With the increasing interconnections across the world, international assignments have assumed an added dimension. Thus, various entities such as business or charitable organizations have obligations to tackle international engagements in the most appropriate way. For instance, business firms may be forced to relocate from one country to another in order to conduct a given project. Alternatively, organizations may send a section of their employees to a different part of the world to execute a given task. The overall implication is that the need for training of those individuals to give assignments becomes paramount. The importance of training is critical since, in the current times, competition among organizations is stiff. Consequently, only efficient and effective performance can guarantee success. Based on this establishment, focusing on effective international assignment training is a primary concern not only among the business but also among the scholarship community.
It is necessary to remark that international assignments present both opportunities and challenges to workers or professionals. For instance, professionals who are sent abroad for new assignments get opportunities to increase their knowledge capacity, while, at the same time, they face a challenge of overcoming problems associated with cultural issues. Moreover, the professional community is required to remain aware that such expeditions are fraught with challenges, which are sometimes unanticipated and may be insurmountable in nature. As such, patience would be of value to international assignees.
Despite a wide array of challenges that characterize international assignments, global organizations appreciate the benefits that accrue from sending skilled workers abroad. The organizations send employees out to open new units, win new business opportunities, and manage local work groups, in addition to conducting research on the business environment (Linehan & Mayrfer, 2005). However, assuming that employees who are sent for such assignments have the necessary skills to execute their tasks properly would be dangerous when necessary preparations are not carried out. Primarily, it is worth remembering that each culture is unique since the sets of values that workers use differ across societies. Additionally, a different culture may predispose people to different work practices. Thus, working under different work practices would present a challenge to employees who are sent on international assignments. For instance, people who are sent may not understand the work practices and may even fail to adapt to the new ways. In case of failure to adapt, the expatriates encounter problems in managing or participating in the implementation of projects. The implication is that before sending employees to carry out international assignments, they should receive adequate training, which is necessary to enable such workers to attain the appropriate degree of intercultural awareness.
Affirming the views presented by Oddou (2000), Lineham and Mayrfer (2005) conceded that, as globalization sweeps across the globe, international careers become more lucrative, although they remain very challenging. However, the companies involved do little towards helping employees who are assigned duties in foreign countries. They assume that the employees are able to fit seamlessly into foreign workplaces. However, as the paper depicts, international assignees encounter a number of problems immediately they arrive at the international centers of work. Thus, firms should consider sending workers to foreign branches or retraining workers in order to allow for a smooth transition while going about their duties.
Often, observers cite culture shock as a primary concern that international assignees face after relocating from their initial workplace. The very first problems do not even border on the actual work. Instead, such aspects as lifestyle, language, food, and the general environmental conditions may breed a cultural shock feeling among expatriates, as Earley and Perterson (2004) observed. This concern implies that organizations that send employees abroad should consider the cultural issues before embarking on any project. Sometimes, cultural shock may contribute to poor performance and could lead to project failure. In an event of project failure or poor performance, organizations would incur huge losses in terms of finance as well as time. Consequently, paying close attention to cultural issues is a primary concern when undertaking international projects.
From above, it is already observable that working practices are a function of culture. For instance, culture affects the formation of attitudes. In turn, attitudes influence work practices, such as adherence to time requirements. It is common knowledge that people from different cultures pay varied attention to deadlines. For instance, Germans take a linear perspective regarding time, while, on the other hand, Indians view time using a circular perception. Thus, Germans plan their projects in a careful manner and do everything towards the adherence to the timetable. On the contrary, the Indians do not follow a timetable and are likely to execute various tasks concurrently. Based on the establishment, bridging the gap between these two cultures would entail using an international intercultural program before dispatching workers to either side. Failure to prepare international assignees would, thus, lead to frustration regarding the best way to complete an assignment. Another aspect that borders on culture shock is the attitude held by individuals regarding authorities, reward systems, and decision-making. Such differences affect performance and productivity. Hence, for organizations to scale high levels of performance, international training of assignees is indispensable.
The issue of communication also emerges as a critical component in the implementation of projects. Based on culture, communication styles differ greatly. When communication styles differ, the implication is that workers would find difficulties fitting into a different cultural system. For instance, a worker may be unable to understand a message delivered by a foreigner. The problems get worse when the non-verbal form of communication is being used. As an illustration, smiling, eye contact, touching, and distance between parties could hold different meanings based on the cultural settings. Equally, other elements such as accents, contexts or acronyms may present other obstacles regarding communication across cultures. This realization also supports the need for intercultural training before sending employees on international assignments.
