Intercultural training in management - effects and conclusions

Essay, 2010

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Paper: Intercultural training in management – Effects and conclusions.

Is intercultural training working or are there other, more effective training methods resulting in sustainably prepared expatriates – managers as well as employees – for overseas assignments?

Cross-cultural (CCT) or intercultural training (ICT) can be defined as “(…) any formalised intervention designed to increase the knowledge and skills of international assignees to live and work effectively in an unfamiliar environment.” (Scullion/ Collings 2006: 118)

1. Impacts of cross-cultural training on employee performance and adjustment

Black & Gregersen (1991: 498) define cross-cultural adjustment as “psychological comfort with various aspects of a host country” which implements work adjustment, interaction adjustment with the new culture and expatriates adjustment to a foreign culture.

In 1987 Earley was comparing affective (interpersonal) and cognitive (documentary) intercultural training as two methods preparing managers for work overseas. Testing 80 low-level managers of an U.S. manufacturer of electronic products, the study showed effects of the two training techniques on managerial performance, perceived intensity of adjustment to a new culture and international, cosmopolitan perspective. Documentary training implemented written material that compared origin culture and the target countries on various items including general and specific information. Interpersonal training included role-playing and experimental exercises to increase self-awareness, awareness of cultures and openness to accept unfamiliar behaviours and values.

The results demonstrate that documentary and interpersonal training methods have cumulative benefits in preparing managers for intercultural work assignments. There was significant interaction effect on documentary and interpersonal training, which means both forms of training were effective.

Results proved that performance is related to intensity of adjustment to a new culture and the cosmopolitan, international perspective of managers was significantly higher for individuals who either received interpersonal or documentary training than individuals who did not received any. Though it can be criticized that the examined managers were all sent to the same country for the same period of time (South Korea, 3 months), they all had the same education level and origin and were chosen because of their good performance. This makes it difficult to generalize the results and draw overall conclusions on the efficacy of intercultural training to prepare managers moving and working overseas. Consequently it seems to be necessary to have a closer look at the wide range of research.

Pande & Krishnan (2005: 13-15) give a detailed overview of research on intercultural training showing that many studies focused on the effect of cross-cultural training on variables like adjustment and performance of employees and managers in a new cultural environment, finding a lack of consistency in the results:

Morris & Robie (2001) analyzed 16 studies for expatriate adjustment and 25 studies for performance of employees. Their meta analysis found correlation of cross-cultural studies to be 0.13 for adjustment and 0.26 for performance, which is contradictory to the results of earlier studies. Deshpande & Vishwesveran (1992, in Morris & Robie) for example found the correlation with performance to be .39 and 0.43 with adjustment. Morris & Robie (2001) also cite the results of studies by Black (1988) and Earley (1987) who found the correlation to be 0.42 and 0.57 for adjustment and to performance 0.08 and 0.79. In addition, Zakarias (2000) literature review found a significant positive relationship between cross-cultural training and adjustment: Bochnar (1982) and Backer (1984) found cross-cultural training to be useful for cross-cultural interaction. Brewster & Pickard (1994) concluded that cultural training had more effect on younger people and people with no prior experience. Some other studies like Edmunds (2002) study of American expatriates in Mexico did not confirm a significant correlation between cross-cultural training and expatriate failure rate. Also, Selmers (2001) study couldn’t prove a relationship between prior knowledge on culture and practices and the ability to adjust to the host country. In marked contrast to Selmer (2001) the research by Eschbach, Parker and Stoeberl (2001) supports the efficacy of cross-cultural training in improving the expatriate’s performance through reducing time of adjustment and accomplishing cultural competence.

2. Advantages and disadvantages of intercultural training

The advantages and benefits of cross-cultural training were identified by Zakaria (2000: 2) as a means for constant switching from an automatic, home culture international management mode to a culturally adaptable and acceptable one; as a means to reduce uncertainty of interactions with foreign nationals and for enhancing expatriates coping abilities, and as an aid to improve coping with unexpected events and cultural shock in a new culture

Pande & Krishnan (2005: 9) deduce that “(…) cross-cultural training can be seen as a tool for improving the corporate culture and practices by constantly learning through induction of foreign nationals in the organizations.” Moreover, it helps to reduce the psychological stress and cultural shock, often the reason for expatriates’ failure. Well-structured, CCT will help the employees and managers to train for coping with the changes in the working styles, beliefs and values they are expected to face. Besides, training the employees for a foreign assignment is beneficial to the organization and the employees: For the employees it can help to manage new situations, while for the organization CCT enhances employee performance, confidence and motivation. (Pande & Krishnan 2005: 15)

Results of Littrel’s et al. (2006) twenty-five years cross-cultural study confirm the benefits of CCT on self-development and self-confidence, establishment of personal relationships with target country nationals, overall feelings of well-being and satisfaction as well as development of cognitive skills regarding to perception of host country nationals. (Foley 2010)

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Intercultural training in management - effects and conclusions
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Intercultural Management Trainings. Practice – Theories - Perspectives
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Intercultural Management, Intercultural training, Coaching, Intercultural praxis, Interkulturelles Training, cross-cultural training, intercultural coaching
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Diplom-Kommunikationspsychologin Alexandra Mietusch (Author), 2010, Intercultural training in management - effects and conclusions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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