“Cross-Cultural Preparation is the process of educating employees (and their families) who are given an assignment in a foreign country”
Cross cultural preparation educates employees (expatriates) and their families who are to be sent to a foreign country to successful conduct business in the global marketplace, employees must understand the business practices and the cultural norms of difference countries.
Steps in cross-cultural preparation
To prepare employees for cross-cultural assignments, companies need to provide cross-cultural training. Most U.S companies send employees overseas without any preparation. As a result, the number of employees who return home before completing their assignments is higher for u.s. companies than for European and Japanese companies. U.S companies lose more than $2 billion a year as a result of failed overseas assignments.
To succeed overseas, expatriates (employees on foreign assignments) need to be.
- Competent in their areas of expertise.
- Able to communicate verbally and nonverbally in the host country.
- Flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and sensitive to cultural differences
- Motivated to succeed, able to enjoy the challenge of working in other countries and willing to learn about the host country’s culture, language and customs.
- Supported by their families.
Research suggests that the comfort of an expatriate’s spouse and family is the most important determinant of whether the employee will complete the assignment. This suggests that cross-cultural training may be effective only when expatriates personalitics predispose them to be successful in assignments in other cultures.
The key to a successful foreign assignment appears to be a combination of training and career management for the employee and family. Foreign assignments involves three phases
- PhaseOn-Site Phase
- Repatriation Phase
(1) Predeparture phase: Before departure, employees need to receive language training and an orientation to the new country’s culture and customs. It is critical that the family be included in orientation programs. Expatriates and their families need information about housing schools, recreation, shopping, and health care facilities in the areas where they will live. Expatriates also must discuss with their managers how the foreign assignment fits into their career plans and what types of positions they can expect upon return. Cross-cultural training methods range from presentational techniques, such as lectures that expatriates and their families attend on the customs and culture of the host country, to actual experiences in the home country in culturally diverse communities. Experiential exercises, such as miniculture experiences, allow expatriates to spend time with family.
(2) On-Site Phase: On-site training involves continued orientation to the host country and its customs and cultures through formal programs or through mentoring relationship. Expatriates and their families may be paired with an employee from the host country who helps them understand the new, unfamiliar work environment and community.
(3) Repatriation phase: “The preparation of expatriates for return to the parent company and country from a foreign assignment”.Expatriates and their families are likely to experience high levels of stress and anxiety when the return because of the changes that have occurred since their departure. Employees should be encouraged to self mange the repatriation process. Before they go on the assignment they need to consider what skills they want to develop and the types of jobs that might be available in the company for an employee with those skills. Because the company changes and colleagues, peers, and managers may leave while the expatriate is on assignment, they need to maintain contact with key company and industry contracts. Otherwise on return the employees’ reentry shock will be heightened due to having to deal with new colleagues, a new job, and a company culture that may have changes. This includes providing expatriates with company newsletters and community newspapers and by ensuring that they receive personal and work-related mail from the United States while they are on foreign assignment. It is also not uncommon for employees and their families to have to readjust to a lower standard of living in the United States than they had in foreign country, where they may have enjoyed maid service, limousine, private schools, and clubs. Salary and other compensation arrangements should be worked out well before employees return from overseas assignments.