• 19 December 2018
Expat Managers – Why are you Training Your Local Staff?

Expat Managers – Why are you Training Your Local Staff?

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Over the past four weeks I have been working with an international Technology company that has extensive operations here in Asia – in particular Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China and India. With the Chinese market undergoing some big changes in my client’s industry, their Thai operation has seen an influx of business shifting across from China. This has meant a doubling in size of my client’s service team over the past couple of years.

Their team of highly skilled Thai Field Service Engineers (FSE) need to work closely with the management, supervisors and technical teams of their clients that are a mix of Thais, Japanese and Western (or what in Thailand are broadly referred to by locals as ‘Farang’ – American / European / Australian) and one of the key requirements that has been identified is that the Thai staff need to improve their communication skills with foreigners. These Field Service Engineers need to start playing a much bigger role as ‘advisors’ even to senior management at their client sites rather than just seeing themselves as vendors of tecnhnical services.

Another mandate was to find out where the team felt that they were weak and believed that they as individuals and as a company could improve. The whole experience over the past few weeks was a very positive one and has prompted me to write this piece addressing some of the most important issues for Expatriate managers to consider when working with local teams.

*Keep this question in mind as you read on. As a trainer / facilitator, I am posed with a dilemma: *

‘What language should the training be conducted in?’

The first thing that I do when working with a client is to speak with their executive management team about the issues that they are facing.  More often than not, these discussions are conducted in English as there are non-local, English speaking managers involved.  As we go through the list of issues that they see that they are facing, the issue of “Our team members need to improve their English communication skills” invariably comes up. I take note of this, but really want to keep listening to see if the issues that they are talking about actually go deeper than just ‘English language skills’.

I then work through the levels in the organisation, speaking with selected supervisors (usually conducted in the local language) and then with other team members – once again, usually in the local language.  I take copious notes on what everyone says and then sit for the next couple of days digesting it all and working out a strategy to address the issues that have come up.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘people will support a world that they help create’, so part of the strategy usually entails holding a workshop with the staff or some kind of facilitation where the team members will buy into the idea of wanting to ‘improve’ and then be part of the solution building process.

When it comes time to conduct the workshop with the team members, I brace myself for the impending request “Can you please conduct the workshop in English?”

I have my response prepared:

“What are the reasons that you would like to conduct the training in English?”

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