Effectiveness of Cross-Cultural Training Methodology in Chinese Corporate Context

Elaboration, 2012

81 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1 Introduction
1.1 Western expatriates in the Chinese market
1.2 Research question and approach

2 Clarification of basic terms and concepts
2.1 Definition of expatriate and expatriate adjustment
2.2 Definition of culture and intercultural competence
2.3 Definition of training and cross-cultural training
2.4 Effectiveness of cross-cultural training

3 Methodology of cross-cultural training for China
3.1 Seven-step cross-cultural training methodology model
3.2 Seven-step CCT methodology model applied in Chinese-specific Context

4 Opinions on CCT in Chinese corporate context
4.1 Methodology
4.2 Findings and discussion
4.2.1 Interview theme 1. CCT general effectiveness
4.2.2 Interview theme 2. CCT methodology
4.2.3 Interview theme 3. China-specific CCT content
4.3 Practical implications

5 Conclusions
5.1 Research summary
5.2 Research limitations and further research



Appendix 1. Interview themes for interviewee A. Perspective of the managing director

Appendix 2. Interview themes for interviewees B and C. Expatriate perspective

Appendix 3. Interview themes for interviewees D and E. Chinese perspective

Appendix 4. Interview protocol: Interviewee A

Appendix 5. Interview protocol: Interviewee B

Appendix 6. Interview protocol: Interviewee C

Appendix 7. Interview protocol: Interviewee D

Appendix 8. Interview protocol: Interviewee E


Table 3.1 Seven-step CCT methodology model

Table 3.2 Assessment Tools to Measure Intercultural Competence

Table 3.3 Training communication styles

Table 3.4 Major approaches for cross-cultural trainings

Table 4.1 Interviewees' personal data description and interview duration

Table 4.2 China-specific CCT content


Figure 3.1 Cultural dimensions comparison between China, Germany, and the US (Hofstede 1967)


1.1 Western Expatriates in the Chinese Market

Today China is one of the biggest markets and the fastest-growing economy in the world. According to the World Bank (2011), since economic reforms in 1978, its GDP grew on average by 10% every year. In the last decade, China has been one of the most attractive markets for multinational organizations; thus, in the survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (2010, pp.11; 16), 77 percent of US respondents viewed China as one of their top three investment priorities and 80 percent reported that they were increasing their investments in 2010. From 2001, when China entered the World Trade Organization, until 2010, the total trade index between the US and China nearly quadrupled (US International Trade Commission 2010), and in 2009 China was the largest source of EU-imports and the third most important destination for EU-exports (Eurostat 2010).

The fact that China represents 20 percent of the world's population and its retail market grew by 16 percent only in the first quartile of 2011 (White 2011, p.1) allows a big number of multinational companies achieve higher sales in the Chinese market than in the mature economies of the US and Western Europe. Schell (2011, p.1) claims that Walmart has considerably risen in China over the last ten years, whereas its sales in the US have been continuously falling. Moreover, according to the same source, approximately 70 percent of goods that Walmart sells worldwide are provided by Chinese suppliers.

As of 2010, 300 000 foreign companies had invested in China (Hays 2010, p.1), many of which, including Walmart (ethics.walmartstores.com), are frequently sending their employees to subsidiaries or joint ventures in China (Black et al. 2003, p.262). However, studies (Wang 2002, p.322; Black & Gregersen 1990, pp.475-476) point out that expatriates are especially prone to fail and have more difficulties adjusting to the culture that is more distinct from their own culture. China, representing a high level of ‘culture distance’ to the West (Mendenhall & Oddou 1985, p.43; Selmer 2005, p.69), is a special challenge for expatriates coming from the Western world.

According to Shay & Tracey (1997, p.32), expatriate failure in China can reach as high as 70 percent. Expatriate failure can cause major financial losses for the organization; for instance, in 1994 after expanding its market to China, Peugeot Motor Group experienced losses of USD 362,500,000, which they attributed to intercultural communication failure between France and China (Jiang 2005, p.516). It should be also considered that expatriate failure could be linked to indirect losses such as damage to an organization's image and its relationships with customers and employees (Ayoun & Causin 2011, p.795).

