World View: Focus on Poland

cross cultural training in poland

Among the most-needed training programs are those focused on customer service, as this concept did not exist under the Communist reign.

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

With a population of more than 38 million, Poland is not culturally diverse—it is almost 100 percent ethnic Polish. Poland’s history has been strongly affected by its location between Germany and Russia. Prior to 1990, Poland was a Communist country with a planned economy. For the last 20-plus years, it has been a market-oriented, capitalistic land. Although the Polish leadership strives for an open economy, this change has been slow and not easy for the population. It is, in effect, a “work in progress.”

Despite the global downturn of the last few years, the country has been able to maintain and grow its economy. A major prize for the Polish nation was gaining membership in the EU in 2004, which connected it to all of Europe.

Most developing countries want to convert their raw materials into finished products. Poland is no exception, and has had great success in exporting machinery and transport equipment. Still, there is an awareness that a large percentage of its population works in agriculture, and this needs to change for it to have long-lasting global business success. Having a better trained workforce will be the difference in their future success.

One positive of the Polish workforce is an almost universal literacy rate. The Polish people are comfortable working together, and education is valued. There is a great interest in everything Western, and an interest in learning from Western organizations.

Among the most-needed training programs are those focused on customer service, as this concept did not exist under the Communist reign. Communication skills, presentation skills, and creative problem-solving are key, because under the prior system individuality was not highly valued. Western management practices, including supervisory and leadership programs, are in great demand. Programs in English as a foreign language (EFL) are wanted and necessary as much of the workforce does not speak English. The large number of English language schools in the major cities attest to this training need.

Because training resources are not widely available, the cost of training programs will be higher than in the U.S. as resources will need to be obtained and then shipped to Poland.

Training Tips

  • Poland is a formal country in terms of dress and how participants need to be addressed. Trainers should wear appropriate business attire, and call participants by their family name unless asked to be less formal.
  • English is not widely spoken. Your rate of speed will need to be slower than you may be used to.
  • Include many visuals. Be sure to gauge if the vocabulary you use is well understood by all.
  • The Polish people are much more group oriented than typical American participants. Singling out individuals is not expected.
  • Trainers are respected, and expected to use a more formal lecturing style.
  • Training programs often are held on two to four consecutive days. The location depends on the training space a firm has. Holding a program outside the office in a hotel is looked at favorably.

Building a presence in Poland will give organizations a critical entry point into the European Community and beyond. All global organizations need to enter this market. The time is now.

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