Tags: Training

Delivering Successful Training and Development Initiatives in High-Context Cultures (ASTD Blog)

by Anna
Published on: February 22, 2014
Categories: Uncategorized
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Originally Published: February 18, 2014 – by Anna Pinsky

Source: http://www.astd.org/Publications/Blogs/Management-Blog/2014/02/Delivering-Successful-Training-and-Development-Initiatives-in-High-Context-Cultures

In my previous blog, I talked in general about the challenges and opportunities of working in new or unfamiliar international cultural contexts. Now, I would like to focus on the area of training and development in high-context cultures.

Make training safe through careful design of exercises

Effective adult learning requires the provision of a space in which it is safe to try out new skills, where it is acceptable to make mistakes, and where individuals can be given support to learn from those mistakes.

However, in some high-context cultures training can be challenging due to the fact that training participants are going to be less willing to try something new for fear of making mistakes. One reason for this, in Japan, is the traditional education system which focuses on rote learning rather than learning through inquiry. Mistakes are seen as something to avoid at all cost rather than as a part of the learning process itself. Consequently, it is said that the education system does not encourage learning from mistakes and creates an environment of fear.

For example, Japanese students are generally known to be much quieter and less willing to ask questions in classroom situations than their western counterparts. B.J. McVeigh writes inJapanese Higher Education as Myth that it is fear rather than shyness that leads to the lack of a response or questions in a classroom setting.

So, what are the implications for us when we are delivering training in such contexts?

What it means is that we have to be more creative with exercises so that individuals can take the risk to try new things without fear of being seen to “be wrong” in front of others. In practice this might mean focusing on replacing large group exercises with more small group or pair exercises and letting individuals prepare answers or exercises with others before presenting to the wider group.

Take time to check needs with participants—not just the training sponsor

Prior to delivering any training in high-context situations, it is also well worth your time to conduct interviews with several training participants—and not just the training project sponsor.

Doing so will not only enable you to get a better grasp of the participants needs, but also help you start to develop a relationship of trust with individual participants so that they can help act as your supporters to demonstrate various exercises and make other participants more willing to take the risk of trying out new roles and activities during the training itself. Keep in mind that individual interviews can be conducted over the telephone, if necessary. 

Check for insight and awareness first

The Development Pipeline, outlined by D.B. Petersen in The Evidence-Based Coaching Handbook, is one model used by many coaches to gauge where the greatest need for development is required for an individual client. In other words, the Development Pipeline is a useful model to identify which aspect of learning might be preventing the individual from making progress with their own development.

Here is a simple summary of the five parts of the Development Pipeline:

  1. Insight: Extent to which the person understands what areas he or she needs to develop in order to be more effective.
  2.  Motivation: The degree to which the person is willing to invest the time and energy it takes to develop oneself.
  3. Capabilities: The extent to which the person has the necessary skills and knowledge.
  4. Real-world practice: The extent to which the person has opportunities to try out new skills at work.
  5. Accountability: The extent to which there are internal and external mechanisms for paying attention to change and providing meaningful consequences. 

Precisely because of potentially different cultural norms and expectations, when delivering training or development initiatives in high-context cultures one should set aside extra time to ensure that “Insight” is addressed. That means making sure you have checked that training participants understand why the training is taking place, what issues the training is intended to address, and what different behaviors and tasks participants will be expected to demonstrate as a result of the training.

What have you learned that you would add to the above list to help others prepare for training in unfamiliar or different cultural contexts? 

Networking as a part of Employee Development (BCCJ Acumen Article)

by Anna
Published on: February 1, 2014
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Benefits of Networking as part of Employee Development – on behalf of the Executive Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan

(Originally Published in BCCJ Acumen Magazine January 2014 Edition)

Making the Most of Membership

by Anna Pinsky

• Alternative form of staff development
• Free seats available at most functions
• Chance to apply skills with diverse crowds

As a member of the BCCJ Executive Committee with a focus on organisational efficiency and development, I believe many of our member companies and individuals may not be reaping the full benefits of their membership in the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Many BCCJ partners may already know that free seats are available at BCCJ events for Entrepreneur, Corporate, Corporate Plus and Platinum members. Are you and your company taking advantage of this?

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the additional advantages of this membership benefit. In particular, having staff attend chamber events is a great way to offer and promote employee development.

Exposure to many cultures
Global talent development, or gurobaru jinzai, continues to be a hot topic in Japan. The concept has been recognised by government, business and higher education leaders as one of the key challenges facing Japanese businesses, whether it applies to plans for expanding abroad or for building international partnerships on a domestic level.

The announcement of Tokyo’s selection as the host of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has also put the issue in focus. There is now a great deal of pressure on firms to speed up workforce development to enable staff to work more effectively in multicultural situations.

With this increased need for staff who can effectively function in multicultural teams, it is more important than ever to expose staff to situations in which they can mix with people of different nationalities and backgrounds.

Participation in multicultural networking events, such as those provided by the BCCJ, is one way to provide this type of exposure opportunity.

Often overlooked training tool
Talent development is not just about teaching new skills or imparting knowledge. It’s about developing a workforce that is better able to adapt to a future that promises increasingly rapid and unpredictable changes.

Classroom training has traditionally been seen as the standard for developing staff. However, more firms are now expanding their menu of growth opportunities to include coaching, mentoring, on-the-job-training, action learning and online learning, among other methods.

