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Cross-cultural Competency Training

Because of the global operations of the MNC, talent mobilization almost inevitably means crossing of national culture boundaries, if not actual-state borders. The redistribution of talent across cultural boundaries poses challenges, and the MNC must ensure that relocated or redistributed organizational participants receive adequate training to function effectively.

Training has often focused exclusively on expatriates. In part, this can be explained by the expense associated with the long-term expatriation and the need to provide cross-cultural training to ensure that this investment succeeds. But the focus on expatriate training has also reinforced the notion that the MNC headquarters is central, dominant, and possesses cultural preeminence. Outbound migrations of organizational participants were thus seen as ventures into a peripheral zone that was less understood and that such ventures needed considerable organizational support [102-104]. However, in MNCs, all mobilization and internal redistributions of talent—whether in the form of expatriation, inpatriation, or virtual networks and team initiatives—involve movements across national cultures, and appropriate cross-cultural training is important for all who participate in these experiences.

In developing its cross-culture training initiatives, the HR function needs to critically identify the ‘cultures’ that redistributed organizational participants will actually negotiate. To some extent, all organizational participants share a common organizational culture, which Schneider et al. [105] define as a set of ‘shared basic assumptions, values, and beliefs that characterize a setting and are taught to newcomers as the proper way to think and feel’ (p. 362). However, organizational members view this culture through the prism of different national cultures, which may introduce distinct colors, refractions, and distortions of what is assumed to be a ‘common’ and unifying culture. The challenge for the HR function of the MNC is: (a) to identify the importance and impact of the distinctive national culture dimensions that might lead to confusion or misunderstanding within the organization; and then (b) to provide organizational members with the understanding, skills, and competencies required to negotiate the foreign cultures that will surround them when they are relocated or work with others.

In developing talent that can be effectively shared and mobilized within the MNC, the HR function sometimes places undue emphasis on the presumed permanence and static nature of national cultures that are to be negotiated. It is important to re-evaluate this, recognizing existing measures of national culture difference are statistically derived and there is frequently more in-country variation in cultural values than between-country variation [91]. Indeed, expatriate training can result in ‘sophisticated stereotyping’ rather than the ability to successfully negotiate, communicate, and actually enjoy the culture of the target country [106]. In approaching the challenge of talent nurturing, development, and mobilization, the HR function might find it more effective to reconsider the dominance of static approaches to national culture and to begin exploring the diversity and fluidity of culture boundaries that expatriates, inpatriates, and virtual team members actually encounter [94, 107, 108]. Similarly, HR might want to monitor the actual experiences and challenges of those who have participated in mobilization and continuously revise training initiatives to address problems and concerns that have been identified.

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