Hanh has a Master's Degree in Economics. She spent six years studying and working in the United States.
The world has now become a “global village” with businesses having increasingly closer connections and management practices converging across firms not only in the same countries but also around the world. Internationalisation impacts business operation and management in two ways: allowing companies to create new values for their customers in new innovative and exciting ways, and helping them to enter new markets (Robert & Hile, 2000). In addition, as the company expands its business across the globe, the chance of working in a culturally diverse team has become much greater, requiring the leaders and team members to learn new skills and understanding to manage the diversity and differences. As a company reinforces its global presence, customers from more countries than ever before and staff from a wider selection of nationalities, ethnicities and races has created a need to train its staff to be able to cooperate and work in a multi-cultural environment has become more urgent. Therefore, it is necessary for a company to initiate and run a training programme which aims at educating the global and regional top executives to effectively manage an intercultural team. This article suggests a sample training programme plan for a company to raise intercultural awareness.
Training Programme Plan
Focus group: The training programme is offered for junior/senior managers. The training focuses on the management team because in order to disseminate knowledge and culturally-conscious practice, the management team plays important team in promoting such behaviours and acts as an example for other employers to follow.
Proposed location: The training is proposed to take place in Hoi An Ancient Town, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. In recent years, Vietnam has become a new emerging destination among tourists and companies around the world. Hoi An Ancient Town is designated as one of the World’s Cultural Heritage Sites, which is known for its history, culture and tradition. It is also considered an expat paradise where many expatriates from many countries choose to reside permanently or for a long period. The proposed venue is the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, which features a wide range of amenities that can hold all the training’s activities. Lying by the sea, the resort can also offer the training participants a chance to relax and socialize.
Proposed Tentative Three-Day Training Programme
Day 1: Managing individual differences
Despite efforts to assimilate and reconcile, cultural differences still remain and interfere with management practices (Schneider, 2014). While this fact might pose some difficulties for people when managing their businesses or work together, each culture offers a competitive advantage and if exploited well, a multicultural team can gain tremendous strengths. Therefore, it will be to the company’s benefit to take advantage of the diversity rather than to try to suppress it. However, this is often easier said than done, and require businesses to modify their human resource management short-term and long-term strategy. Furthermore, language including non-verbal language can also cause trouble, leading to communicating and misinterpreting. Therefore, it is crucial for an intercultural team to learn how to overcome their individual differences and cooperate.
- 9.00 – 9.30: Coffee and Tea Networking: This is a time for participants to make small talk and get to know other people. Participants also complete a small activity called Find the person who… For this activity, each participant is handed a list of request such as find the person who was born in 1960s, who can speak Chinese, who uses Twitter, etc. The questions are tailored to reflect the personal traits of people coming from different cultures. The purpose of this activity is to help participants warm up and start thinking about the stereotypes associating with different cultures.
- 9.30 – 10.30: Introduction and Reflection. During this period, each participant will introduce about themselves and five interesting cultural facts about the regions/countries that they represent. After everyone finishes with the introductions, the facilitator will divide the team into four groups and ask each group to compare and contrast different cultures and their associated practice. Each group will send a representative to present their findings. The end result of this activity is to help participants recognise that although on the surface, every culture seems to be deeply divided, all culture shares a universal set of common values, which lay the foundation for cooperation.
- 10.30 – 12.30: Workshop: The workshop will be conducted by an expert presenting the topic of different models of intercultural management which addresses the behaviours of people in organizations around the world and provide tips as to how to work with people from different cultures all over the world. The workshop is in seminar format where the expert only introduces the key points and theory and the participants will contribute by sharing their knowledge and experience. The purpose of this workshop is to ensure every participant is equipped with sufficient knowledge and management theories.
- 12.30 – 13.30: Lunch and dining etiquette across cultures. The restaurant is separated into four rooms, which are decorated in four themes: Chinese dining setting, British dining setting, Mexican dining setting, and American dining setting. There will be a facilitator joining with participants in each room. Table manners are the products of cultures and can differ greatly from culture to culture. If a person does not know about dining etiquette of a particular culture, he or she can easily feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when participating and communicating in such event. The purpose of this activity is to inspire participants to share their experience with this topic, learn about different table manners and give some recommendations as to how to act in this case.
- 13.30 – 14.00: Rest and personal time
- 14.00 – 17.30: Workshop: An expert will present on the topic of cultural dimension, cultural intelligence (including Linguistic Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence, and Interpersonal Intelligence), and sources of cultural differences (male vs. female, individualism vs. collectivism, etc.).
- 18.00 – 19.00: International Dinner: The restaurant serves food from all regions around the world, featuring specialties and delicacies from different places. During dinner time, participants are divided into teams of five to prepare for the campfire activities.
- 19.30 – 20.30: Practice for campfire activities. Each team will represent an assigned country and prepare a 5 to 10 minutes performance to perform at the campfire, showcasing that country’s culture. The performance can be dancing, singing, fashion show, short play, etc. The team are free to choose what they would like to do.
- 20.30 – 22.00: Camp fire and team building exercises. The facilitators will assess the performance to choose the winners.
