As global economies become increasingly intertwined, more and more businesses are working with international teams. In 2015, foreign-owned companies employed 6.8 million workers in the United States. Drawing workers from across the globe gives brands access to an enormous talent pool, offset hours of operation, and the opportunity to build diverse and creative solutions through a huge variety of perspectives.
With all of the benefits of a global team, there are bound to be some drawbacks. One concern when working with teams across borders is proper training. Whether there are language barriers, workers across time zones, or different legal hurdles in individual countries, the challenges of training an international workforce exist—but they are not insurmountable.
This article considers some of the challenges of training an international team, and how to work around those challenges to bring everyone together in meaningful learning exercises.
Multiple Native Languages
For some international teams, training courses in just one language won’t work. Even if everyone on your team happens to speak a common language, the nuances can get lost. Luckily, modern training tools generally have translation modules built right in, so overcoming an initial language barrier is simple.
Adapting courses to individual cultures is more challenging. Examples given in one language may not make a lot of sense in another. There are slang words, cultural humor, and local regulations that need to be addressed.
The best solution to adapt a training module to multiple cultures is to keep it as simple as possible. To the extent possible, training should be consistent across teams so that everyone gets the same information. A simple course is easier to customize to fit different needs and situations without losing the main ideas.
Different Time Zones
The typical caricature of office training is an instructor at the front of the room, addressing a group of workers in chairs or around a conference table. But modern businesses often look very different, with remote work gaining popularity at an unprecedented pace.
The thing is, even if a team is local, the odds that everyone will be ready to complete a training at the exact same time are low. It often makes more sense to allow team members to complete training as they are ready and able, especially if those workers are on a completely different schedule.
Digital platforms largely solve the timing issue. Courses can be purchased or developed for workers to complete on their own computer at a convenient time. Digital training can still be done in groups, or left to the individual to finish.
Varied Global Certification Requirements
Each nation has its own legal requirements for different industries. Some requirements are similar between countries, while others are wildly different.
First, it’s important to look to the team on the ground in each specific country to find out the legal requirements of a locality. If it’s a one-man team in that place, make sure legal representatives get involved. Certifications aren’t something to guess at.
Once you know exactly what you need to train for, overcoming this hurdle doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with a harmonious course that features the general global requirements first, and then add customized modules that focus on national legislation as-needed.
Sometimes teams run into the problem of having different equipment from their international counterparts. For the most part, secure cloud solutions help overcome technological barriers, but as not all systems are created equal, this is definitely something to consider when planning your next training event.
Look for online learning resources that cater to a wide variety of platforms. Course design tools should be available in different coding languages (or require no programming knowledge at all), work on numerous browsers, and have several publishing options, in case one doesn’t work for someone on your team.
Additionally, developers building international training content need a wide variety of creative options. Access to more visual assets provides the freedom to use what works for your technological needs without resorting to the bottom of the barrel.
The most important part of training your workers is conveying the required information in a way that is understandable to everyone. In an international organization, that often means very simple courses that can be customized and updated often.
However, another vital training factor is learner engagement. Look for common ground between everyone involved. Find ways to use that information to create object lessons, interactive examples, and a learning environment that allows individuals to actively participate, instead of passively consume.
Simple doesn’t have to mean boring. A memorable training is worth the investment to bring a team together, especially when they are geographically far apart.
Julian Dable is the international sales manager for eLearning Brothers. Julian brings years of experience helping organizations find the right software solutions for their needs. He’s been in the learning and human capital space for over ten years and also has a wealth of experience in managing reseller partnerships. Julian has a proven ability to drive business, productivity, profitability, and net worth. Check out eLearning Brothers for more international training design solutions and other creative ways to get workers invested in their own progression.
Training workers stock photo by Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock