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Managing Training Concepts in Multicultural Business Environments

Companies that need training and development services increasingly often operate in a context that consists of more than just one country, language and culture. While business operations are becoming international, companies expect their service providers being capable of catering them where needed. Succeeding in a very complex multinational customer-tailored training project takes more than a good concept. The concept must be flexible so that when language and cultural changes vary from country to country they do not endanger the content to be delivered. There can be several localised versions of the training concept under simultaneous delivery. Challenge is how to manage the concept.

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Managing Training Concepts in Multicultural Business Environments

  1. 1. From the field Managing Training Concepts in Multicultural Business EnvironmentsAuthors Companies that need training and development services increasingly often operate in a context that consists of more than just one country, language and culture. WhileKirsti Miettinenkirsti.miettinen@aalto.fi business operations are becoming international, companies expect their service pro-Petri Lyytikäinen viders being capable of catering them where needed. Succeeding in a very complexpetri.lyytikainen@aalto.fi multinational customer-tailored training project takes more than a good concept. TheTapio Koskinen concept must be flexible so that when language and cultural changes vary from countrytapio.koskinen@aalto.fi to country they do not endanger the content to be delivered. There can be several lo- calised versions of the training concept under simultaneous delivery. Challenge is howAalto University Professional to manage the concept.Development Aalto PROTags 1. Rationale and Background Organisations who are in need of company tailored training and development servicescustomer-tailored training,change management, increasingly often operate and work in a context that consists of more than just onenetworked delivery of country, language and culture. While business operations are becoming international,training, multicultural companies expect their service providers being capable of catering them where needed.environment If work and business is geographically distributed, company tailored training should as well be accessible in multiple locations. This calls for new concepts for delivery of educa- tion, training and development services and opens new opportunities for Universities as providers. For almost two decades, Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli1 at Helsinki University of Tech- nology2 –, (later referred to as TKK Dipoli) had been actively participating in European networks, research and development projects in the fields of e-learning, pedagogy, life- long learning, foresight in education and training. Through these activities, networks of trust with several university partners around Europe and globally have been built up. TKK Dipoli had defined the following priorities for developing its services are (i) a thor- ough understanding of customers’ business, (ii) bring the training closer to the custom- er’s work processes, and (iii) go international with the customers. Ability to learn good practices and to become a competent partner to support our customers in their change implementation and management in complex environments are among the core compe- tencies needed when reaching our strategic target. However, business cases where the previously mentioned targets and experiences could be combined are limited. 1 On January 1 2011 Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli was merged with 5 other units to form Aalto University Professional Development (Aalto PRO) that provides continuing education and development programs for profes- sionals. 2 Aalto University was born on January 1st 2010 through a merger of three existing universities: the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE), the University of Art and Design Helsinki (TAIK) and Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012Pap www 1
  2. 2. From the fieldIn spring 2007, TKK Dipoli was contacted by a large multina- cated training courses, and reveal our plans to further utilisetional corporation to support them in the implementation of the lessons learned.a new concept that describes the company’s way of operat-ing in construction project business. The company supplies 3. Background for the Case Studymetal-based components, systems and integrated systems tothe construction and mechanical engineering industries. The In the cases which we refer to in this article, our customerscompany’s core market includes the Nordic countries, the have gone through large-scale growth in their businesses.Baltic countries, central Eastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine. As growth strategies the companies have invested in newThe target was to enforce Company activities in construc- production facilities, taken over smaller players in the field,tion field by providing larger project deliveries consisting not grown organically and broken into new business areas.only the building materials and components but also unit- One of the key-characteristics of the companies was thatwise design and installation. The project business concept is they had reached a level where harmonisation of processesthe base for unit-wise operations systems and the process is had to be done to maintain steering and profitability of pro-adapted to suit the needs of each region. jects in smooth track. Supporting change management in our cases means that2. Objective of the Article the customer is introducing new processes and new ways ofThis article brings forward good practices in management working into the organisation and needs support not only inof complex training concepts in multicultural business envi- training its staff but also in the way the change is managedronments. The findings are based on a case study of a large- throughout the whole company.scale training project carried out during 2007-2009. The firstphase of the project was a pilot. After the pilot the practicesto manage the training concept were developed, refined 4. Description of the Training Conceptand implemented during the rest of the project. At the same 4.1 Objectives, contents and target group.time, similar approaches were implemented and found ap-propriate in smaller-scale trainings, although with similar The objective of the training was to harmonise and speedneeds to support change management in a multicultural en- up project business, develop skills to execute the company’svironment. From the unique training concept we developed Project Business Concept (PBC), increase the level of skillsa general one which is branch independent, modular and in planning, selling and managing projects, and support themulticulturally tested. implementation of the concept in different countries in dif- ferent business