Minggu, 09 Juli 2017

Why Your Staff Need Cross-Cultural Training

How do you know whether cross-cultural training would benefit your organization?

There are three main indicators that would suggest that cross-cultural training might provide a benefit to your organization.

* There are too many service complaints from people of immigrant/refugee backgrounds, particularly those from visible communities or those with accents that are unfamiliar to your staff.

* You observe that your staff are noticeably uncomfortable or unhappy interacting with clients from visible communities or with unfamiliar accents.

* Your staff are experiencing stress when interacting with people whose accents they find difficult or impossible to understand. This may be evident from sick leave statistics, or other organizational indicators.

Having noticed the presence of any or all of these indicators, you may want to proceed to a formal training needs analysis to identify with more precision the main sources or perceived sources of dysfunction, anxiety or stress. The results will indicate whether cross-cultural training, focused either on language barriers or on cultural difference, or both, would provide a solution.

How do you sell cross-cultural training to your staff?

It is usually easier to convince people of the value of training that focuses on overcoming language barriers than it is for training that explores cultural difference, because the average Anglo-Australian (just like the average person of most countries) is generally not aware of the unique characteristics of their own culture, and therefore assumes that other people's cultures are pretty much the same as theirs. So what is there to explore?

'Why on earth would you need so much time to become cross-culturally aware? A whole day's training? My goodness, that's ridiculous! What could possibly justify a whole day's training?'

The American pioneer of cross-cultural training, Richard Brislin (based at the East-West Centre in Honolulu and then the University of Hawaii) described this phenomenon in a week-long training program I attended as the 'assumption of universality' that all people have about their own cultures - until , that is, they have direct experience of cultural difference through migration or travel or living/working/studying in another culture.

Travel of the tourism kind does not necessarily bring home to people the extraordinary diversity of human culture (values, beliefs, behaviours) since tourism by its nature is skimming the surface. It is only when you spend extended periods living, working, studying in another culture, (even ones as apparently similar as the other Anglo cultures like New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the USA) that you encounter real cultural differences, and ironically, thereby begin to understand your own culture in more detail.

Immigration has brought the world to Queensland. The 2006 Census identified 226 birthplaces and 220 languages spoken at home. As never before, people living all over our vast state are encountering cultural difference and language barriers. Suddenly Anglo-Australians and immigrants alike who had never been aware of cultural difference are learning about the fascinating parameters of their own and other people's cultures. And are grappling with what it takes to create harmonious and cohesive workplaces and communities.

Of course, you will have some members of staff who will be eager for any training which increases understanding and skills, and others who will be suspicious that cross-cultural training will be seeking to undermine their own cultural identity. The best way to overcome this, in my experience, is to brief the staff on the content and style of the training before committing to a particular training program. This gives people a chance to decide for themselves whether spending a half day or day (or, heaven forbid, even longer!) is likely to be worthwhile.

In my experience, when you show people how practical and inherently interesting the content of good cross-cultural training is, people become eager to jump in.

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