Six Steps to Successful Global Succession Planning

global succession planningA hot topic in human resources development circles has been global succession planning. How can companies best meet their human resources development needs abroad and track the global skills of their people? How can a global professional be kept connected to the home office and satisfied with their job and organization? Here are six steps to help you with this important challenge.

1) Database Management Systems – Organizations need systems that note the international work experience and foreign language skills of employees. Training professionals need to be able to make ad hoc queries on a computer to get employee profile information. Windows based programs exist that can make the job of finding the appropriate professional much easier.

2) Selection – Interview candidates to verify their interest in a foreign assignment. The professional may not feel that the assignment is a good fit for his or her current professional and personal situation. It is far better to have this information before the employee is chosen than to risk a failed assignment which can be extremely costly for both the individual and the organization.

3) Mentoring Programs – Providing the global professional with a mentor is critical to the success of the assignment. The mentor, ideally someone at a higher level in the organization who has completed a successful international assignment, can inform the professional on how to navigate his or her assignment and also let the professional know what is happening back at the home office.

4) Keeping in Touch – By installing a computer or fax machine in an expatriate’s home, he or she can receive daily messages from the home office. This helps keep him or her informed and feeling part of the team. Some firms have created special newsletters for expatriates to help them stay current with organization news and information. Certainly, regularly scheduled trips back to the home office so the employee can be briefed on important company news and meet with his or her mentor is key.

5) Repatriation – The organization needs to sit down with repatriates and help them map out a personal action plan noting the challenges they feel they may face. Another challenge is deciding how the knowledge and information that repatriates have gained can best be shared with home-office professionals.

6) Retention – It is not uncommon for repatriates to leave the organization after an overseas assignment. Losing a key global professional can be very costly. Having a clear career path for repatriates is critical, as is allowing them to serve as mentors and providing a forum for them to share the knowledge they have gained with future expatriates.

Following these six steps will allow your organization to become more global and enable you to develop and retain a team of global professionals.

Neil S. Orkin is a principal with Global Training Systems, a global management consulting firm specializing in human resource development located in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

Focus on Finland

cross cultural training, finland

Training costs may be higher in Finland, but this is balanced by the low-risk environment and excellent growth potential.

Reprinted: “Training: The Source for Professional Development” by Dr. Neil Orkin, July/August 2014

Finland is well known for its strong social welfare system and advanced standard of living. The government provides free higher education, a comprehensive health-care system, lengthy vacations, and well-funded pensions to the Finn people. This system gives Finns a great sense of personal security and pride in their country.

Finland tops the charts on almost every possible country ranking. It is one of the most literate countries in the world and has one of the highest per capita incomes. It often ranks as the least corrupt and most transparent civilization in the world and has ranked as the most democratic country in the world. Women participate at all levels in Finnish society. The environment is respected and protected through the legal system. Known for its beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes, the Finnish landscape is breathtaking.

Finland is one of the easiest countries in the world to do business in. The Finnish government believes in legal protection for organizations. On a per capita basis, Finland may have the highest cell phone and Internet usage in the world. As a result, the Finnish people are technologically advanced, which can provide a great competitive advantage to companies that maintain a Finnish workforce.

The population of Finland is only approximately 5 million. The main language of Finland is Finnish, but English is widely spoken and taught in the schools. This serves as a major benefit to North American trainers, who do not need to translate their training materials.

Finland holds a strategic location in Europe. By having a presence here, your organization will have easy access to Russia, Eastern Europe, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. These are all areas of the world with great growth potential for your organization. By virtue of its membership in the European Union, Finland has free trade opportunities throughout Europe. By doing business in Finland, your company will have access to a well-trained, professional, English-speaking workforce. This workforce has top computer skills, and is fully supported by the Finnish government. Finland wants to make it easy for your organization to do business here.

Because of its small population, Finland needs to export products to truly grow its economy. There is awareness that workers require higher skills to compete in the global economy. Finnish companies can earn far higher profits selling finished goods as opposed to commodities. Training is needed to allow this change to occur. Your business will benefit from manufacturing products, and exporting them worldwide.