This made organizations especially eager to ensure that their Western expatriates would promptly adjust to Chinese culture and would have sufficient intercultural skills to communicate effectively. In a Sibson Consulting survey (2009, p.4), US organizations evaluated intercultural competence and the host country's language proficiency as skills of crucial importance for successful expatriate performance, whereas two years before in the same survey they were regarded as skills of secondary importance.

In sight of this, cross-cultural trainings (CCT) have been implemented by various multinational companies to enhance expatriate intercultural competence and facilitate expatriates’ cultural adjustment (Black et al. 2003, p.270-271), thus improving their performance in the host country (Selmer 2001, p.168; Feng & Pearson 1999, p.318; Jaworski et al. 2001, p.88; Wang 2002, p.333; Paik & Sohn 2003, p.67).

1.2 Research Question and Approach

A considerable amount of research has been conducted with regard to the general effectiveness of CCT and its methodology; however, the effectiveness of CCT methodology specifically developed for China has not yet received sufficient academic attention. The fast-growing Chinese market attracts many West-based multinational organizations, which are sending their expatriates to Chinese subsidiaries and joint ventures; however, China represents a special challenge to Western expatriates due to its high culture distance to the West. This, combined with high rates of expatriate failure in China, demonstrates the need for effective CCT and introduces the central question of this research: what are the components that should be included in CCT methodology for Western expatriates in China?

The research consists of two parts. The first part is a literature review on the effectiveness of practices used in cross-cultural training programs, based on which the seven-step CCT methodology model is developed by the author. This model is then applied to China and, based on further review of the literature, the optimal practices within the seven-step CCT methodology model are identified for a Chinese context. In the second part, five semi-structured interviews are conducted in order to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of the CCT methodology model for China defined in the first part and to identify further components that should be included based on the interviewees' experience.


2.1 Definition of Expatriate and Expatriate Adjustment

The word ‘expatriate’ originates from Latin, ex meaning ‘out’ and patria meaning ‘fatherland’. Thus, expatriate is defined here as an employee who temporarily lives and works outside their home country. Furthermore, this study focuses specifically on Western expatriates in China, with ‘Western’ defined as the countries of Continental Europe, the UK, Australia, Canada, and the US.

Expatriates play an important role in transferring their company's technology and corporate culture to the host country's subsidiaries or joint ventures, directly controlling its operations overseas and building an informal social network in the host country (Marschan-Piekkari et al. 1999, p.386, Harzing 2001, p. 372-373; Duxbury & Johnson 2010 p.29;). Fang et al. (2009) indicate that there is a positive correlation between expatriates' role of technological knowledge transfer and subsidiary's performance. On the other hand, expatriates cost organizations on average 2.5 times more than their equally qualified local counterparts (Mendenhall & Oddou 1985, p.39) and represent the “most expensive per-person investment that a company makes in globalizing their people” (Black et al. 1999, p.2); therefore, it is important to maximize the value of expatriate performance by ensuring efficient expatriate adjustment to the host culture.

Black (1988, p. 275) defines expatriate adjustment as “the degree of psychological comfort of an individual with several aspects of a new environment”. He further points out that there are three elements of expatriate adjustment: adjustment to the working environment, adjustment to the local community and adjustment to general life conditions.

2.2 Definition of Culture and Intercultural Competence

Thornhill (1993, p.43) defines culture as a “community’s shared way of life”, which is manifested in “shared beliefs” and “shared behaviors”. This definition of culture is used here as a reference that suits both national and organizational culture.

