Magazine article Talent Development

Training for the Leap Overseas: Many Companies Lack Understanding about the Importance of Learning about Cultural Context

Magazine article Talent Development

Training for the Leap Overseas: Many Companies Lack Understanding about the Importance of Learning about Cultural Context

Article excerpt

Few people would make travel plans to a foreign country without first preparing themselves with knowledge about the culture, a clearly mapped route, and an established list of "in-case-of-emergency" contacts.

However, many companies today send their leaders on long-term international assignments with only an optional, two-day training program about the host nation.

According to a recent survey by Cartus, a workforce development provider, when considering employees for international assignments, 72 percent of companies chose technical competence, and 65 percent chose job experience, compared with 9 percent that chose developing talent as the main criterion qualifying an employee for assignments abroad.

The study reported responses from 60 of the world's largest global organizations, noting that when companies fixate more on pragmatic issues with international assignments (such as opening new offices or markets, transferring skills or knowledge, or filling a talent gap), they often overlook a strategic focus on the assignee's career development. The study examines the training that international assignees received prior to departure, upon arrival in the new country, and upon return.

"The survey's findings are significant because they show how the whole concept of talent management, succession planning, and human resource management is coming together, specifically regarding international assignments," says Carolyn Ryffel, director of the training network and curriculum design at Cartus.

"Organizations today need to look way beyond the scope of national headquarters to develop senior leaders. The issue, then, is what training do these leaders need?"

Fifty-six percent of companies admitted that the employees sent on international assignments are not sufficiently knowledgeable about their host country's business environment, but only 20 percent of those companies offer the employees any international businessment training. This finding is common in the United States--one of the largest recipients of international assignees (called "inbound employees") who are usually proficient in the English language but who lack knowledge about leadership and management practices unique to U. …

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