Targets and expectations are clear, you gained the commitment of all relevant stakeholders and up to board level everyone is aware of the importance of your planned international leadership program. Now it’s time for the actual design of the program. We identified the four most common pitfalls on the way to hazzle-free design of an effective leadership program and added helpful “ingredients of success” right om the practice to avoid them.
1. Estimate efforts appropriately
This means the personnel as well as the financial efforts because international programs can be very complex. Simple example: Travel times and costs. Also tricky: If a training program shall be implemented in 15 different countries and 12 different languages you can calculate a lot of time and maybe money as well to translate the workshop material. And there’s more to it than that. If there are necessary changes, for example after the first run of a module, they are very error-prone and need a lot of time and carefulness. If you aim for a too high perfection level you will cause too high costs. If the efforts in this case are too low you risk quality loss.
Trainer costs can be another big cost factor and the market prices can be very different in different regions. An extreme example is Eastern Europe and China. While the price-per-day rate is comparatively low in Eastern Europe, qualified and experienced trainers in China demand rates far above the European average (2016). Such situations can also change very fast. Trainer costs in Russia and especially in Moscow have been very high around the year 2011. Five years later prices adapted to the European standards due to a higher supply and lower demand (oil price, sanctions, …). The price difference between boom regions and crisis regions can differ by the factor of five, even if you cooperate with the same training provider. That’s one of the reasons why some organizations work with a mixture of external and internal trainers. The external trainers make sure that current and proven know-how is integrated. The internal trainers support a high acceptance and implementation level and help to reduce the costs.
2. Find the right balance between standardized and individual content
At the beginning of an international leadership program headquarters and countries should decide together what is a must for everyone and therewith should be standardized and, on the other hand, how many space there will be for individual and regional topics. “One fits all” won’t be a good strategy. A rule of thumb for successful international roll-out is: 70% standardized content, 30% free space for cultural and regional specifics.
!! Practical example !!
An organization can define that giving and receiving feedback in regular intervals is important for a positively experienced company culture and that it should be a must-content for a planned training. But an appropriate feedback exercise will be very different in Italy and, for example, China.
The more heterogeneous a training group is he more complex it will be to reach every participant the best and most effective way possible.
If a training target group is very heterogeneous when it comes to language, nationality and culture it will be very beneficial to tailor-made the content and process according the relative need and special challenges in daily work. Helpful can be:
- Conversations, interview and demand surveys with the relevant target groups bevor the conception of the program
- Conversations and interviews with the employees and colleagues of the potential training participants
Reality check of content and concept by workplace visits of the target group (e.g. production plan)
In an effective leadership development program it’s not only the content which is tailor-made for the target group but also the cultural design setting. Global organization of unite very different lifestyles and ideals. That means that a development measure or task can be totally okay for some and simultaneously absolutely irritating for others. Same thing with expectations: Sent to a two-day seminar a participant from Austria might expect different process and output than a participant from Brazil or China.
3. Take care of smooth technology
Meetings, virtual coaching, e-learning elements, webinars and LMS systems: Having a close look at the organization’s technical setup and IT infrastructure is indispensable. Questions can be: Are there already existing solutions? What is possible with the international IT? How stable are internet and server connections?
Face-2-face trainings as a standalone solution are a thing of the past. Today you need blended learning and integrated learning processes. International programs often consist of some modules lasting several training days and treating different topics. While classroom training is still important it is mission critical to have tools and measures going beyond the mere training days. Blended learning – while important for any training process – are especially important when it comes to international roll-outs. The simple reason why? Learning processes and included pre and post training tasks ensure learning transfer an on-the-job application. And: E-Learning elements and webinars are comparatively cost-efficient and are not limited by country and time boarders.
!! Practical tipp !!
To manage and visualize integrated learning processes we work with the online learning transfer platform Promote®. The platform is simple and effective and make learning processed and the progress of single participants visible, measurable and manageable.
4. Find a common language
Imagine an organization operating in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia. 15 nominated level-2 leaders meet in the headquarters near Vienna for the first module of the new training program for production managers. In which language will the training take place? English, of course, might be an answer but are all participants able to speak and understand the language well enough to follow even complex contents?
Training language? English, isn’t it?
!! Practical example !!
In a leadership development program running since 2012 we had the same challenge at the beginning: A group with participants from different nations and with different mother tongues should do the same two-day module together, training language English. That this training would not be equal beneficial for all due to smaller or bigger language barriers was obvious. A solution for such a situation is the cooperation with a language institute checking the English level of the potential participants before they do the training. If it’s not sufficient, they get language coaching until they are able to participate “barrier-free”.
Be aware: This language coaching should have its borders as well. If the language competence level is lower than B2 it’s not very realistic that a little bit of language coaching is enough. In this case participants should participate a year later to have more time to develop their language and in order not to slow the learning progress of the whole group.
Of course you can consider working with a translator but then again you have to deliberate about whether the cost-value ratio is worth it or not.
Sometimes the target group structure or the special targets of a program demand a roll-out in different languages. Many participants do appreciate that a lot but it also causes a lot of effort in terms of material translation and train-the-trainer.
Note: Language can mean the spoken training language but also the picture language in presentations or the practical cases and examples which can be perceived very differently.
!! Practical tipp !!
Our experience shows that maximum quality of training material can be achieved if the country trainer do the translation themselves instead of agencies or language institutes. If this isn’t possible due to time or other reasons the country trainers should at least revise the agency versions.
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