It is intercultural competence that is aimed to be developed by CCT; it is defined by Friesenhahn (2000, p.7) as “Befähigung, in interkulturell geprägten Arbeitssituationen mit Angehörigen verschiedener ethnischer Gruppen und in fremdkultureller Umgebung kommunizieren und effektiv und effizient professionell tätig werden zu können.“[1]

2.3 Definition of Training and Cross-Cultural Training

Training, defined as "a learning experience in that it seeks permanent change in an individual that will improve the ability to perform the job" (Treven 2003, p.550), may provide trainees with knowledge, improve their skills, and change their behaviors or attitudes.

From the five terms defined above – expatriate, expatriate adjustment, culture, intercultural competence and training – it is now possible to derive a definition for CCT: CCT is a training that serves to improve expatriates' intercultural competence and facilitate expatriate adjustment to organizational and national culture of the host country.

Currently, there are three conventional types of CCT (Shen 2005, p.657). The first two are pre-departure and post-arrival, which are both aimed to provide expatriates with the necessary skills and knowledge needed for the assignment in the host country. The third is a training program provided to host- and third-country nationals in order to ensure their adjustment to the corporate culture. This study refers only to the first two types.

2.4 Effectiveness of Cross-cultural Training

Here, effective CCT refers to CCT that implements practices that maximize success of expatriate performance in the host country, thus preventing expatriate failure.

A significant number of studies indicate the general effectiveness of CCT; Selmer (2009, p.48-49) found that CCT improves expatriates' core managerial activities and helps them become better managers in China. Hutchings (2003, p.390) claims that expatriates evaluate their performance better if they receive CCT. Gudykunst & Oguri (2002, p.590), Du-Babcock & Xu (2011, p.8), and Fischer (2011, p.773) found that CCT enhances intercultural competence, thus improving expatriate performance in the host country. Mendenhall demonstrates that there is a higher expatriate failure rate in the absence of CCT (2006, pp.427-248). Black (1988, p. 289), Zakaria (1999, p.493), Brynningsen (2009, p.6), Osman-Gani & Rockstuhl (2009, p.283), and Kabongo & Okpara (2011, p. 29) confirm that expatriates who undergo CCT adjust faster to the host culture.

Various academics, such as Bennett J.M., Bennett M.J., Black, Brislin, Gudykunst, Mendenhall, Selmer, Triandis, and Tung, among others, have conducted thorough research in the area of CCT and expatriate adjustment. Tung (1989, p.64), a widely acknowledged expert on international business and management, found that CCT assists expatriates in understanding and navigating relations between Western and Chinese personnel. The same author, along with Fang et al. (2008, p.162), also found that training and preparation assists Western expatriates in conducting business negotiations with Chinese. Tung (1981) developed a contingency framework for selecting and training expatriates; in a subsequent study (1998, p.28), conducted 17 years later, she confirms the relevance of the framework for nowadays, too. Additionally, Tung (1998a, p.132) highlights the elevated importance of CCT for expatriates in top management positions.

Mendenhall, an internationally recognized scholar in cross-cultural adjustment (kozaigroup.com), along with Jackson et al. (1982), has focused on trainee satisfaction; later he studied the impact of CCT on the performance of global leaders (2006). He, along with Black et al. (2003, p.271), demonstrates that CCT improves expatriate managers’ intercultural competence and helps them reduce prejudices toward the host culture.

Brislin, an authority on mentoring and CCT, has researched various CCT methods in an attempt to identify the most effective approaches; for example, he studied culture assimilators (1986) and, along with Brislin et al. (1988), has identified CCT techniques based on their respective appropriateness in individualist versus collectivist environments.

As evidenced by the breadth and depth of research he has performed, one of the most prominent scholars in the area of cross-cultural management in China is Selmer. In his various studies, he has examined different aspects of CCT; for example, he has analyzed the effectiveness of pre-departure versus post-arrival CCT among Western expatriates in Hong Kong (1999a). In another study (1999), he examined culture shock among Western expatriates in China and CCT’s mitigating influence. He has conducted further research on expatriate adjustment issues (2001) and has surveyed 165 experienced Western business expatriates in China on their CCT experience (2009). Selmer has also carried out research regarding training in language skills as a component of CCT, and found a direct correlation between language skills and successful expatriate adjustment in China (2006). Moreover, Selmer (2005, p.75) highlights the increased relevance of CCT for Chinese-foreign joint ventures as opposed to exclusively foreign companies operating in China.


