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Training Localization

Overview

Imagine that your company outsourced back office processing or call center functions to India, the Philippines, China or Costa Rica. The vendors now own the hiring process, the induction/orientation process, and the performance management process. The trainers, trainees and managers are contract employees and they do not work for your company. The only thing your company (the client) still owns is the training process and content. How prepared are YOU to offer improvements in training content, methodology and materials to assure that these vendors (who are from other cultures) can meet your company's strategic goals?


Guidelines: An Example - India

It would be difficult enough to be the internal instructional designer supplying company-specific materials and programs to the vendor companies, then complicate that by adding the trainees' cultural background, learning preferences, and knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about the customers they serve. Here is a case example (India) of how ITAP International helped one company find a solution to just this situation.


Step 1: Conduct a Cultural Audit

Assessment of the Indian call center operators' cultural preferences and a Cultural Audit of the training materials identified several areas for attention by Instructional Designers from the client company.

A. Identify an appropriate mix of sources for data gathering. For example, use a representative sample from each of the Indian call centers; in this case there were four centers form which data was gathered.
B. Assess the cultural preferences of the Indian call center agents using the Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire™ In this case the population included Indian call center associates who had been through the US-based training. (This client initially just exported the US training with some India-specific tweaks..)
C. Review the data collected against country averages (in this case US and India) and across the sample populations (e.g., various sites). Look for divergence to identify areas where cultural differences may play a part in the content, methodology, overall approach, and design.


Step 2: Use the cultural analysis to determine what kinds of changes and improvement need to be considered for training redesign.

Table 1: Cultural Analysis - Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire™ Data

Description

Individualism

Power Distance

Certainty

Achievement

India Call Centers Overall Average

53

61

70

49

Hofstede India Country Average

48

77

40

56

Hofstede USA Country Average

91

40

46

62

In this example, the results from the Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire™ showed a high need for Certainty compared to both the India and USA Hofstede data (see Table 1, numbers highlighted in orange). In high need for Certainty environments, students (and teachers) are most comfortable with structured learning.

Students are likely to:

  • Feel some concerned with getting/having the right answers, learning "the rule."
  • Feel less comfortable in ambiguous situations or where there are only broad guidelines (such as "use your discretion") are offered.

Instructors are likely to:

  • Prefer clear requirements and precise instructions (do this, say that).

 

Table 2: Cultural Analysis - Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire™ Data

Description

Individualism

Power Distance

Certainty

Achievement

India Call Centers Overall Average

53

61

70

49

Hofstede India Country Average

48

77

40

56

Hofstede USA Country Average

91

40

46

62

In this example, the Indian associates scored high on the Power Distance dimension (see Table 2, numbers highlighted in yellow). In higher Power Distance environments both students and teachers are more comfortable with the instructor owning the knowledge. In these cultures, it is likely that:

  • Teachers are expected to take the initiatives in class (not students).
  • Students expect teachers to be the experts and know the answers. In work situations, employees expect tasks to be clearly defined. Programs or exercises that are not specific about what is the correct answer (such as a discussion without a specific debrief of the "answer"), appear to be poorly designed. They confuse the students and put the instructors in a position of seeming "not to know."
  • Workers expect to be closely supervised.
  • Employees are less likely to suggest solutions for problems unless directly asked/told.

The ramifications for instruction of both a higher need for Certainty and higher Power Distance is that in order to help the students learn how to handle different situations than they are used to:

 

  • The instruction to the students will need to be as detailed, structured and precise.
  • Instructors need to know what they should do and have precise instruction as to what to do (for example if the system goes down - what does an instructor do?). They need to have access to all the materials and information to be able to teach the students and answer all their questions.
  • Students need to by kept informed as to the structure of the program (what fits where).
  • Learning needs to go from the general (here is what happens in most cases) to the exceptions (in these kinds of cases you need to do something different).
  • The instructional design should be detailed, structured and precise, both for the students, to help them learn to be as comfortable and knowledgeable as possible in interactions with customers, and for the instructor, so that he/she will have the necessary materials and information to work with the learners and answer their questions.

 


Step 3: Identify areas that need a more balanced cultural perspective.

In this case, the changes that were made to to the redesigned training materials included:

  • Inclusion of graphics that are more culturally appropriate and an increased number of graphics and visuals
  • Creation of a template for all the redesigned materials to ensure consistency and the desired structure
    Increased use of examples and cultural comparisons, and inclusion of more context for terminology and concepts with which the students may not be culturally familiar
  • Increased emphasis on demonstration and practice of the soft skills so students can become more effective and efficient using what they learned.

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