Globalization: Now Core to Enterprise Learning

As we read and hear about the tumultuous newsThe World in Iran and North Korea, it occurs to me that so much of our daily life, news, and time is now spent on global issues.  This trend impacts the corporate HR and L&D function as well.

I recently completed a presentation and roundtable at the ASTD (American Society of Training & Development) on best practices in the globalization of L&D programs. Brad Samargya, the CLO of CA and Peter Christensen, the Manager of Corporate Learning at Vestas, joined us – presenting their complete solutions for global technical and onboarding programs.

The session reminded me how important it is to go back to basics in the development and delivery of a training solution. Our High Impact Learning Organization research shows that 56% of all companies (of all sizes) now consider globalization a “key to success” for most of their training programs.   The reason, of course, is that organizations of all sizes include employees, contractors, customers, partners, and often resellers in many countries. So rather than consider globalization a “translation” problem or a “conversion” problem, we need to consider it a “design” issue up front.

The “Top 20 Strategies for Globalization” are included in our research library (for members).  But let me highlight a few key things which came up in our session at ASTD.

Language translation is the most basic and simple part of globalizing a program.   Cultural translation is also important.

Most technical employees can read english, so it is not necessary to translate all documention into all languages. Focus translation on soft-skills, marketing elements, and process-related training.

For e-learning programs, to reduce costs of translation consider translating the scripts to audio and video rather than the actual content itself. Many employees would rather read the scripts than listen to a translated version anyway.
Characters, cities, landscapes, and images should be culturally globalized (Vestas created a “virtual world” which mimics China, Europe, Asia, and the US in a slightly neutral form).   When a foreign employee starts an online learning program that is clearly “built by corporate” they may discount the content before they start.   Examples, case studies, and interactivities should be tested in different cultures to validate that they make sense.

If you do not have a lot of employees in a given country, consider appointing one staff member to translate materials for a workgroup there so they can utilize online programs without the need for expensive translation.

Some countries (France was cited), may demand the content be translated into their local language, even though they actually use the english version.

Bandwidth is still not widely available in many areas of China and the far east, so do not assume that all online programs will work correctly without being downloaded to a DVD or CD.

Local delivery and local support is critical to the success of any global program. All major programs at CA have local country coordinators, who can make sure that e-learning programs are readily available, locally translated support materials are available, and there is local coaching and support available.

Implement a globalization checklist right into your standard design and development process to make sure you aren’t reinventing the wheel for each program.

Talk with local country managers about incentives and other related business processes.   In China, for example, employees at Vestas expect their training and HR programs to be very individually focused – helping them build their own personal skills. In Denmark, by contrast, employees at Vestas are more interested in training because it’s part of the “company culture” – so they appreciate broader incentives to learn.

We live in a global economy with global markets, global problems, and global organizations. The principles we have identified apply to all your talent-related programs, not just training.

Globalization has become a new theme for all of our research.   Make sure you look through our globalization library (available in the “advanced search” part of our website) to better understand how to globalize all your learning, talent, and HR programs.