Day 2: Team management and leadership enhancement
The main themes of Day 2 revolve around effective team management and leadership enhancement in a multicultural context. One important topic to discuss is the decision making process in a cross-culture team. In management theory, there are three main models explain decision making process including rational decision making, creative decision making and intuitive decision making. Culture does have a certain impact on the choice of decision making process, with certain cultures being more prone to certain styles. The same idea applies to leadership styles, with culture being an important factor dictating leadership styles.
- 8.00 – 9.00: Breakfast and networking. The winners of the campfire performance show will also be announced and awarded during this time.
- 9.00 – 11.00: Case Study Group Assignment: The participants are divided into teams of six, each choosing a leader for their team. The team will develop an intercultural sensitivity enhancement plan for a company of their choice and submit a report to the facilitators. The team leader will facilitate the debate and discussion within the team.
- 11.00 – 11.30: Reflection time: After all the teams submit their report, all participants will reflect back on their process of deciding the team leader and the main ideas of their projects. The team will also describe the leadership style of their leaders. The facilitators will summarise their discussion by pointing out some characteristics of a good leaders such as charismas, reliability, predictability, integrity, and knowledge (Hassan & Ahmed, 2011) as well as briefly discussing leadership styles.
- 11.30 – 13.00: Lunch with a guest speaker. An expert who has many years of experience of working in an intercultural environment will be invited to share his experience. Participants are encouraged to raise questions and debate.
- 13.00 – 14.00: Rest and personal time
- 14.00 – 17.00: Game by the beach. Participants will be divided into teams. Various team building activities will be played such as back-to-back drawing (one person trying to drawing a picture based on the other person’s description), Spider Web (passing through a web of string without touching it), etc. The purposes of these activities are to emphasise the importance of communication, leadership, trust and solving problems by utilising all team members’ strengths.
- 17.30 – 19.00: Dinner. Winner of the game by the beach sessions will be announced and rewarded.
- 19.30 – 21.30: Free time to explore the city or socialise.
Day 3: Putting it all together
By this time, all participants are expected to improve their knowledge and understanding of intercultural management and practice. In order to effectively manage cross-culture team, meaning that they can maximise their company’s productivity, enhance the level of efficiency and achieve the corporate target (Robbins & Coulter, 2012), other elements should also be incorporated including ethical issues, sustainability management, and reward and incentive system. Effectiveness of cross-culture team management can only be achieved if the manager can understand and monitor the impacts of culture on all aspects of team management including decision making process, cultural awareness, motivation, etc. and come up with the most appropriate solutions to satisfy all participants (Schneider, 2014).
- 6.00 – 7.30: Preparation for breakfast challenge: The participants are divided into team, and each team prepare a typical dish featuring a culture of their choice to bring to the breakfast for the food competition.
- 7.30 – 9.00: Breakfast and challenge assessment. During this time, each team also present to the facilitators interesting facts about their dish. The judge will taste and evaluate the food. The winner is announced at the end and receives an award.
- 9.00 – 11.00: Workshop on ethical issues, sustainability management. An expert will present the topics, highlighting how ethical standards and perception might differ across cultures. For example, in China, people place higher emphasis on personal relationships than on any kind of contracts or legal agreements. Instead, Westerners act on logic and are driven by personal interests and gain. Therefore, when working together as a team, Chinese and Western employers can find it difficult to trust and communicate with one another (Kleinaltenkamp, Plinke, & Geiger, 2015). Participants will also discuss why sustainability has become a hot topic in recent years. Instruction for the upcoming activity is also given.
- 11.00 – 12.30: Lunch and personal time
- 12.30 – 15.00: Town excursion and Treasure Hunt. To prepare for this activity, the organisers should contact various shop owners, museums, etc., around Hoi An Town in advance to hide the objects at their place. The objects must hold some cultural meanings and values. Participants are divided in teams and each team is given the list of items as well as tips to find them. Some objects are given higher points than the others. The winners are announced at the end of the game based on the points they earn. The cultural meaning of each object is also explained to the participants to help them understand more about different cultures. The purpose of this activity is to practice team management, cooperation, leadership and broaden the participants’ cultural knowledge.
- 15.00 – 16.00: Workshop on reward and incentive system. Participants are invited to share their experience with the Treasure Hunt game, and the facilitator should draw attention to the fact that the items with higher reward points are more tempting than the one with lower points. This indicates that people respond to rewards, and if they think that the rewards justify their efforts, they will be more willing to do a certain activity (Laakso, 2012). The facilitator also reveals that culture will also shape preferences and expectations of a person regarding types of rewards and incentives.
- 16.00 – 17.00: Reflection: Participants reflect on their three days of training, share their high points and low points, and what they learned from this experience. The facilitators summarise the main themes of the programme, and make some suggestions and recommendations for the participants for further improving their intercultural understanding. The organisers also hand out final programme materials for participants including contact details of all participants, souvenirs, photographs and so on.
- 17.00 – 17.30: Rest and personal time
- 17.30 – 19.00: Dinner and closing ceremony. The organiser delivers a speech emphasising again some highlights from the programme, and share his experience in working with intercultural teams. The certificates of completion are also awarded to participants.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.