Value of Intercultural Training
Intercultural training programs contribute towards the enhancement of the abilities of employees who are assigned international tasks. The primary reason is that such programs enable international employees and their families to adjust to new conditions of work. However, the programs are supposed to be based on a needs assessment. When using a needs-based assessment, there is a possibility of identifying unique demands. Such identification increases the possibility of recognizing problems, thereby making it a worthwhile exercise since appropriate decisions are derived. Such programs should, thus, collect information regarding past international engagements with a view to gaining insight into the experiences of the employees in question.
Using a properly designed training program would prove critical in performance of organizations. The program, for instance, would facilitate the identification of the right candidates to fill international vacancies whenever they emerge. The programs would also enhance the knowledge of employees by allowing them to learn new cultural aspects. Through learning, workers are able to perform competently irrespective of the cultural backgrounds. Concisely, intercultural training programs would help in increasing overall productivity among employees. Secondly, the training programs would enhance the chances of attaining success when undertaking international assignments due to an increase in the productivity of assignees. Similarly, training programs would contribute towards increasing satisfaction levels of international assignees, an aspect that also supports the view that productivity would ultimately increase.
The training programs are also critical in helping returning international assignees. Since participating in a project involves learning, training programs should help assignees recognize the areas which they improved or those areas in which they showed weaknesses. Most importantly, the programs should help the assignees in settling back to their former areas of work. The primary concern in working with returning assignees is in dealing with reversing of the culture shock. Thus, the training programs are important in the re-integration process at the workplace. Through reintegration, the training programs become more important as they enhance career development on the part of the international assignees.
As globalization pervades societies, leadership and management aspects change greatly. For example, the demand for intercultural training rises. Hence, globalization brings dilemmas in the field of business. This statement is supported by the view that organizations need to find a working formula that fits requirements of workers who come from different cultures. The implication is that top organizational managers should take a global perspective. As such, managers who have inadequate global experience have lower chances to succeed in guiding organizations that operate globally, an aspect supported by Briscoe and Schuler (2004).
Most decisions made within organizations have an international outlook, as Linehan and Mayrfer (2005) observed. As the paper establishes, groups of workers exhibit different behaviors at the workplace. For instance, Germans follow a timetable when doing work, while Indians do not. In such instances, organizational management should get to the core of the issue of intercultural awareness. Conceivably, behavior is reflective of the differences in cultures. Culture shapes the lives of people in a critical way. Hence, understanding different cultures would be necessary. Another problem that is attributable to culture is the nature of communication. Communication is important in issuing directions. Failure to communicate effectively would undermine the performance of any organization.
The international dynamics places a big responsibility on the Human Resources (HR) officers. An HR at the headquarters, for instance, has a role to devise strategies to guide activities at an organization. This is critical when an organization has a global presence. In recognition of this, the HR is obligated to set out right policies to guide the conduct of all employees. Subsequently, staff training to ensure integration into an organization’s overall strategy and goals is desirable. Organizations that use proper training would bridge the gap between different cultures.
Implications of Research Findings
An emerging aspect centers on the role of setting up intercultural expatriate training programs. Such programs would ensure that workers have the right knowledge regarding the working conditions in their new places of work. Workers would need to acquire international status as opposed to local status while working. As established, internationalization of projects is a current phenomenon that is bound to expand each passing day. Consequently, preparing an international workforce would prove ideal. Thus, the business and the scholarship community need to come together or to pursue approaches separately to improve the quality of training that they offer to experts.
Since it is evidently clear that international engagements are increasing, demand for intercultural training would also expand. As the demand expands, ideally, the market would move to address the emerging changes. Clearly, the provision of intercultural training programs would become important not only to training institutions but also to commercial entities. In this regard, the increase in demand for intercultural training would push commercial entities to begin offering intercultural training services. The implication is that international organizations are not under obligations to start their training programs since they can use the services of commercial entities.
The role of intercultural congruency expands as the world moves towards a convergence. Such is based on the interconnectedness that emerges out of economic links. The suitability of employees in their jobs is among the most notable aspects that propel an organization to greater heights. Workers who perform well ensure that a good name of an organization is lifted higher. However, the changing scope of business necessitates effective intercultural training of assignees.
Linehan and Mayrfer (2005) held the view that introducing intercultural training would prove appropriate when a workplace has workers who come from different cultural backgrounds. In introducing training programs, focus should be on helping employees to overcome the differences in individual strengths and weaknesses. Such an approach is commendable, although it is necessarily to observe that an approach of this nature has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, tailoring a training program to suit each employee would be both time and resource consuming. This is based on the premise that using a single approach is easier and cheaper to prepare and execute. However, employing such approaches is important as they help in identifying individual strengths or weaknesses. Thus, training accounts for any variations that workers exhibit. Even though it is costly, the approach is likely to pave the way for preparing a healthy and motivated workforce. This is based on the assumption that each employee has different cognitive abilities apart from coming from different backgrounds.