This chapter introduces the seven-step methodology model for CCT (see Table 3.1), based on the literature review, and analyzes the applicability and effectiveness of practices of each step. The second part of this chapter focuses on applying this model to China, deriving the optimal CCT methodology based on the literature review and China-specific expatriate issues. Due to the questionable sovereign status of Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is further clarified that in this study Hong Kong and Taiwan are included in reference to ‘China’.

3.1 Seven-Step CCT Methodology Model

Table 3.1 introduces the seven-step CCT methodology model, whereby critical points represent the crucial elements of the steps, and effective practices to address them are presented in detail in the following literature analysis of this chapter (pp.6-14).

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Table 3.1 Seven-Step CCT Methodology Model

Step 1. Training Needs Assessment

By now it is well-known that successful CCT are tailor-made (Brewster & Scullion 2001 p.357; Earley & Peterson 2004, p.113). Training format can differ substantially depending on the goals and expectations that trainees hold for the training as well as on the social role they would assume in the host country (Thornhill 1993, p.50; Ptak et al. 1995, p.431; Bonache et al. 2001, p.10). For example, if they are going overseas as supervisors, CCT should focus on teaching them supervising practices for the host country and ways to motivate local employees. Additionally, it is necessary to determine if expatriates are going alone or with their families. In case of the latter it is advisable to provide CCT to their family as well (Black & Gregersen 1990, p.475; Björkman & Schaap 1994, p. 152; Brynningsen 2009, p.7; Lauring & Selmer 2010, p.68), since one of the main reasons for expatriate failure is inability of their spouse to adjust (Mendenhall & Oddou 1988, p.82).

The most critical part, however, is to evaluate the degree of intercultural competence the training recipients already have. Graf & Mertesacker (2009, p.542) classify intercultural competence in eight categories: flexibility, intercultural self-awareness, assertiveness, intercultural sensitivity, foreign language competence, nonverbal communication competence, ability to change the point of view, and open-mindedness. Expatriates might already have sufficient expertise in one of the eight categories, in which case further training would be an unnecessary use of resources, or they might lack knowledge or hold erroneous views in another category. This is why it is crucial to assess trainees' intercultural competence on various levels; according to the results of such assessment, the focus and type of CCT can be then identified (Graf & Mertesacker 2009, p.552; Kabongo & Okpara 2011, p.24).

Graf & Mertesacker (2009, pp.543-544) empirically identified the five most effective assessment tools in their study; they are presented in Table 3.2.

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Table 3.2 Assessment Tools to Measure Intercultural Competence

The Intercultural development inventory ICDI developed by Hammer et al. (2003) and the Intercultural Sensitivity Scale ISS (Chen & Starosta, 2000) are two other widely acknowledged assessment instruments. Hammer et al. (2003, p.423-426) measure ethnocentric and ethnorelative orientations, each of which is subdivided into three dimensions, derived from the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (Bennett, M.J. 1986, p.182): Denial, Defense, and Minimization and Acceptance, Adaptation, and Integration, respectively. Chen & Starosta (2000, p.18) developed a 24-item instrument that assesses five factors of intercultural competence: interaction attentiveness, impression rewarding, self-esteem, self-monitoring, and perspective. The ISS model was empirically proven to be particularly effective (Chen & Starosta 2000, pp.11-12).

Based on the literature review, the previously discussed methods are some of the most effective and commonly used tools to assess expatriates' intercultural competence in order to choose the most suitable kind of CCT. Each of the assessment tools focuses on different aspects of intercultural competence; therefore, a combination of them is recommended (Ingulsrud et al. 2002, pp.475-476; Graf & Mertesacker, p.552).

