Getting the most out of global mobility starts with practical training
Sept 13, 2023
Unlocking Training and Development Opportunities for Globally Mobile Employees
Regarding globally mobile employees, out of sight does not mean out of mind.
Ensuring that this group has access to the most effective training and development is vital to success in today’s international business landscape.
Regardless of geography, their growth within the company framework should be comprehensively addressed. HR professionals must understand their talent marketplace across borders, including the skills the organisation needs now and in the future, and how learning and development, combined with global mobility, can bridge those gaps.
Global mobility can bring significant benefits to employees and businesses alike. However, effective training and development must be considered alongside those assignments to maximise their potential.
The Landscape of Global Employee Mobility
The landscape of global employee mobility has shifted beyond recognition in recent years. There is no such thing as a traditional workforce anymore, and there is no turning back.
Technology has transformed the global mobility space, and along with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s almost a given now that employees will expect to have the choice to be able to work anywhere in
the world, either remotely or within a hybrid model.
However, a globally mobile lifestyle can be demanding on expatriates, as it requires continuous adjustment to new environments and separation from familiar support networks.
Companies that acknowledge and support the unique needs of these employees and foster a sense of belonging are more likely to retain their globally mobile talent.
What Makes Globally Mobile Employees Unique?
Mobile employees are unique in a modern workforce due to distinct characteristics and challenges. They possess a remarkable ability to adapt and thrive in diverse cultural and professional settings, making them invaluable assets.
What sets them apart is their capacity to navigate complex international landscapes; they exhibit cultural agility, embracing and respecting differences in customs, languages, and work practices. This adaptability is crucial for businesses operating across borders, enabling smoother collaborations and market expansions.
Additionally, globally mobile employees often showcase enhanced problem-solving skills. Their exposure to diverse business environments equips them with a broader perspective, enabling them to identify innovative solutions to challenges others may overlook.
Why Training and Development Are Crucial in a Global Context
Targeted training and development for globally mobile employees is crucial for their success and the success of the organisations they serve. A recent report said that companies with engaged employees outperform their competitors by a staggering 202%.
These employees face unique challenges. Cultural barriers can present significant obstacles. Effective training can help employees understand and respect diverse cultural norms, improving their ability to work collaboratively with local colleagues and partners.
Varying regulatory landscapes pose another challenge. The proper training should equip employees with the knowledge and skills to navigate complex international legal and compliance requirements. This ensures that they adhere to local laws, reducing the risk of legal issues for the company.
Additionally, targeted training can strengthen the adaptability and resilience of globally mobile employees. It equips them with cross-cultural communication skills essential for developing mobile teams, building relationships and facilitating effective teamwork.
Training and development opportunities demonstrate a commitment to employee growth alongside the business, increasing their engagement and loyalty to the organisation. Employees want to develop – 86% say job training is important to them, and nearly three in four are willing to learn outside of work hours to improve their performance.
In turn, this investment in development benefits the business directly by leading to increased productivity, more innovation and higher retention rates.
Types of Training and Development for Globally Mobile Employees
The most significant challenge for training managers in 2023 will be crafting dynamic learning experiences for dispersed employees.
This entails tailoring content to accommodate a broader range of skill levels, roles, candidates, and even languages and mastering the required technology.
There are various ways to support the development of globally mobile employees.
Cross-cultural training and cultural sensitivity training refer to specialised training to help individuals who are relocating or working in different countries adapt and thrive in their new environment.
The training aims to equip employees with the knowledge, skills and cultural awareness necessary to navigate and succeed in diverse cultural settings.
Typically, it covers understanding local customs and etiquette, cultural norms and values, communication styles and business practices, among other topics. The goal is to minimise
misunderstandings, boost the effectiveness and satisfaction of globally mobile employees and promote effective cross-cultural interactions.
This training may also extend to families to help them settle into a new location.
Skill Enhancement Programme
Skill enhancement programmes help globally mobile employees contribute positively to their organisations’ global strategies.
They enable employees to leverage their experiences and skills across borders while promoting cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural competence.
