When we add a virtual environment to the challenges associated with training across cultures, misunderstandings can easily be exacerbated, often because they will go unnoticed by the facilitator for a longer period of time.
As discussed in an earlier In Practice article, "Skills to Train Across Cultures," facilitators must be prepared to manage potential language and cross-cultural misunderstandings. When the learning environment is both global and virtual, we have another set of potential concerns to manage, including
- varying time zones
- limited (if any) visibility of nonverbal cues
- lack of understanding of the technologies involved
- participant engagement.
As the trainer, be sure to play the role of facilitator and keep the program interactive. The goal is to encourage participation and ensure that all parties' concerns are addressed.
- Be considerate of others' time zones. Keep each training session brief and schedule them at different times of the day. Alternatively, you could hold multiple sessions in respective regional time zones.
- Pace the program. Be aware of your speaking speed and build in time to ensure both intersection and clarification.
- Provide simple and specific information.
- Encourage participants to always announce their names when speaking and when leaving the session.
- Provide an agenda and materials well ahead of the training program.
- End each training session with a clear and concise recap of key issues covered.
- Have a scribe take notes throughout the session and circulate key points, questions, and answers within one day after the program.
- Make certain all participants have easy access to the virtual training technology and that they know how to use it.
- Practice your own use of the technology.
Keeping these simple ideas in mind can go a long way toward a more successful training program.
Neal Goodman is president of Global Dynamics; firstname.lastname@example.org; 1.305.682.7883.
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.