environments and stages. The cross-func-The article describes a pilot, a unique and complex training tional target group was the company’s personnel that wereconcept and the program that supports the implementation involved in projects. The participants learned how to use ef-of a companywide Project Business Concept (later referred fectively the tools and knowledge-bases that PBC can offer.to as PBC). It discusses aspects related to the delivery of a The training was structured according to the PBC, followingmodularised training to be carried out 16 times serving over its main phases.350 professionals in 15 different countries in 12 languagesjointly collaborating with local country organisations and The core learning materials were prepared by a centraliseduniversities. The training delivery is supported with stand- Production Team. The approach in producing the materialsardised concept and tools. The identified success criteria in electronic format was to create an Electronic Performanceincludes strong concept management, experienced project Support System (EPSS) as an integral part of the PBC applica-management, continuous support for regional partners in tion, and pilot it during the training project. The core mate-localisation of the training (re-engineering the training), vis- rial was translated into the local language. The supportingible management commitment at regional and at corporate materials were adapted to meet the requirements of the lo-level as well as clear communication and firm relationships cal regulations and business environment. Additional localbetween all involved parties. At the end of this article we training material was provided by regional training partnershighlight some critical success factors for managing compli- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap www 2
  3. 3. From the fieldand through their experts. The end-result of the adaptation The network of regional training partners included special-is localised PBC for each region. ised training organisations, mainly universities which were hosting the training events in each country or region. The4.2 Effective Project Organisation and hosting organisation prepared the events in close collabora- management for Smooth Delivery tion with the regional unit of the company and the training program project manager from TKK Dipoli. To localise andThe planning, steering and quality assurance of the training deliver the training in different countries, a specific task forceconcept was accomplished jointly in the Steering Group con- was set up for each region. The task force consisted of man-sisting of client company representatives (PBC process own- agement representative of the company to ensure the localer, chosen experts and the Training Manager) and TKK Dipoli specific features and show of commitment, regional partnerrepresentatives (project manager and experts). to facilitate and organise the training, and a TKK Dipoli rep- resentative.The project manager from TKK Dipoli was in charge of theeffective operation and smooth delivery of the training ac- The trainers (teachers/ instructors, facilitators and tutors)cording to the plan. He acted as a link between all the parties came mainly from the local organisations. TKK Dipoli was re-involved: Steering Group, the customer’s experts at division sponsible for preparing the regional training partner for theand local level, regional training partners, the material pro- delivery of the training and core training material.duction team. The project manager was also responsible forcollecting adequate feedback information for the Steering Local facilitators provided by the regional training partnerGroup for evaluation purposes. were in charge of the face-to-face and group learning. Tutor-Figure 1: Organisation, Parties and Roles ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap www 3
  4. 4. From the fielding the individual case work, which was accomplished out- Supporting and controlling the regional training partner ac-side of classroom between the course days, was managed by tivities in the preparation phase and during the local courseinternal champions from the company. delivery is crucial for success.The local management of the company was always present To keep the quality at an equally high level in each country,in training deliveries in their region. Their role was to indi- basic issues must be rehearsed with the regional partners.cate commitment of the management to the entire PBC and There is no risk of doing it too much. These issues can be e.g.especially be there to answer the questions: How to adapt what is meant with facilitation, what does interactivity meanthe best practices in the region and in the company’s way of in practice, how to transfer academic contents to businessdoing business. and practice-oriented audiences. Even adapting a model classroom illustrated in the Trainer’s Manual for training de-5. Critical Success Factors for Managing a livery is to be controlled carefully. Complex Training Concept In our case the initial aim was to develop a training conceptThere are several challenges one may encounter when im- which could be copied from country to country. It was basedplementing a complex training concept such as the one de- on a four-module training course with sufficient time spanscribed in this article. The challenge can derive from keeping in between the modules for individual case work. When thethe content of the training at a certain quality level through training moved geographically further towards east withall the steps from centrally designed master content to the more challenging transportation and classical eastern learn-final translated and localised content delivered by a person ing cultures, it was clear that the concept had to be changed.subcontracted by a regional training partner. It can also re- Changing the concept from four-module delivery to a three-sult from ensuring the training delivery to be at the level of module one necessitated a new edition of the Trainer’scustomer requirements. From project management point of Manual to be completed. Additional improvements for theview, the major challenge comes from ensuring that all the Manual could be included in the new edition, such as con-moving parts are in place according to the agreed schedule crete links between the training contents and the actual PBC.and budget.In the following we want to highlight a few good practices in 7. Listen to the Customer - Ensure thesupporting complex change management projects in multi- Quality of Local Roll-Outscultural environments. They are based on some of the most Steering group work is essential to ensure the quality stand-important lessons we have learned. ards and to coordinate the roll-out process and keep different parties informed of needed supportive or corrective actions.6. Trainer’s Manual and Other Supporting The steering group should meet frequently to solve any is- Activities on Distributed Delivery sues related to quality. Also any issues related to quality of the partnership between the customer