In her third post intercultural trainer Cathy Wellings looks at the complexities of managing multiple relationships within the intercultural training design and delivery process.
Part 3 – Managing Multiple Stakeholders
Delivering training within organisations isn’t as simple as making sure that the people in the room are having fun, increasing their knowledge, growing awareness and taking away a couple of practical tools. Often as not, a number of other elements are involved in the process with participants and organisers and bosses expecting different training outcomes at the end and very different measures of success.
When training groups, you will inevitably find that individuals in the room have different objectives for attending your programme. They might work with counterparts from a wide variety of cultures and be keen to have specific questions about these cultures answered. When is it best to address these issues directly, park them for later or refer trainees to resource material they can explore after the training? How do you balance achieving the pre-agreed objectives and meeting their aims for the training with giving trainees the outcomes they desire? Or think they require?? Most intercultural trainers will face the dilemma of managing the tension between what they, as the expert, think their trainees need and what the trainees themselves think they need. We want to know that our participants leave our training sessions better equipped to work across cultures. Do we give them a series of do’s and don’ts for the markets where they are working? Or do we help them to develop a greater awareness of their impact and offer some tools to adapt their own behaviour?
The line manager
There may be one or more line managers with an interest in the outcomes of your training programme depending on whether you are training an intact team or individuals from across the organisation. Managers don’t always make their objectives transparent particularly if there are personal, interpersonal or performance issues at play. ‘I have had feedback from our German client that they are not happy with the way John engages with them, we haven’t told him yet but we’d like you to train to help him get on better with them’ or other such comments are not unheard of during the commissioning phase and need to be handled sensitively.
Directly or indirectly senior management will have a stake in their organisation’s training initiatives. If nothing more they will want the assurance that their investment is generating value and they will want to know that training is aligned to the business objectives. It can be more challenging when senior managers have commissioned global training programmes with a view that overseas teams or subsidiaries ‘need to behave more like us’. If you have not been directly involved in the commissioning process and are not aware of a similar programme taking place in the head office country then this can be a delicate position to find yourself in. This could stretch your diplomatic skills to their natural limits.
The Human Resources or Learning & Development Manager
An HR or L&D professional will often manage the initial request for training, particularly if the programme is part of an organisation-wide learning curriculum. They will, of course, have the needs of all the above stakeholders in mind but will also want to ensure that your training programme fits within their broader organisational training objectives. Your programme should complement but not overlap with other programmes and should if possible embed the corporate culture, core values and competency frameworks. Making sure that you are familiar with these and referencing them in your training, linking them with the relevant national culture and values will give you more credibility and be more likely to embed your programme within the organisation.
The training consultancy
Many intercultural trainers choose to work through training consultancies rather than finding their own direct clients. In return for a lower fee, this allows them to focus their time on doing what they love rather than spending time on sales and marketing, training administration and so on. You should also receive support in designing your programme and creating your materials but you may be restricted in following certain training guidelines, using (or not using) specific models or frameworks and to adhere to the consultancy’s branding and design policy.
The managed service provider
Many large organisations now outsource the management of their entire training provision adding another layer of complexity to the stakeholder expectations you need to manage as an intercultural trainer. This trend is motivated in part at least by a drive to reduce costs so you may find greater pressure on your fee. Large MSPs work with independent trainers directly but also often work through specialist training consultancies meaning the exchange of information needed to design and deliver your programme successfully can become an intricate game of Chinese whispers. You may sometimes have to accept that you won’t have all the information you would you usually require.
Ultimately, as intercultural trainers we want positive and useful outcomes for our learners but when working within organisations we need to understand how these outcomes fit within the organisation as a whole rather than on a purely individual level. Understanding and managing the requirements and expectations of a sometimes complex web of stakeholders will help to ensure the success of our training – and also make it more likely we are booked for more training days!