Step 2. Trainer Profile

The trainer plays a vital role in the success of CCT. Not only do the trainer's knowledge and experience matter but also their personal characteristics and communication skills (Jackson et al. 1982, p.370). For example, if a trainer does not exhibit a sufficient degree of confidence and does not know how to deal with “difficult” clients, trainees might lose their trust in a trainer's expertise and would be less likely to absorb the information provided in CCT (Ptak et al 1995, p.441).

Leduchowitz (1982, p. 7) points out three types of competencies that a trainer should possess in order to teach effectively: practitioner, leadership and organizational competences. According to the same study, practitioner competence stands for actual expertise on the matter as well as analytical and observational skills, whereas organizational competence covers such characteristics as conflict management skills and psychological knowledge of a social group.

Analoui (1994, p.70) adds to the list communication skills as well as knowledge on how to design a training program and how to effectively implement training methods.

When considering a trainer profile for CCT, it is important to address whether trainer's nationality should be that of the target culture or that of the group being trained. It might be assumed that in case of the former, the trainer is more qualified to explain cultural sensitivities, but studies show that this is not necessarily always true. According to Thornill (1993, p.45) and Magnini (2009, p.515), trainers who share the nationality of their trainees have a better understanding of the difficulties trainees would face in the host country. Besides, certain elements of a culture are so entrenched in peoples' lives that natives may not be able to consciously perceive them anymore; consequently, foreigners, by observing and studying the target culture, might be more adept in understanding and explaining these elements, called underlying assumptions by Schein (1985, p.14).

The communication style of the trainer can vary depending on the preferences of the group trained. When choosing which communication style to adapt, the cultural background of trainees should be especially considered, since people of different cultures are used to different communication patterns in the training (Park et al. 2012, p.5). Commonly known communication styles are presented in Table 3.3.

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Table 3.3 Training Communication Styles

Step 3. Length of Cross-cultural Training

CCT can last from several hours for a one-day training to several weeks; the length might also influence CCT effectiveness. The total length is considered here as a total of intensity (hours per week) and duration (number of weeks of training).

Whereas a common assumption is that a longer training produces better trained employees, studies show mixed results in this regard. Puck et al. (2008, pp.2193-2195) found that CCT length has a slight impact on effectiveness only if other more critical elements were present, such as quality of content and comprehensiveness of methods. However, according to the same study, if the quality of the CCT was not satisfactory, length had no correlation with the effectiveness. Selmer (1999a, p.51) as well as Gersten (1990, cited by Puck et al. 2008, p.2195) argue that in the case of the latter, there might even be negative results, since poor CCT might only strengthen trainees' stereotypes. On the other hand, Sue (1991, p.104) argues that CCT should last for prolonged periods of time, since stereotypes and prejudices running deep in one’s subconscious are hard to get rid of. Grove & Torbiörn (1985, p.229) confirm that short-term CCT cannot provide trainees with the opportunity to adopt any behavioral norms of the target culture; at best trainees will only become aware of differences between home and host countries without acquiring further knowledge of how to deal with them. Nevertheless, Pruegger & Rogers (1994, pp.374-376; 384-385), while acknowledging that long-term CCT might produce better results, found that even short-term CCT has a positive impact on training effectiveness, although its impact is reduced with ineffective methods.

To summarize, changing one's behavior and attitudes, which is essential for developing intercultural competence, takes time and in most cases cannot be effectively addressed in a short-term CCT. Therefore, a long-term CCT is preferred; however, since the latter is not possible in all cases due to its high expenditures of time and money, short-term CCT can also be an option, as its effectiveness is acknowledged as well. Nevertheless, the focus should lie on methods, content and general quality of CCT, as in the absence of these elements, CCT length has little relevance.