Among the training tools employed, peer networking or networking with other organisations are often overlooked.

Providing opportunities for staff to network and meet other individuals in either the same or different industries can expose them to new perspectives and ideas, which they can take back to the workplace to approach problem-solving in a more innovative manner.

A break from the normal working environment can also enable people to view business issues with fresh eyes and explore ways to address issues that might not have been apparent before.

Perhaps most importantly, networking is worthwhile because it allows staff to interact with, and learn from, a diverse group of individuals.

Such interaction helps people develop the skills to more readily adapt to an unpredictable future, thereby better positioning your business for long-term growth and success.

Applying skills in real time
The field of personnel development used to rely heavily on teaching new technical knowledge or soft skills.

However, personnel development goes beyond such traditional measures; it is also about providing opportunities for real-world practice of newly acquired skills or knowledge.

In addition, a core function of individual development relates to increasing self-awareness, or insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

A healthy level of self-awareness enables people to take control of their own development and be more proactive about finding new learning avenues, rather than simply waiting for direction from their bosses or human resources.

Networking is valuable in that it allows staff to apply new competencies, such as communication strategies, with different types of people. It also is an opportunity to refine self-awareness, because individuals can observe how people from a wide variety of backgrounds respond to their personal communication style.

Last but not least, networking can lead to higher motivation among staff who attend events such as those organised by the BCCJ, as attendees feel more valued when their company provides opportunities for new experiences above and beyond the daily tasks at the office.

Next steps
BCCJ members receive regular updates on upcoming events through various communication mediums, including our Weekly Round Up (WRU) sent via e-mail and notices on social media channels.

Try forwarding the WRU to your human resources or training and development department, and encourage them to consider BCCJ free seats as a new type of development opportunity that can complement the current training offerings for high-potential staff.

 

Source: http://bccjacumen.com/issues/january-2014/2014/01/making-the-most-of-membership/

Opportunities and Challenges of Working in Multicultural Contexts (ASTD Blog)

by Anna
Published on: January 26, 2014
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: No Comments

Originally Published: January 13, 2014 – by Anna Pinsky

I am originally from the United Kingdom, and have been living in Japan for 15 years. Even after all this time in Japan, I still find myself coming across unfamiliar territory and having interactions that challenge my views and assumptions.

Working in multicultural contexts and teams are an excellent opportunity for development. Exposure to diverse people and experiences can uncover that you might be making incorrect assumptions or missing out alternative perspectives due to overreliance on your own cultural background.

Common mistakes

A common mistake in multicultural training or development is making generalizations and assuming that national cultural norms are the same as the organizational norms.

I’ve worked with various companies in Japan, both domestic and international, and in every case, the company culture has been different. More important, the internal culture has challenged my preconceptions on “western” or “eastern” working practices.  In fact, over time I find it increasingly difficult to make general statements about organizations in Japan, the United States, or the United Kingdom.

Indeed, one of the first Japanese organizations I worked for seemed to fit what I had read about in books on Japanese culture. Everyone was very polite, individuals rarely shared their honest opinions in a formal context, and the relationships were very hierarchical.  It was an organization with a long history and an industry in which change was notoriously slow.

However, later on I had the opportunity to work in a Japanese organization in which communication was quite direct. The communication was so direct, in fact, that individuals could come across as quite rude at times. In addition, tasks were carried out by individuals with little reference to their official title or history within the organization. This was a “younger” organization, with a more entrepreneurial, individualist management style.

 Check mutual expectations

When delivering training or development projects for an organization, especially in a different international cultural context, it is always best to check that you understand your counterparts’ expectations. This includes not just the expectations of your role, but also their understanding of the purpose of different tasks and activities.

For example, in some Japanese organizations, formal meetings are primarily spaces for sharing information and decisions are often made outside of the formal meeting. However, in other organizations, the meeting is the place for decisions to be made and information sharing is seen to take place prior to the meeting.

It is always best to check mutual expectations and the perceived purpose of different channels and contexts for communication when joining a new organization or team—and even more so when working in new and unfamiliar international contexts.

Foster multiple methods of inquiry

I had the opportunity to talk to a successful managing director in a western subsidiary of a Japanese-owned company recently. Her advice on working with colleagues from different cultures, such as Japan, was to ask the same question in several different ways to check that you have really grasped the core issues.

In high context cultures, such as Japan, sometimes an individual’s first reaction is to answer questions in line with what they think you want to hear, rather than what they really think. In this respect, the ability to inquire about the same point but using a wide variety of questions is a useful skill to develop when working in international contexts.

Find a trusted informal adviser or mentor

When working in new and unfamiliar cultural contexts, it is very worthwhile trying to find individuals who you can provide you with another perspective or “interpretation” of specific behaviors that you come across in the new working environment.  This doesn’t have to be someone in the same organization, but it should be someone who can help you view the behavior through a different lens and understand what unconscious assumptions you may be making based on your own cultural background.

If you know that you are going to be working on an international assignment for more than a few weeks, it is worth taking time to find out about possible networking opportunities, either within your own industry (such as international ASTD networking groups) or on cross-industry topics, so that you increase your chances of coming across someone who could be a potential informal adviser.

These tips are just starting points. What additional advice would you give people on working in new or unfamiliar cultural environments?

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