Developing effective cross-cultural training for expats



July 04, 2019
Cross-culture training is education provided to individuals who are working or living in a multicultural environment. It focuses on the differences between nations and how these differences influence how we communicate, work and live. By identifying and understanding differences we can smooth the process of working and living together in a global economy.
We live and work in increasingly global economies. Cross-cultural training ensures differing cultural values and norms are acknowledged and respected. It also prevents the undermining of cross-cultural relationships through misunderstanding.

For International Human Resources manager’s (IHRM) developing cross-cultural training, the most significant challenge is making it effective. Most businesses struggle to move past the high-level differences between cultures like language, etiquette and history. However, to be truly effective in international business, consider delving deeper and help employees become fully culturally aware:

Communication styles by culture:

Communication does not only refer to the language we use but the inference behind those words. This can vary significantly, highlighting the need for country specific training for the markets you operate in.


Management styles and culture:

In many companies, particularly those in the technology sector, management styles are becoming much less formal. Employees at all levels are supported and encouraged to contribute their ideas. In cultures with strong hierarchical structures, this may not be acceptable. Include methods to work around this issue in the cross-cultural training program.  


Supervision styles favoured:

Much like management, there are differing supervision and leadership styles around the world. Intercultural communication in other markets should help expats to integrate into differing styles. This may mean increasing or reducing how much they contribute in the working environment initially.   



In many industries, hierarchy does not play the same role as it once did. In the US and parts of Europe open plan working and younger management teams prefer more relaxed approaches to hierarchy. However, this may not be the case in other parts of the world. Ensure training informs expats on how to address management and behave in their presence.  

Preparing expats for international assignment should involve many types of training to enable them to integrate easily with those from different cultural backgrounds.