Step 4. Type of Cross-cultural Training

As already discussed in Chapter 2 (p.4), two types of CCT are examined: pre-departure and post-arrival. Pre-departure training is clearly preferred by expatriates (Selmer 1999a, p. 54; Selmer 2009, p.41). Upon arrival, expatriates tend to be too busy adjusting to the requirements of the new work position and settling in to a changed life routine; hence, post-arrival CCT might only distract them from more critical issues (Selmer 2009, p.49). However, Ptak et al. (1995, p.441) argue that expatriates become motivated for the training only after their arrival in the host countries, where they face intercultural difficulties in real life and become anxious to learn how to deal with them. Therefore, according to Ptak et al., pre-departure training might appear to trainees too abstract and theoretical.

As a result, each type of CCT has its own advantages and disadvantages; it might be implied that a combination of the two offers the optimal solution, and it is also consistent with the Grove & Tobiörn's study (1985, p.231).

Step 5. Approaches of Cross-cultural Training

At present, there are six major training approaches being used in CCT programs. Gudykunst et al. (1977, pp.100-102) classify them into intellectual, area simulation, self-awareness, culture awareness, behavioral, and interaction approaches (see Table 3.4).

Nowadays, the most common approach in CCT programs is the intellectual one, being the least expensive, the most available, and the easiest to organize (Bhawuk & Brislin 2000, p.166; Puck et al. 2008, p.2190). However, intellectual approach is limited in its effectiveness (Kabongo & Okpara 2011, 27-28; 29), since it does not let trainees share their views or try out learned material in practice (Cannon & Harris 1995, p.82). Indeed, studies seem to agree that each of the approaches offers its own advantages and disadvantages, requiring a combination of all the approaches listed below for successful CCT (Gudykunst et al. 1977 pp.107-108; Bennett J.M. 1986 pp.130-131; Pruegger & Rogers 1994, p.383; Ptak et al. 1995, p.437).

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Table 3.4 Major Approaches for Cross-cultural Training

Step 6. Training Techniques

With CCT gaining more and more popularity (Fowler 2006, p.403), many training techniques have been developed and analyzed for their effectiveness and applicability. Generally, they can be divided into cognitive and experiential techniques, whereby the cognitive ones focus on knowledge acquisition (Gannon & Poon 1997, p.432) and the experiential techniques refer to the acquisition of skills (Merchant 1989, p.307).

The major cognitive techniques are lectures, readings, films, case studies and computer-based training. Lectures are the most popular (Puck et al. 2008, p.2190), although studies show mixed results regarding their effectiveness. Verser (1989, p.45) claims that trainees absorb less information if they have to assume the passive role of listeners with little chance to interact. However, Pruegger & Rogers' study (1994, pp.381-383) shows evidence of lectures’ effectiveness if combined with simulation games, such as BaFa BaFa (Shirts 1977). Bhawuk & Brislin (2000, p.166) describe lectures as “simple, flexible, and inexpensive” and recognize their potential if used with visual stimulation, such as films.

Readings, another cognitive technique, can also be beneficial as they provide trainees with much information and can be studied at their own pace; Black & Gregersen (1990, p.425) recognize the benefits of readings and highlight that they should be both current and available to the expatriate’s family. Reading materials are useful prior to the training as introductory material to provide background (Holzinger & Motschnig-Pitrik 2002, p.169) and they could also be used after training as follow-up.

Films are useful to demonstrate a certain aspect of the training material that cannot be adequately described by the trainer, such as emotions or certain broad practical applications of theory (Meisel 1998, p.251). Studies (Roter 1988, pp.13-14; Gannon & Poon 1997, p.439) highlight benefits of using films in CCT.

Case studies are yet another training tool that provide trainees with “written descriptions of companies facing specific business problems” (Verser 1989, p.47). Case studies might help to dissolve one person's judgmental tendencies and show that in such subtle matters as culture there is often no one right answer (Galle 1996, p.258). Johnson & Kunselman (2004, p.92) and Popil (2011, p.205) empirically proved that case studies are effective for developing trainees’ critical thinking and help them become better employees.

