Cross-cultural Training – What to Expect as an Expat


You’ve just accepted an international assignment.  Now what?  If you work for a company that has a strong cross-cultural training program, you’re in luck.


What is Cross-Cultural Training?


In short, the purpose of cross-cultural training is to properly prepare an employee and family for life in the new location.  It’s what you need to know before you go.  At the same time, it is an excellent investment for the organization, as it better ensures the likelihood of a successful assignment.


Sending an employee on an international assignment is quite costly for an organization.  According to SHRM, the cost of a three-year international assignment can easily exceed $3 million today.  Statistics show that one of the best ways to set an employee up for a successful assignment is by providing cross-cultural training in advance of their departure.  Thus, it has become an essential component for organizations with a globally mobile workforce.


What is Involved in Cross-Cultural Training?


Although programs may differ, the key aspects are generally the same. They are devised to help employees understand the differences between people from different countries and cultures, and to give them the knowledge and tools necessary to help them best interact and communicate with each other.  It provides a fundamental understanding of the local culture, as well as the cultures of the people who may be working together as part of a global team.  This is critical, as team members must be able to effectively communicate within a collaborative work environment.


Benefits for Employee and Family


Cross-cultural training is designed to help the employee and family adapt more easily to life in a foreign country, by giving them a better idea of what to expect before they get there.  This provides a good opportunity for addressing any challenges and concerns that they might have, while giving them a deeper awareness and understanding of the country and the culture they are moving to, and the various nuances that exist.  The more they know before they get there, the less chance there is for unwelcome surprises.  By removing many aspects of the unknown, the hope is that employee and family will be able to adjust more quickly to daily life in a new country.

As for the employee, an international assignment is often the pathway for career advancement and development.  So, being well-prepared at the onset of an international assignment is not only important for the success of the assignment itself, but can also lead to long-term career success.


Benefits to Organization


Two of the top reasons cited for failed international assignments is culture shock and the inability of the employee and/or family to adapt to the new location.  The best defense is always a good offense.  As such, organizations that support their employees and their families by providing cross-cultural training have a higher likelihood that an international assignment will end in success. And a successful assignment means that an employee will be less likely to leave the organization upon completion.  This is important from an employee retention standpoint for the organization.  The last thing an organization wants to do is spend a lot of money sending an employee on an international assignment, only to lose them in the end.


Moreover, an employee who has cross-cultural training before going on an international assignment will generally be more productive, because better employee preparedness on the frontend makes it easier for that employee to focus on job at hand. In other words, it helps the employee to hit the ground running, instead of having to undergo a longer period of adjustment upon arrival.


Today’s global business climate means that employees on international assignments may no longer find themselves only working with people from the host country.  As such, many organizations take their cross-cultural training programs a step further to encompass training that will better enable employee to work, communicate, interact, and collaborate within a multi-cultural team.


For more information about cross-cultural training, VERSA Relocation is here to help. Please contact us anytime!

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