Multinational employers can build a global talent pool by delivering consistent learning that’s tailored to the needs of local offices, says Cecilia Westin Curry.
With the rise of globalisation, more multinational employers are looking to standardise their leadership competencies and corporate values worldwide. This has created a new demand to deliver consistent global learning programmes, rather than buying separate training courses piecemeal from different providers in different markets.
Global learning not only saves the time involved in coordinating the activities of separate providers, it saves costs through economies of scale. Also, when you deliver learning consistently across an organisation, it creates a level-playing field for your talent. This aids global succession planning as it becomes much easier to arrange international moves and assignments.
In the past, cultural, economic and technological challenges made it difficult to coordinate and deploy training on an international scale. But developments in technology and communications have broken down these barriers and led to the rise of global work teams.
As a result, truly consistent global leadership, management, customer service, interpersonal skills and competency-based learning programmes are now a real possibility.
The questions to ask are: Are you looking to instil the same behaviours, values, attitudes and service levels across your different markets?
Here are nine steps that can help central HR and L&D teams to introduce and manage an effective global learning intervention:
Review your existing training provision
If you have a consistent global brand – and if the expectations of performance and behaviour are common across your locations – then it makes sense to provide your employees with a consistent learning experience. Even if you’re a conglomerate, with diverse businesses and brands, you could still gain efficiencies by centralising your learning provision.
The questions to ask are: Are you looking to instil the same behaviours, values, attitudes and service levels across your different markets? What training in which countries does your organisation provide? Could your business benefit by creating broad global standards for training & development?
Uncover the needs
Your organisation’s brand and values will influence the specific abilities, behaviour and competencies that employees will need to perform a role, which in turn will stem from your business strategy.
Are you looking to instil global competencies or to plug any gaps between how people are currently performing and how you want them to perform? What local issues or requirements should you take into account? Specifying what you want to achieve will help you to run a targeted learning programme that addresses individual needs and those of the business.
Get the buy-in from key stakeholders
To introduce a consistent global learning intervention, you’ll need to convince senior executives, local country managers and HR teams of the business benefits that can be achieved.
To get these people on board – and to combat any resistance to change – create a business case that highlights the scale economies and shows the advantages of reducing the duplication of effort involved in managing different preferred training providers across different markets.
Appoint the right partner
Choose an experienced, client-driven development partner who can not only work with you effectively but who can also guide you through the process and help you manage the expectations of stakeholders and the business. Ensure they have trusted master trainers who can deliver in your countries/markets.
If you have local preferred training partners that you’re keen to keep, make sure you choose a provider who can partner with them as required.
Design a pilot portfolio of modules to meet the outcomes and expectations
There may be an existing programme that you want to change for global delivery or you may want to create something new to achieve your objectives. Your learning partner should work with you closely to design an appropriate format and to create content that will match your values and achieve the desired outcomes.
This may involve a facilitated session with your regional heads to define and prioritise the local needs and challenges. Digital learning options can support face-to-face workshops or virtual classrooms. Any live scenes or animation in your video content can either be dubbed into local languages or sub-titles can be added.
Tailor your content to cater for local needs
Your training should maintain a central theme and deliver consistent messages. But, you’ll need to adapt your core material or your delivery to create a better local fit and greater relevance in the target countries.
This roughly follows the 80:20 principle, in which 80% of your content will be consistent across the world and around 20% will need to be regionalised or modified to take account of the cultural differences, local regulatory needs, strategic priorities or the different expectations of employees in different markets.
For example, coaching is a familiar concept in the United States and is openly accepted but in Asia it is sometimes seen as an invasion of privacy. As a result, your trainers in Asia may need to spend longer explaining the process and the benefits – and allow more time for people to practise the skill – than in the US.
It is important to ensure that none of your key messages or nuances get lost when making your 20% adaptation. When translating material, ask a local L&D professional to proof-read the results, to ensure they’re suitable for use in a learning context. Substitute any ambiguous or culturally-incompatible content with alternatives that have stronger local appeal.
Train the local master trainers
The success of any face-to-face aspects of your global learning programme will depend on the quality of your local master trainers. You’ll need to undertake ‘train the trainer’ sessions covering the different elements of the programme, how it is to be delivered, the time constraints, any props to use and the visual support they’ll need.
Your learning partner’s trainers will benefit if you’re able to brief them in your local offices on your company’s strategy, priorities, values and brand.
Create a feedback loop
When you roll out the training to your global offices, you need to establish a central feedback loop so you can track the progress of the implementation, track any grass-roots issues that arise, check if there is any consistency to these and amend the delivery.
Evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the learning
Capture data on employee performance in different countries using sales volumes, customer ratings, performance appraisal ratings, line manager feedback and other appropriate metrics. Has their performance improved? A thorough review of your global learning intervention will provide valuable return on investment data.
The great advantage of introducing global learning across your business is that you can consistently address the key development needs and critical competencies in your organisation whilst remaining sensitive to the specific challenges and preferences that exist in local markets.
Global learning not only reduces the unnecessary duplication of effort, in terms of designing and delivering training across different countries, it helps you to build, engage and retain a dependable global talent pool. Ultimately, the success of any organisation depends on its people.
Sourcing the right learning, so that you can support and develop employees around the world consistently and effectively, should be a top priority.
About the author
Cecilia Westin Curry is a Development Partner at global learning consultancy OnTrack International. She can be contacted at email@example.com