3 Tips to Reduce Time to Proficiency

Category: Organizations

Staff in transitionIf you are sending personnel to work in a guest culture, you will no doubt be thinking about how quickly they can settle in and become profitable for your organization. But have you thought about how work dynamics might differ in a guest culture? How do you best prepare your valued personnel for such a move? Here are three ways to make that move both meaningful for your staff in transition and more beneficial to your organization:

1. Identify the unique cross-cultural dynamics and allow for reasonable proficiency delays

North American businesses usually expect newly hired or promoted personnel to reach job proficiency within 90 days. This is of course only feasible if they have received excellent training and integration into their new work environment. Proficiency will naturally take longer to achieve if new job responsibilities are highly specialized or if inadequate or unsuitable training is given to the new staff.

When employees are moved globally, time to proficiency takes longer because staff must also learn how to navigate the guest culture, tackle language and custom barriers, and figure out how life and work is done there. These adjustments are layered on top of both the organization's and the individual’s expectations of job performance, not to mention personal struggles with their own (and their family's) normal transition process to the new culture. Such variables must imperatively be discovered, monitored, and planned for. Only after your staff has tackled these issues will they become secure and productive expatriates.

2. Give your staff the right preparation and the right ongoing support

When creating the training program and content, consider learning styles, personalities and temperaments - and how your people might respond to the rigors of working and living in another culture. The trainer must be able to offer clear, tailored and memorable information and deliver it in ways that fit how your personnel will learn.  In this process, it is critical that transitioning staff be given time and activities to process and respond to, and express their concerns about transitioning and meeting job expectations.

This might mean adopting blended learning methods that work best with the people being trained such as e-learning, self studies, and online media resources in addition to live, group training. It might mean segmenting training and learning with periods of on-the-job practice to maximize learning retention. Smaller doses of alternating preparation and performance may in the long run result in far greater contentment and thus an increased performance.

Finally, appropriate training must adjust to the variables found in the guest culture. Course creation, delivery, and follow up must be geared to the specific country and culture and how individuals may need to be supported and managed in the new setting. If your organization expects proficiency within a short period of time, you won’t only place great value on preparing staff but you’ll take the same care in preparing reviews and supporting staff once abroad.

3. Create realistic time to proficiency goals

Standard, one-size-fits-all training and placement of personnel rarely works when moving people into new job responsibilities in new cultures.  There are simply too many cross-cultural and employee variables to contend with. Likewise, setting goals and evaluating the people you send to a guest culture cannot be done in the standard way either. Realistic, custom goals according to the unique constraints of the culture and individual will not only be more achievable, but a much more accurate way to measure time to proficiency. Your expert consultant should be able to help the organization train your trainers or HR staff and work with supervisors to roll out realistic time to proficiency goals. That is a good time to align and adjust mutual expectations, and set up the best follow up support program possible for your valuable staff.

If you send your staff well and keep them buoyant, they will give you back a boatload of positive results!


In Summary:

  • Identify and plan for the unique cross-cultural dynamics and their effects on your staff’s transition and productivity.
  • Think specifically about your staff and where they are going when creating a training program. Don’t forget to support them when they are in the guest culture.
  • Set realistic expectations according to the needs of your personnel and their constraints in the guest culture.

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