Finally, many companies offer online CCT, such as Transnational Management Associates Ltd. or Transdemica Oy and Coghills & Beery International Ltd. The latter, for example, offers assessment of training needs, followed by online exercises, interactive tutorials and reading resources (www.kwintessential.co.uk/online/cultural-awareness-training.html). This type of training might offer low financial expenditures for organizations planning to train their expatriates; moreover, Kraiger et al. (2006, pp.648-649) found, after controlling for age, that Web-based training can be potentially as effective as classroom instruction if designed properly. However, online CCT has not yet received sufficient academic attention; therefore, its effectiveness remains undetermined.

Commonly known experiential techniques include role playing, contrast culture, culture assimilators, and simulation games. Role playing has proved effective in changing trainees' attitudes (Mendenhall & Oddou 1988, p.82), as it teaches how to modify one's behavior (Verser 1989, p.48). However, if a trainer does not organize role playing exercise competently, it could produce counter-productive results (Ptak et al. 1995, p.438).

The contrast culture technique, developed by Stewart (1966) and widely used in CCT nowadays, refers to the presentation of behavioral patterns that are completely opposite to those of the trainees' culture (Bhawuk & Brislin 2000, p.167); the latter source also argues that this is an effective technique that gives trainees an opportunity to become aware of their own cultural values.

Culture assimilators are a technique whereby trainees are presented with different real life scenarios of cross-cultural misunderstandings (Malpass & Salancik 1977, p.76), also called critical incidents (Flanagan 1954, p.327). Various studies indicate effectiveness of this technique (Malpass & Salancik 1977, pp.84-85; Brislin 1986, p. 231-232; Bhawuk 2001, p.146; Fowler 2006, p.407) and it is recommended by various academics (Guzley R.M. et al. 1996, p.68; Bhawuk & Brislin 2000, p.168).

The final technique, simulation games, has received especially thorough attention from trainers and academics. The most popular simulation game is by far BaFa BaFa, developed by Shirts (1977), a game in which trainees are divided into two groups, Alpha and Beta, representing two different cultures, and asked to simulate cultural interactions. BaFa BaFa received a very positive response in studies regarding its effectiveness (Woods 1990, p.118; Pruegger & Rogers 1994, pp.381-383; Fischer 2011, pp.772-773).

Similar to CCT approaches, the previously discussed training techniques offer distinct advantages and therefore should be combined to produce better results; Bennett J.M. (1986, p. 130) claims that not combining the training techniques “puts clear boundaries on the effectiveness of the program”.

Step 7. Evaluation of Results

Evaluating training results might be useful in order to identify whether the chosen model of CCT needs any re-adjustments, which would be especially relevant for subsequent groups of expatriates taking part in future trainings. It would also give insight on trainees' learning progress and identify any further training needs.

By evaluating CCT results, ideally many different relevant points of views should be presented (Triandis 1977, p.40). For example, if a German expatriate was sent to the Chinese subsidiary of their company, not only the expatriate should be but also their direct supervisors in the Chinese subsidiary, colleagues, and Chinese clients dealing with them. However, it is also obvious that such an extensive evaluation process implies a high expenditure of time and money and therefore might be unrealistic to execute. Furthermore, it is advisable to develop continuous feedback rather than use a sporadic approach to evaluation (Triandis 1977, p.41; King 1988, p. 286).

It should also be noted that different evaluation tools are used depending on the variables being tested (Gilibert & Gillet 2010, p.223). Certain variables such as historical knowledge of the culture or language skills could be evaluated by an oral or written test, whereas more subtle aspects of intercultural competence such as attitudes and behavior can only be evaluated by observation and case studies of the expatriate's performance.

According to Griffin (2010, p.222), it is also necessary to consider pre-learning conditions, so that the expatriate’s progress rather than just the final result is evaluated. For example, this could be done by comparing the outcome results with the initial training needs assessment, discussed in Chapter 3.1 (pp.6-8).