and project manage-One cannot overemphasize the importance of standardising ment has to be solved in the steering group.the training concept. Regional training partners do not nec-essarily know the Client Company in beforehand. In spite of It is important to evaluate the quality of the training deliv-frequent communications the objectives of the training of- ery as actively as possible. During the delivery it is advisableten remain unclear to the partner One cannot over empha- to let the participants evaluate you and your delivery chainsize the importance of a “clear” and well documented train- as well as the content delivered after each module. Further-ing concept. Trainer’s Manual is a useful tool for the regional more, it is good to make conclusions and take the neededtraining partner. It provides support for localising the content corrections immediately. And finally, the evaluation scaleof the training and standardised guidelines to all practicali- should be narrow enough to obtain effective outcomes.ties. In overall, country-to-country monthly quality follow-ups should be collected for steering group auditing to ensure the targeted value for the investment made. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap www 4
  5. 5. From the field8. Training Partner Support Meets unexpected challenges rising from e.g. resistance or misun- Multicultural Business Environment derstanding of concepts are of great help when overcoming unexpected challenges. Continuous support for the regionalDifferent business cultures and variations in company size partner from the central project management is a necessity.from one country to another, as well as different learningand teaching cultures make the roll-out of courses very chal- The best, and perhaps the only way, to ensure the qualitylenging. Furthermore, the need to deliver each course in of the training adaptation to the local level is to work onlythe mother tongue of the participants makes it difficult to with subcontractors (local universities and training organis-achieve the economies of scale. ers) with whom you have had a long experience in collabo- ration. A long collaboration in training partnership with theThe regional training partner has to be able to establish an customer makes it possible to acquire adequate and honestopen and firm relationship and dialogue with the local com- feedback for the training delivery abroad. Project manage-pany management. It is necessary to have both parties com- ment and the steering group are able to re-engineer a pro-municating and planning the training together in order to un- cess control system on the run.derstand what country-specific adjustments must be madein the training content. This increases the usefulness of the In our case, the major project management challenge cametraining. The risk is to make the training too country-specific from the demanding roll-out schedule. When managing train-and thus forget the overall picture i.e. harmonising the pro- ing carried out in 15 countries during 24 months and basedject business. on a concept designed and tested during a pilot phase in a couple of countries and re-engineered in every new country,Too strong and wilful leadership in local customer organisa- you need to be active in keeping each partner updated ontion can make the implementation of the concept difficult. new amendments to the concept and content. It is also es-There is a risk that the training designed is not what they sential that your partners are flexible and ready to change(country managers) think they need most. The training was their preliminary plans for delivery when the next generationintended to support the change management of the compa- concept is released.ny. The training was to soften the adaptation of new ways ofdoing business. Resistance to the change direction can makethem doubtful not only of the new concept but also of the 9. Our way forwardtraining. TKK Dipoli seeks to develop a systematic approach for in- ternational design and delivery of education, training andIt is of utmost importance that already before the training development services through a global university network.starts, the country managers and the local champions (lo- This will contribute to the long anticipated opportunity tocal owners of the concept) are committed to the new con- leverage from the Finnish know-how and good reputation incept and procedure. Not only should the lingual translation quality education. Strategic ongoing initiatives are large scaleof the Company’s new concept be ready before training in trainings for international corporations, the establishment ofeach country, but also the localisation should be finalized Confucius Business School and the training activities in Rus-(by company in-house professionals). This cannot be over- sia..emphasised because we found lack of localisation being oneof our major challenges during roll-outs. Based on the lessons learned from the case studies discussed in this article as well as on our experience from working withThe maturity of the business practices and normal cultural international networks we have decided to focus on improv-aspects in doing business can bring unexpected challenges ing our capacities the following areas:to the delivery of the project. Issues that are easy to imple-ment in one country can become difficult obstacles in an- • Partnerships: university networking can offer a cost ef-other country. This requires a lot of time and energy from fective and efficient solution for localisation and distrib-the regional partner and project management, if the difficul- uted deliveryties had not been anticipated in time. A good understandingof the local business culture and open-mindedness to face ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap www 5
  6. 6. From the field• Localisation: desired level of localisation of services in distributed delivery depends from the industry charac- teristics and learning needs.• Quality: a thorough documentation of the service con- cept, processes and roles so that they can be clearly communicated is the key to success.• Technology enhanced and blended learning solutions can be used to provide the needed flexibility.ReferencesStraub, Koskinen (Eds) “Painting the Potential - Working LifeEducation and Development Services Offered by the Finnish In-novation University”, Espoo 2008 Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers Copyrights ISSN: 1887-1542 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject Publisher: elearningeuropa.info to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast pro- Postal address: c/Muntaner 262, 3r, 08021 Barcelona (Spain) vided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Phone: +34 933 670 400 Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. Email: editorial@elearningeuropa.info The full licence can be consulted on http://creativecommons.org/licens- Internet: www.elearningpapers.eu es/by-nc-nd/3.0/ ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 31 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012Pap www 6