“When did this get so hard?” Ray wonders after a long day of meetings with his team in the US and in phone conferences with his international group. By contrast, he remembers his time as an expatriate a few years prior much more fondly. While working abroad in Brazil, he came to pride himself about his skills at “just picking up” insights on how to work well with his colleagues, suppliers, and clients in this Latin American country. This very capacity got him promoted to his current multi-regional role with contacts not only in Brazil but also in China and a number of European countries. Pondering events in recent weeks, he notices that one of the sources of frustration with his team members is that, unlike him, they have not “naturally” picked up cues about the needs and style differences of their partners from other cultures. Instead, they have settled into blaming performance shortfalls on “difficult foreign” team members. This has to stop, for his own sanity, and for the productivity and health of the team, he resolves.
With this decision made, Ray may be fortunate to have a well-informed international HR function at hand to guide them on how to bring relevant learning tools to his team. Or is in the same boat as many managers and may now not know where to turn and what to look for. So, how could he start?

Are online formats the answer to everything?

Webinars and brief online workshops can be an excellent choice to bring the attention of team members to cultural factors impacting professional behaviors – and to the insight that professionalism is viewed and “done” differently around the world. A compact introduction on Global Intelligence or Communication for High-Performance Internationally can provide first set of ideas for action. Country-specific virtual workshops, for example on Working with Germans, Working with US Americans, or Working with Chinese, contain valuable “food for thought” on specific cultures. Once the “cultural logic” driving an unexpected behavior becomes intelligible, confusion and frustration can begin to recede. The flexibility of delivery in time and place as well as their moderate costs add to the attractiveness of online options.

“They just put it on mute”

For any form of workplace learning, a key challenge is its competition for time and attention with on-going work tasks. Disengaging with an online learning experience is particularly easy – for example, by answering emails while “skim-watching” a session on mute. This pattern of passive and selective attention inhibits fuller learning (with heart and mind), and tends to block out new or challenging ideas, thereby significantly reducing the value which could be derived from a session. Yet, even with these potential issues in mind, an online format may be the only practical option at the time.

Full engagement and “hot” issues

For fully engaging learners, in-person formats can deliver the bigger punch: A customized session can win the audience by focusing closely on the specific questions and “burning” challenges of the learners. Interactive and experiential learning design actively involves learners into a multi-dimensional learning process of heart-mind-and hand (action). Group interaction furthers social learning and peers contribute expanded perspectives. Moreover, a skilled facilitator provides a setting in which some of the more emotionally challenging aspects of human communication can be worked through safely. This is especially important when misunderstandings have already left residues of hurt, anger, distrust or alienation. It is also very relevant when specific solutions need to be “workshopped”.

Smart mix

Ray now gets to review his team situation, weighing performance issues, as well as cost-benefit trade-offs between the different format options. He concludes that he will learn about learning, enrolling himself and select team members into one online offering and a one-day in-person session. With this experience in hand, he feels, that he can make further decisions that will benefit his team. Check out our open enrollment portfolio of webinars, virtual workshops and one-day trainings for a quick jump-start into learning! Of course, we are always happy to talk to you about customized and in-person options, and when these may be the smart choice.