In the modern world, quickly developing technologies and innovations are an essential part of any successful business. To stay competitive, organizations need not only to invest in cutting-edge equipment but also to engage their employees in lifelong learning to ensure that workers possess the necessary knowledge and practical skills to thrive in the world of constant change. That is why many big companies attach great importance to planning and implementing learning activities that would increase the expertise and capability of their employees.
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While creating effective training programs can be hard on its own, the shaping of the learning and development policies is further complicated by globalization, as multinational companies have to consider how specifics of a particular country might affect the learning progress and outcomes. This paper will discuss the benefits of conducting employee training in internationally operating organizations, possible difficulties that can arise in the context of multicultural learning, and the employee development strategies that can be used by multinational companies either locally or centrally, depending on their aspirations.
Both organizations and individual workers can benefit from corporate employee training programs. For a company, the main advantages are increased productiveness, motivation, and satisfaction of employees, which are likely to lead to a general improvement of the work of an organization. For instance, a study of Nairobi firms by Lyria, Namusonge, and Karanja (2017) demonstrated that there was a significant positive correlation between the company’s use of learning and development practices and its organizational performance as measured by profits and growth. Additionally, through internal learning programs, multinational companies can make sure that specific gaps in knowledge and skills that stem from cultural or educational differences are adequately addressed. Employees, on the other hand, profit from learning programs by developing new skills and trying themselves at different tasks and roles, which may lead to a promotion or increase their employability outside a company. Also, high-quality talent management practices might motivate workers to expand their knowledge even further, bringing additional benefits to both a firm and its employees. Given many gains that learning and development activities can bring to a company, any international organization that aspires to be successful in the modern world of technologies should not spare its financial resources and time on growing the potential of its workers.
When devising training programs for their employees, multinational companies have to take into account multiple factors that can affect the effectiveness of learning, such as educational attainment in a particular country, culture-specific work ethics, state regulations, and policies influencing employee development practices. Although cultural diversity is often a desirable characteristic of a workplace, because it enables multinationals “to generate competitive advantage through integrating ideas from their people employed in different parts of the world” (Pradhan, Jena, and Panigrahy, 2016, p. 181), it can make learning ineffective in case the cultural context was not carefully considered. As a result, the actual performance of workers might not only fail to improve but also decline. Another challenge that awaits internationally operating organizations on their way to introducing effective employee training is an incorrect implementation of corporate policies. According to Björkman et al. (2017), the issues of implementation, internalization, and integration pose severe risks to the successful transferal of talent management practices to foreign subsidies. Finally, it is essential to establish effective ways of transferring knowledge between the company’s international branches, so that valuable insights and wisdom gained from learning can be easily shared with the remaining employees.
To account for potential cultural differences between their subsidiaries, internationally operating companies should give preference to learning and development policies that are handled locally. As they are independent of other branches, such policies are useful for addressing the specific needs of employees in a given country at a given time and creating an individualized plan for development. For example, if workers experience language barriers, a company could offer tailored language courses that would focus on the topics and situations that are relevant to their daily work. Such an approach is likely to be more practical and bring more positive results compared to general language courses offered elsewhere (Qing, 2016). In a similar vein, individual assessment test of workers is a prerequisite to identifying their strong and weak sides, formulating their goals for development, and choosing the best way to achieve those goals. Research suggests that employees adapt better when their work environment is congruent with their learning styles (Armstrong and Li, 2017), which means that local policies are invaluable for the successful growth of individual workers within big organizations that operate internationally.
Unlike locally controlled policies, central policies are the same for all subsidiaries of an organization, ensuring that all employees receive the same level and quality of training regardless of their skills or previous experience. Due to this equalizing factor of centralized learning and development policies, they should be used for introducing training that is aimed at developing general competencies, such as cultural awareness or ethics training. At the same time, central policies are instrumental in familiarizing all workers with corporate rules, norms, and values. After reviewing three cases of international companies’ use of training and development as instrument for creating talent, Latukha noted that “training and development practices in emerging MNCs [multinational companies] also serve as platforms for creating shared values, which can be critical in the case of geographically diversified companies” (2016, p. 169). Thus, centralized learning and development programs offer organizations that operate internationally an opportunity to build a closely-knit community of workers who would appreciate the company’s ethics. Finally, central control might be needed for enabling intra-company learning, such as project placement or job rotations, and organizing events, like online conferences and forums where employees can share their expertise with each other.
There is no doubt that learning and development programs are highly beneficial for modern-day organizations that keep their finger on the pulse of time. Still, devising high-quality training programs can be time and energy-consuming, especially for internationally operating companies that need to remember country-specific conditions, which might influence what and how employees will learn. Depending on the learning objectives, organizations might choose to either introduce local policies that are specific to a particular geographical area or opt for general policies that are the same for all branches. While locally controlled learning practices are primarily purposed for individually tailored development of employees, centralized practices are concerned with providing all workers with the same knowledge and skills. Additionally, central control might be required for intra-company educational activities. Overall, the most effective training programs are likely to be comprised of both local and centralized learning and development policies, as such a combination offers optimal opportunities for the development of employees.
Armstrong, S.J. and Li, Y. (2017) ‘A study of Anglo expatriate managers’ learning, knowledge acquisition, and adjustment in multinational companies in China’, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 16(1), pp. 1–22.
Björkman, I. et al. (2017) ‘Talent management in multinational corporations’, in Collings, D.G., Mellahi, K. and Cascio, W.F. (eds) The Oxford handbook of talent management. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 461–477.
Latukha, M. (2016) Talent management in emerging market firms. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lyria, R.K., Namusonge, G.S. and Karanja, K. (2017) ‘The effect of learning and development on organizational performance of firms listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange’, Journal of Human Resource and Leadership, 1(3), pp. 43–55.
Pradhan, R.K., Jena, L.K. and Panigrahy, N.P. (2016) ‘Learning and development practices in international context: conceptual introspection towards bringing the best work place strategies’, Strategic HR Review, 15( 4), pp. 180–186.
Qing, X. (2016) English language training in the workplace: case studies of corporate programs in China. Hong Kong: Springer.