China has a population of over one billion people. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Confucianism, a philosophy which stresses harmony, respect, and education, has been embraced by this culture. 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 are being sold here. The need for workers able to do higher skilled work is a big reason for the great interest in training in this country.
A number of cultural differences exist when conducting training programs in China
Trainees expect the trainer to lead the class, and lecture is the preferred delivery method. 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 trainee. Trainers are highly respected in this culture. As a result trainees will be very attentive and well behaved. 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. This culture believes that the way to get ahead and succeed in life is through training and education. Your participants will most likely welcome the opportunity to take part in your training program. Your trainees want and expect a traditional educational experience with “the trainer as expert.” Adjusting the format and structure of your training will benefit you greatly. 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.
Cross cultural training costs in China are comparable to the U.S. and at times can be slightly lower
The motivation and desire of your Chinese trainees to learn will allow you to meet your organizational objectives. Training programs that are in demand include those that address American business practices, customer service, accounting, supervisory skills, management development, communication skills, and six sigma. Even though China is a group oriented culture, coaching is becoming increasingly popular. Chinese professionals feel that they can learn new skills quickly through the individual attention that coaching programs provide.
You may experience a number of training challenges while conducting your program. Because the trainee may not want to “disrupt” the class, she may not share her views on the program content especially if there is a disagreement on the information covered. It 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 reticent to let the trainer know when she has a lack of comprehension. The trainer will need to adjust her vocabulary to ensure that participants have a clear understanding of English. 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. Having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to train in China will be of great value to your career. China is and will continue to be a power in the global economy. The global training skills that you develop will benefit both you and your organization for many years to come.
Dr. Neil Orkin is president of Global Training Systems. His organization prepares corporate professionals for Global Business Success and cross-cultural management.