- Key components include:
- Language Proficiency
- Global Business Etiquette
- Global Leadership
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Cross-cultural Communication
- Crisis Management
- Technical and Job-Specific Skills
How to Implement Training Programs for Globally Mobile Staff
Fortunately, in this digital age, when it comes to implementing training programs for globally mobile staff, traditional barriers such as the need to physically be in the same room are no longer an obstacle. More mobile tools such as laptops, smartphones and tablets have also eliminated the need for field workers and others on the move to come into the office.
Therefore, ensuring employees have the correct technology and utilising HR software with learning features or education tool integrations for global upskilling is vital. This allows flexible access to training across locations and devices in any required language and time zone.
Assessing Needs and Goals
A report by Gallup found that nearly 80% of employees worldwide are still not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. Training can help here, but the first step must be addressing a globally mobile workforce’s specific needs and goals. This can be done by:
Conduct a needs analysis
Gathering data through surveys, interviews, and feedback sessions with employees will identify specific skill gaps or areas of improvement. Remember to review the nature of the role and global assignment itself to see whether any new skills, technologies or knowledge areas need to be covered, such as AI.
Consult with managers and supervisors
Engaging with an employee’s direct manager or supervisor will help global mobility teams understand training needs from their perspective and how training aligns with the department’s broader goals.
Consider individual learning styles
Tailoring training programs to accommodate learning preferences will produce more effective results. Employees from younger generations may prefer self-directed learning, for example, compared to more experienced members of staff who might like a classroom-based environment.
Be aware of cultural differences
Employees in different countries may require language and cultural training, which should be assessed alongside any required job-specific skills.
Set specific goals and objectives
Ensure the training goals align with an employee’s career development and aspirations. This will also help with retention – if someone knows they’re moving in the right direction, they’re more likely to see a future with the company.
Monitoring and Feedback
As with any training or development, knowing exactly how useful and productive – or otherwise – it has been is vital. Performance data, including project outcomes and performance issues, must be measured. This helps identify where training has made a real
difference and whether gaps can be addressed. Use tangible metrics and key performance indicators to determine the return on investment and act accordingly.
It’s essential to review and adapt your training and development programs regularly. Training may evolve as your global mobile employees gain new experiences and responsibilities.
Additionally, ensure an open dialogue with your global workforce management and employees. Collaboration yields positive outcomes such as strengthened teamwork, improved problem-solving, and a healthy company culture.
Real-world Success Stories: Training and Development in Global Mobility
Many studies have examined how different cultures view each other, which puts the importance of cross-cultural training under the microscope.
The renowned German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin created the ‘peach/coconut’ model. It was adapted by cross-cultural expert Fons Trompenaars, who gave a TEDx talk explaining why cross-cultural training is so necessary.
He took the characteristics of a peach – soft, juicy, fuzzy, colourful, sweet, hard pit in the centre – which aligns with stereotypical American traits: being extroverted with strangers, making friends quickly, talking openly in public, and private and public/professional lives are often interwoven.
And also, the coconut – hard outside, hairy, milk inside, nutritious meat inside – aligns with German clichés: needs time to warm with strangers, keeps public and private lives separate, with social distance determined by profession or status.
These were presented as a metaphor for two cultures that needed to co-exist despite their cultural differences.
The peach/coconut example is now used within cross-cultural training. Trompenaars calls the moment when the peach meets the coconut “the danger zone”, but with professional training, it doesn’t have to be.
In global mobility, the challenge is to figure out cultural diversities and be armed with the correct tools to adapt and react correctly.
Conclusion: The Future of Training and Development for Global Mobility
Empowering your staff through training and development helps both employer and employee, which is why it’s shocking that so many still turn a blind eye to this issue. According to data from KPMG, only 38% of companies with a globally mobile workforce offer cultural training for employees and their families, with 35% offering no training.
The good news is that this is changing fast. In this digital age, it’s never been easier to supply your globally mobile employees with everything they need to thrive in the workplace, whether in the field or the office.
If you would like to learn more about how you can build custom training and development solutions for your globally mobile teams, Centuro Global can help. Contact us to discover more.