By the end of 2019, Training Industry estimates, global spending on corporate training will grow to more than $373 billion. That’s a big number, to be sure, but how much of it is spent on initiatives that are strategically global? Our discipline has the potential to connect people, to create shared understanding and values, and to accelerate change. Are we living up to that potential, or are you seeing what I’m seeing:
- Programs developed at headquarters deployed without regard to local business practices, language or culture.
- Technologies and platforms available in one location but not at others.
- Assumptions about global needs without direct lines of communication.
- Rogue programs created locally to fill in gaps when the home office doesn’t listen.
- Programs available to the field without managed or completed rollouts.
- Team members in the field who avoid or resist training because of past experiences.
These challenges aren’t insurmountable. It’s time to take stock of our skill set and tool set for global deployment. With that in mind, here are three of the most important considerations to make when deploying global training.
1. Language Is the Most Obvious, but It’s Also the Most Complex
Understanding the oral and written language needs of your learners should be a part of the initial analysis when designing your program. From a U.S. perspective, we assume that this process is as easy as knowing the dominant language of each country and making sure everything is translated. But, did you know that there are 10 major dialects of Spanish? Or that there are eight main variants of Chinese and more than 100 minor ones? A language expert can help to ensure that you’re really meeting the language needs of your audience.
Once you have established those language needs, you will need a plan for meeting them.
Training content: If your company doesn’t have a dedicated translation team, it’s tempting to rely on your team members who are native speakers. However, it’s important to consider what you lose when the work isn’t done by translation professionals. Similarly, what will you lose if you outsource the work without reference to localized business practices? If the burden of translation is placed on the field offices, how will it impact the rollout schedule? You can’t assume that because individuals speak a language or even multiple languages, they will be competent translators or content developers. A strategy that ensures the collaboration of local subject matter experts (SMEs) and professional translators will ensure relevance and accuracy.
Training delivery: Ensuring that your trainers and facilitators have subject matter expertise is not enough. Whenever trainers are coming from outside the local office or country, it’s essential to consider local language fluency. It may be efficient to establish English as the business language of the organization, but consider the ripple effect as misunderstandings proliferate around the world. Language is one of the foundations of culture. As a first-generation Portuguese American, I have heard my mother complain many times that she can’t understand Brazilian Portuguese. Many learners experience this disconnect every time that they attend training.
2. Select Your Modality for Maximum Effect and Not Just for Ease of Rollout
When delivering a global program, instructor-led training (ILT) is not always practical or cost-effective, so there has been a reactionary push to develop digital resources that can easily be rolled out globally. The problem is that this one-size-fits-all solution is rarely the optimum tool for changing behavior. It’s merely the optimum tool for efficient delivery.
In fact, in a recent Training Industry survey on training modalities, about 60% of respondents said they prefer ILT. It’s possible to find efficiencies in other, more effective ways. Here are just a few:
Travel: Travel can quickly erode your program budget. A delivery partner with a global network can help you find trainers in the same country as, or in closer proximity to, your delivery locations. Effective oversight of the training schedule (including locations, trainers, venues, etc.) can dramatically reduce your travel expenses.
Technology: Next-generation learning management systems (LMSs), learning experience platforms (LXPs) and training management systems often have functionality to help you manage and communicate your rollout. Additionally, some LXPs can help you create a shared learning environment that breaks down geographic boundaries with a hybrid of locally delivered instruction and platform-enabled collaboration and social learning.
Scheduling and Project Management: Having a strong project management team to manage your global rollout can also help you maximize your investment. Most of us have seen programs that are partially rolled out and later fizzle due to a lack of, or ineffective, management. Additional support throughout the rollout helps to maintain the momentum and troubleshoot obstacles that emerge.
3. Don’t Forget Country-specific Variables
Lastly, when partnering with in-country resources for delivery, understanding local tax laws will help you understand how to pay your delivery talent and not break the bank. Many countries (mostly in the European Union) charge a value-added tax (VAT) to independent consultants. In Canada, there is a goods and service tax (GST) and a harmonized sales tax (HST), which can also show up on a consultant’s invoice. But taxes are just one of many country-specific logistics to consider during the planning phase. You’ll also want to take into account other factors such as the printing and shipping of materials and the availability of audio/visual equipment in the venues.
There is a lot to think about when rolling out a global initiative. The more you know ahead of time, the more prepared your team will be to deliver successful global training events.