Cross-cultural Training Techniques Avoiding Expat Failure

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Genevieve Northup
Editor, Germany

Cross-cultural Training Techniques Avoiding Expat Failure

48 percent of expats leave foreign posts early because of poor job performance and 37 percent return prematurely because they or their family members are unable to acclimatize in different cultures (Insch and Daniels as cited in Kreitner, 2009, p.106). A contributing factor to a failure to perform well on a foreign assignment is a LACK OF CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE to work with local nationals, as well as CULTURE SHOCK. As defined by Kreitner, culture shock is “negative feelings” resulting from the incongruence between “expectations and reality” (p.105). Despite these statistics, most firms do not have any sort of cross-cultural training program for employees working in diverse environments and foreign countries (p.108).

A number of cross-cultural training techniques can be employed by firms to reduce culture shock and prevent expat failures (p.107):
  1. DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMS: Films that provide highlights of the host nation.
  2. CULTURAL ASSIMILATOR: Role-playing potential host-nation interactions.
  3. LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION: Written and verbal foreign language study.
  4. SENSITIVITY TRAINING: Role-playing to understand how one’s behavior may be perceived in another country.
  5. FIELD EXPERIENCE: Guided interactions in the new environment.
Individual learning styles must be considered when developing training programs, as well as the nature of the role being assumed overseas and the specific location. For example, an American who will be working the U.K. will need little language instructions and field experience, given the similarities of the daily activities and forms of English. Rather, cultural sensitivity should be the focus to understand nuances between the U.K. and the U.S. On the other hand, an American who will be working in a developing nation may benefit from language instruction and field experience.
Source: Kreitner, R. (2009). Management (11th ed.) Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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