The Finnish government is well aware that continual training is required for its citizens to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Training is needed in topics as diverse as critical thinking, creative problem solving, quality (including Six Sigma), leadership, and advanced presentation skills.

The main locations for training are in the following major Finnish cities: Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu, Turku, and Malmo. These programs often are held in hotel conference centers. Larger organizations often conduct training sessions onsite. Your training costs may be higher in Finland, but this is balanced by the low-risk environment and excellent growth potential.


Training in Finland can be different from training in North America. The Finnish people are very reserved and quiet, and they appreciate “silence.” Other tips:

  • Address your participants by their last name.
  • Do not single anyone out for praise.
  • Do not expect Finns to share information about their families during training. This type of information is considered private.
  • Instructor-led training is the norm.
  • Have clear ground rules as to the structure and schedule of the training.
  • Using slides and providing participants with handouts can help them learn best. You may need to adjust the speed and delivery of your material until you are clear on participants’ English comprehension as English most likely is not their first language.
  • There is a good chance that your participants will not ask you many questions. This is a part of the Finnish culture, and needs to be respected.

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

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.

World View: Focus on Indonesia

cross cultural training indonesia
You can’t go into the Indonesian market with 
a “business-as-usual” attitude when it comes to training.

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

From the beaches of Bali to the high energy of the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia is a fascinating country. It is the fourth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 230 million and 280-plus different ethnic groups, so organizations are interested in tapping this marketplace. Indonesia also is the largest Muslim country in the world. By selling to this large market, or exporting products from there, global companies see participation in this economy as critical to their global business 

This land is blessed with tremendous natural resources, including vast amounts of oil. Indonesia is a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). With an ideal global location, and reasonable labor costs, global organizations cannot ignore this country. The 
Indonesian government has opened the country to foreign investment and has made great strides in developing its economy.

The State of Training in Indonesia

It is clear to the Indonesian leadership that training is key to the country’s success. In the past, the Indonesian business model was to export agricultural products, oil, and minerals, and to import finished goods such as machinery, computers, and processed foods. The government wants to turn this formula around by exporting higher-value finished products. As such, the labor force needs to be trained to develop and produce these goods, and a higher level of skills is needed. Currently, nearly 50 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture, and many feel this ratio needs to be greatly lowered.

Education is valued in this country. The literacy rate is more than 90 percent. Indonesians are 
eager to learn, and they understand why training can help them prosper in the workforce. Organizations have been pleased about this positive attitude toward training. Still, to run effective training, 
adjustments must be made. If you go into this market with a “business-as-usual” attitude, you will fail.

Training Tips

Most training programs in this country are 
short and focused; two- to three-day programs are popular. The most requested topics are strategic management, customer service, leadership, and sales and marketing. Some tips:

  • Cutting-edge concepts are expected.
  • This culture is formal, and the trainer is 
expected to lead. Small group discussion should be minimized. “Ice breakers” and games often are not appreciated.
  • English is not the first language in this country. Although many of the “elite” in this country have studied abroad, expect the 
majority of your trainees to not speak English. You will need to watch your vocabulary and your rate of speed when presenting information. Extensive use of visuals can greatly increase comprehension and retention of your material.
  • This is a group-oriented culture. Do not single out a student for praise or constructive feedback. Always include the group.
  • Age and job title are greatly respected. Do not call trainees by their first names unless invited to do so. Be aware of the “small talk” you use when interacting with your trainees. Do not talk about religion, politics, or family life if you want to connect with your trainees.
  • Silence is valued in this culture. Avoid filling the quiet in the room with words as your trainees may like to think about your questions before they respond. Keep in mind that they also may be quiet if they disagree with your point of view. It often is felt that challenging the trainer is disrespectful and harmful to the training environment.

Indonesia will remain an important country for your organization in the coming years. Having a corporate presence in this country is valuable to your company, and cultural diversity skills will be of great value to the trainer in Indonesia.

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

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.