A major high-tech company created a financial incentive package for
its salespeople; those who shared customer information across
national boundaries would receive bonuses. The company's training
department presented the new process in one-day, face-to-face
workshops in 30 countries during a two-month period
As trainers entered the classroom in Moscow to deliver the program,
they were met with a hostile audience. The group was clearly
unreceptive to any new program being presented by representatives
from headquarters, and the trainers couldn't understand why. They
soon found out, however, that they had unwittingly walked into a
Global Holiday Black Hole (GHBH). The date selected by the
headquarter representatives in California was a major family
holiday in Russia. No one in the audience was happy about spending
a holiday in the training room.
Ignorance about holidays is not an option for global business
leaders and those who direct training departments. Just how much
business is affected due to ignorance is impossible to measure, but
based on more than 20 years of experience witnessing such
confusion, consternation, anger at being ignored, and feelings of
being disrespected, I estimate costs in the millions of dollars on
a global basis. How can global scheduling, announcements,
deployment of new processes, delivery of training, and services
take place without a corporate-wide common calendar?
For instance, this article is being written on February 19, 2007.
Do you know which holiday(s) fall on this day? The Lunar New Year
(in some but not all Asian countries), Orthodox Lent, and
President's Day (United States). Also, Carnival is being celebrated
in numerous countries.
To avoid the GHBH, all employees of global businesses must know the
major holidays around the world and exactly how they are
celebrated. Are offices open or closed, or is it an optional work
day? Are there regular mail delivery and banking services
available? Is this holiday just for specific religious or ethnic
groups? Will the days preceding or right after the holiday also be
impacted? (Of course they will, especially if the holiday is on a
Tuesday or Thursday.)
A solution to the GHBH we have installed in many organizations is a
company-specific, global calendar that highlights holidays in every
major country where the company operates and offers tips on how the
holiday is celebrated. We have found that the global calendar has
not only helped in scheduling training programs but has increased
cross-cultural understanding and improved relationships between
employees who now acknowledge each other's holidays in emails and
A global workplace is a wonderful thing. To truly succeed, however,
we must learn to think globally not only about increasing profits
and new market segments but also about the holidays and
celebrations that make each culture unique.
2007 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.