given culture if it suddenly arises?"

How to develop Intercultural training for your team


If you manage or run a multicultural business (or are trying to make it so, for example, attracting foreign partners or remote employees), you must first develop an intercultural training program. Training that will help prepare employees for upcoming or already occurring cultural and global changes and events in the company's life. Intercultural training is also a plus for the company's karma regarding its attractiveness in the job market. It automatically declares your serious plans for the international market and growth. Undoubtedly, the immediate implementation of such training without assistance is unlikely. Therefore, maintaining consistent action becomes crucial.

Step 1. Examine the current organisational culture

Before embarking on the development of a training program, it is crucial to gain a clear understanding of your current position within your cross-cultural organisation. As you probably realise, training a local company where foreigners have never worked differs significantly from training a company already engaged in multiple countries and aiming to streamline communication processes. Collecting information about the organisation's norms, values ​​, and existing behaviour is necessary.

Tools such as anonymous employee surveys, interviews and focus groups are suitable for this. To effectively address potential challenges, it is essential to identify areas that need clarification or solutions. This involves recognising your organisation's current weaknesses and strengths.

Step 2: Determine training needs and goals

Following an assessment of the organisational culture, it is essential to pinpoint the specific tasks and learning objectives that your company is currently facing. For instance, you've observed that teamwork is slowing down because certain employees interpret deadlines differently based on their cultural traits. While some consider submitting a report at the last minute as meeting the deadline, others interpret it as completing the task at least one day before the specified date."

The problem may even be in everyday little things, such as the habit of taking someone else's mug to make tea. At the same time, this is considered an encroachment on personal space and private property for a certain culture. In the first and second cases, your training will aim to introduce the team to each other's cultural characteristics and develop a universal "language of communication" to solve all these misunderstandings.

To achieve this, gathering feedback and insights from employees is essential. Analyse the most frequent responses, queries, and cross-cultural challenges they encounter and subsequently define clear objectives. For example, "develop business etiquette skills" or "study the features of doing business using Asian models." The more precise and detailed the tasks are, the easier it becomes to design a training program. Additionally, this clarity helps employees comprehend the purpose behind participating in the program.

Try to answer the following questions: What are the desired learning outcomes? How can you measure its effectiveness (for example, employee satisfaction or increased work rates)? What time frame can these objectives be realistically achieved, and what resources do you already have?

Step 3. Engage a consultant on the organisational culture of a particular country

This step is not obligatory, but it is strongly advisable. You are unlikely to possess the requisite training and independent experience to work with diverse cultures and create a dependable training program. Experts can provide objective recommendations, resources, and customised solutions tailored to your situation, people, and needs. Ideally, it is worth hiring an organisational or corporate culture consultant on staff since they will subsequently undertake to adjust and update your training program (and both will be needed, no doubt). Additionally, as previously mentioned, this specialist possesses valuable experience and expertise in intercultural communication. They can provide the most effective strategies, alleviating the need to start from scratch and independently study all views.

Step 4. Developing training content

The success of intercultural learning depends directly on its content. Now, you can start crafting valuable content-materials designed to align with your objectives and fulfil the organisation's requirements. This could be, for instance, recorded videos, case studies, situational tests, case studies, role-playing games, or anything that will help your employees answer the questions they face about different cultures and master the required skills.

Ideally, experiential learning should encompass offline activities, including travel, to facilitate personal immersion in the culture under study. It could also be off-site and include various interactive events where training participants can apply the acquired knowledge in practice, like implementing some mini project with a multicultural team.

Step 5: Adapt content to different preferences in different formats

To accommodate the diverse preferences of your employees and enhance the convenience of training, consider utilising multiple formats and providing employees with choices. For example, by incorporating a blend of online classes, face-to-face seminars, video lectures, and mentoring, you can create a flexible training program that enhances effectiveness and ensures consistent employee results. It's essential to remember that, apart from cultural variations, each individual exhibits differences in learning pace, preferred styles, perception, memory, and other aspects. It is also important to consider market trends: Today, more and more activities, including entertainment, are presented remotely (for example, online cinemas), and therefore, there is a separate demand for remote corporate training.

Step 6. Promoting intercultural communication in the learning process

Management and those responsible for developing the intercultural training program must encourage its completion, interest in different cultures, and interaction with them. Training should never be coercive; instead, employing exclusively positive and non-material motivational approaches is essential. For example, the opportunity to visit new cities or interesting places during training and make business acquaintances. In short, intercultural training also needs advertising. It provides comfortable conditions for exchanging experiences and communicating with employees in educational and professional settings. This should foster an atmosphere of open dialogue, where individuals are willing to engage in conversations that explore diverse cultural backgrounds. This, for instance, is prevented by a heavy workload - when do employees still have time to attend intercultural training?

Step 7. Evaluate the effectiveness of training and make adjustments

Regularly assessing training programs and their outcomes is essential to promptly address any educational issues, for instance, when a topic lacks clarity or the format is unsuitable. Gather feedback from training participants and assess its impact on their day-to-day work and interactions. To achieve this, utilise the same surveys and track standard statistics. However, always verify the correlations to understand whether the training program directly influences the indicators and why.

Your company must incorporate intercultural training to be part of a global and multicultural world. In addition to enhancing problem-solving and collaboration within your team, this approach will ultimately fortify your business. After all, globalisation has been an ongoing process for many years and cannot be stopped. That is why the demand for intercultural training skills will inevitably emerge for companies and teams. The sooner you consider this, the more your competitors will fall behind you.

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