Inside Supply Management Magazine

Training in a Globalized Market: Methodology or Madness?

January 14, 2019

By Jennifer Cunningham

The training trajectory in the globalized business market has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Now, the goal is to create as much material as possible — as fast as possible — to impact as many employees as possible.

Supply management organizations find they need to update employee skills quickly to keep up with the growth in new technology and to handle other factors like seasonal changes in customer-buying patterns and economic swings. The supply management profession has transformed from being manual labor-intensive in scope to having a high-end technology focus — just think about the emerging use of artificial intelligence, robotics and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models.

Some organizations desperately need rapid skill growth of their workforce: Some employees are learning technology from the ground up. But others have been immersed in technology since grade school.

A Jekyll-and-Hyde Situation

So how do those of us in training and development help upskill a globalized market of employees? Is it through a specialized methodology? Or is it just madness to even try? The truth is it’s some of both — it’s a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wrapped into one structured strategy.

It’s important to create a training structure that is adaptive yet consistent for each region. Considerations include:

Most training departments are physically located in one region, sometimes at corporate headquarters. However, the training impacts multiple regions and multiple locations.

●Overarching strategy. Given cultural differences, a “one-size-fits-all” strategy seems unlikely. Yet learning paths can work over many cultures. For instance, a self-study approach requires everyone to watch a video or read a book or article to update their skills. (Note: While prescriptive about the material to be reviewed, this approach offers no consideration for engagement.)

●Approach and level of engagement. Each global market has its own learning preference. Some audiences prefer a more collaborative approach. Others prefer a classroom setting, while still others would rather watch a video online. Some prefer classroom activities; others avoid classroom activities.

Each global market has its own time allocation and strategy. While few managers today have time to set up specific training strategies for each market, there could be regional changes in each market that require additional effort.

So, how do you create a strategy for the regional preferences but meet the overall training strategy to upskill thousands of employees or customers?

The Dr. Jekyll portion of this solution: You don’t. You set one all-encompassing strategy for all markets that meets your overall skills gap. If you’re training to upskill employees on a specific skill set in all regions, put together training to maximize the benefit to the greatest number of employees with one strategy.

The Mr. Hyde portion: If you don’t allow room for cultural norms in training, you will have unengaged employees, and ultimately unadopted change in your organization.

Engagement Considerations

Those of us in training development think we know what everyone, including those in other markets, will engage in to improve their skills. When they don’t what we expect, we’re flabbergasted, asking: Why didn’t they use the training we put so much work into? Why didn’t they establish a clear, engaging path for everyone to use? Why did five of the markets not do the training?

A possible answer: There wasn’t enough time. But more likely, it’s because the training was not the typical approach preferred by their region.

So, how do we adapt? When developing training for an organization, a single, set strategy is essential to ensure all major points are covered. At the same time, suggest activities for collaboration, conversation and brainstorming to promote engagement among regional markets.

No matter the type of training — even if it’s e-learning — offer your markets the opportunity to converse about the topic outside of training to increase the retention of information and engagement. One opportunity could be a conversation during a team meeting.

Another consideration: Conduct training over numerous sessions. Optimal training is done in short bits over a longer period. This helps increase the chances that employees will not only remember the information but apply or adopt the content in their daily work.

So, is training in a globalized market a matter of methodology or madness? In fact, it’s a bit of both. There isn’t a specific formula that distinguishes one method of training on a product, process, legal requirements, human resources or technology. However, keeping one strategy in place for all regions and allowing room for other regions to engage training methods that best suit them provides the flexibility needed to enrich and engage the learning environment.

Jennifer Cunningham is education services, global content and training manager at JDA Software in Scottsdale, Arizona.