The Importance of cross-cultural training and management

When recruiting international employees one important aspect to consider is the cultural differences between their home country and the host country. Although often ignored, these differences can have a long lasting impact on the employee (and their family), affecting their adjustment to their new location, as well as their productivity in the work place. Therefore, it should come as no shock that cultural differences are the main cause of the majority of failed international assignments/relocations in organisations.

As a result of globalisation, and factors that have lead to it, including advances in technology, communication, transportation etc., international assignments are becoming more critical to organisational success. Therefore, factors that contribute to an international assignment’s success are paramount, and thus preparation is crucial.

Organisations need to be prepared and implement certain training practices and procedures in order to facilitate the success of the international assignment. Pre-departure training plays a vital role in the success of the international assignment as it focuses on developing cultural awareness, aiming to benefit the expatriate in the new country.

Pre-departure training

 Preliminary training is an aspect of the pre-departure training program and is useful as it provides international employees with an idea of what they are in for, giving them the opportunity to assess their suitability for the assignment. The purpose of this type of training is to help the expatriate settle in to the new location, including living and working demands. Preliminary visits are an important part of this training as they can facilitate a further understanding of the culture and familiarise the employee with their future surroundings and colleagues. Whilst on these visits employees need to ask themselves:

  • “Will I fit in here?”
  • “Can I easily adapt to this new culture/office?”
  • “Am I the right choice from my company?”

Other forms of training involved in pre-departure training program include learning the language and culture of the new country. Even though the corporate language is often English, learning the native language will be beneficial for the employee in matters outside of the office. This training is not only vital for the employee but also for his/her family as the success of the international assignment also relies on whether the family are settled in to the new country and way of life. If the family, especially the partner, aren’t settled it can affect the productivity of the employee; thus affecting the success of the assignment. Furthermore, as training and preparation is critical, the longer and more intense the international assignment is the longer and more intense the training needs to be.

Therefore in order to reduce the consequences of cultural differences and improve productivity of the employee on international assignment, cross cultural management and training must be implemented before the employee leaves their home country.

Training Whilst on Assignment

 Differences don’t just stop at the cultural barrier, but exist in Government and related policies, as well as inter-office rules and regulations, and politics; hence training should continue whilst on assignment. Industries, and even organisations, are often as different and diverse as the countries themselves. This adds another level of difficulty to the assignment for both the managers and the employee.

Managing employees on an international assignment involves managing national and organisational cultures simultaneously. Not understanding the culture often leads to business conflict and relocation failure; wasting the company’s time, money and resources. Therefore, international employees need to not only adapt to (or at least be aware of) the country’s culture, but also the organisation’s culture in order to increase the success of the assignment.  As people are a huge asset to organisations, it is important that they are utilised in a way that benefits both the organisation and themselves.

International assignees are an important asset to a company’s staff breakdown. Not only do they promote management development by exposing different perspectives and viewpoints on organisational practices and business matters, but they are also able to enhance the staff knowledge and competence, as well as develop social capital and create more business relationships. As international assignments offer both organisational and personal (professional) gain, when done correctly, they are encouraged. When preparing for an international assignment it is important to invest in adequate forms of pre-departure and on assignment training.

In order to increase the successfulness of the assignment, these programs need to focus on cross-cultural training and management. International assignments are lengthy and costly, and sometimes with the result of the venture uncertain, not all organisations have the resources (time, money, technology, infrastructure and other capital) to carry out this type of relocation successfully. Despite the advantages international assignments bring to the organisation and employees carrying them out, it would be more disadvantageous for an un-resourceful company to have a failed international assignment than to not have had one at all.

 By Home Hunters Relocations

Olivia Barsby - Home Hunters Relocations

Olivia Barsby

Home Hunters Relocations


Sarah kenaly - Home Hunters Relocations

Sarah Kenaly
Home Hunters Relocations



Home Hunters Relocations, with over 15 years of experience, we get moving”.

By |2017-01-19T20:22:50+11:00May 20th, 2016|Cultural Diversity, Mobility, Policy|0 Comments

About the Author:

The Employee Mobility Institute is Australia’s peak industry body specifically focused on global workforce management, including talent mobility. Its mission is to advocate, promote, represent and support the growth of the Australian / New Zealand Talent Mobility Industry.

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