World View: Focus on China

cross cultural training in china

The need for workers able to do higher skilled work is a big reason for the great interest in training in this country.

Reprinted: “Training: The Source for Professional Development” by Dr. Neil Orkin, 07/28/2008

China has a population of more than 1 billion people. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The culture embraces Confucianism, a philosophy that stresses harmony, respect, and education. China is experiencing great growth and expansion in its economy. The production and selling of products worldwide has become a priority. The first Chinese products available in North America were textiles. Now it is not unusual to find complex electronic products such as computers that are made in China and sold in the U.S. The need for workers able to do higher skilled work is a big reason for the great interest in training in China.

Training costs in China are comparable to those in the U.S. and at times can be slightly lower. Programs in demand include those that address American business practices, customer service, accounting, supervisory skills, management development, communication skills, and Six Sigma.

Several cultural differences exist when conducting training programs in China:

– Trainers are highly respected in this culture. This culture believes the way to get ahead and succeed in life is through training and education. Your participants most likely will welcome the opportunity to take part in your training program.

– Trainees expect the trainer to lead the class as the expert, and lecture is the preferred delivery method.

– Harmony and order are valued in China. Your trainees do not want to stand out. Make sure not to highlight the performance of any one individual. This praise could cause the individual and class to feel uncomfortable. Always focus on group performance.

– Although China is a group-oriented culture, try to minimize your use of small group discussions. There is a belief that learning is more powerful when the knowledge comes from the trainer as opposed to the trainees. One interesting note: Even though China is a group-oriented culture, coaching is becoming increasingly popular. Chinese professionals feel they can learn new skills quickly through the individual attention coaching programs provide.

– Because relationships are critical in this culture, tell your trainees about yourself and your organization. The participants in your program will expect you to share this information right from the start.

– As China has a formal culture, it is critical for the trainer to address program participants correctly. Always start by using your trainees’ last names first. If they want you to address them differently, they will let you know.

You may experience several training challenges while conducting your program. Because trainees may not want to “disrupt” the class, they may not share their views on the program content, especially if there is a disagreement on the information covered. It also could be challenging to open the participant up to another viewpoint. Language could come into play if the trainee doesn’t understand English well, and is reluctant to let the trainer know about a lack of comprehension. The trainer will need to adjust his or her vocabulary to ensure that participants have a clear understanding of English.

Dr. Neil Orkin is president of Global Training Systems. His organization prepares corporate professionals for global business success.