3.2 Seven-Step CCT Methodology Model Applied in Chinese-specific Context

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Step 1: Training needs assessment. Trainees' profile should be identified: their educational and psychological backgrounds, their goals and expectations for the training, the nature of their assignment in China and whether their families are accompanying them (see Chapter 3.1, p.7). This is necessary for choosing the right model of CCT. Furthermore, trainees with different profiles can be divided in different training groups. Trainees' intercultural competence should also be evaluated in order to identify where the focus of CCT should lie. Among those mentioned in Chapter 3.1 (pp.7-8), one of the most effective assessment tools for China appears to be ICSI, as it focuses on testing intercultural competence in the context of collectivist versus individualist cultures. This is especially relevant because, according to Hofstede (1967), China is a highly collectivist country, whereas Western countries tend to be very individualist (see Figure 3.1). According to Würzt (2005, p. 1), China is a high-context type of culture, implicitly and indirectly oriented in its communication, and therefore NVCCS appears to be another useful tool to address trainees' understanding of this concept. Language evaluation by FLCS is advisable as well, as it has been established that culture adjustment by Western expatriates in China is directly correlated to their proficiency in Chinese (Selmer 2005, p. 71; Selmer 2006).

Figure 3.1 Cultural Dimensions Comparison Between China, Germany, and the US (Hofstede 1967)

Step 2: Trainer profile. As stated in Chapter 3.1 (p.8-9), a trainer should have high practitioner, leadership and organizational competencies, possess strong communication skills, be effective at implementing training methods and exhibit a high level of confidence.

Since the focus of this study is on Western expatriates, there could be defined a general pattern for effective communication styles, though some differences exist between individual Western countries, too. It should also be considered that many multinational companies have a high degree of cultural diversity among their employees; however, for the purposes of this study, it is assumed that the group being trained is a semi-mono-cultured group of Western expatriates. Westerners prefer a more cooperative communication style, and the trainer should avoid connotations of the teacher's dominance (Brekelmans et al. 1997, p.29). Moreover, a direct communication style is preferred to an implicit one (Tixier 1994, p.23; Li et al. 2009, p.593; Park et al. 2012, p.2; 6). Studies show that some European nations tend to mistrust trainers and do not rely on the information provided in the training, choosing instead to evaluate it first themselves (Li et al. 2009, p.593); the trainer should be aware of this phenomenon while giving CCT to Westerners and should adopt a high degree of abstraction and detachment in their communication. US trainees are an exception to the latter statement, preferring a middle degree of abstraction and an attached communication style, with trainer relating their personal opinions and providing them with practical examples (Balsmeier & Heck 1994, p.20). Balsmeier & Heck (1994, p.20) also claim that Westerners are used to a fast-paced, linear style and prefer to have the opportunity to ask questions during the training.

Bennett & Leduchowitz (1983, p.22) further prove that experience and expertise on the subject is what matters most for Western trainees, whereas a trainer's age has no relevance.

CCT tends to be more effective if a trainer's nationality matches that of the trainees (see Chapter 3.1, pp.8); however, the key is that the trainer has had long-term experience with Chinese culture since it is very different from that of the Western countries and marked by many subtle characteristics that cannot be perceived in a short time (Cai 2009, p.66).

Step 3: CCT length. As stated in Chapter 3.1 (pp.9-10), CCT, combined with high-quality content and effective training methods, should ideally be long-term; however, even short-term CCT might be beneficial if the former is not available. Selmer (1999, p.528) claims that Western expatriates in China tend to experience long-lasting culture shock and need on average more time to adjust to Chinese culture than their counterparts in other countries, implying that it takes longer to change one's behaviors and attitudes for such a distinct culture. Hence, a long-term CCT is preferred when choosing a training program for China.


[1] Ability to communicate with members of different ethnic groups in a foreign cultural environment and to work efficiently and effectively in intercultural business situations– translated by the author

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Effectiveness of Cross-Cultural Training Methodology in Chinese Corporate Context
Humboldt-University of Berlin
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effectiveness, cross-cultural, training, methodology, chinese, corporate, context
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Diana Rees (Author), 2012, Effectiveness of Cross-Cultural Training Methodology in Chinese Corporate Context, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/230424


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