Step by Step Guide to Cross-Cultural Training for Offshore Development Teams

Today it’s the norm for businesses to have employees work remotely, often times in multiple countries.  No matter where your employees are based, from the beginning of their employment, it’s vital to address your company’s culture, and to orient them with the standards your company has in place.  However, when you’re working from opposite sides of the globe, this feat can initially seem daunting.  But overcoming locational setbacks with your teams can actually be quite simple.  Follow this step-by-step guide to create the absolute best cross-cultural training program for your offshore development teams:

1.    Determine Cross-Cultural Training Needs

While some people would like to pretend it’s never an issue, the truth is that sometimes when working internationally, you may encounter cultural barriers. No matter how minor those barriers may be, the primary goal for any cross-cultural training program should be to increase intercultural competence – the ability to communicate effectively with people of different cultures. In a hybrid working environment, the onshore managers must be able to understand the cultural norms of their offshore teammates, in order to effectively train them to adapt to the onshore team’s culture.

2.    Define Training Objectives and Milestones

Before you can officially begin your training program, you’ll need to define what you hope to accomplish at each step, and translate those goals into measurable objectives. All goals and expectations should be set into clear objectives, each with their own deadlines for completion. Here’s an example:

Increase Intercultural Competence of Hybrid Team by 40 percent in 2015

Now that you have a well-defined broader objective, divide it into a set of milestones that together will makeup the larger objective and contribute to its completion. An offshore team’s collective intercultural competence depends upon the understanding and adoption of the rules, norms and subsequent expectations of U.S. business culture. Keeping this in mind, actionable training milestones for an offshore team working with U.S. managers should be based on these factors:

  • Degree to which the team is upfront about work related tasks, commitments, and deadlines

  • Degree to which the team understands U.S. business and cultural terminologies and norms

3.    Establish a Structured Training Plan

Your training program should be structured in such a way that it complements the broader objective, your set milestones, and each individual team member’s training success. Compare this to a teacher’s lesson plan. Your plan should cover both work-related and general cultural principles, so the offshore team is able to comprehend the values and norms of U.S. business culture as a whole.

After you have defined both the broad and detailed objectives, establish a routine schedule for team discussion. These meetings will not only provide a means to stay well informed on your team members’ progress, but also another method to share relevant cultural information with them. Here are some examples on how to do so:

  • Introduce cultural tidbits or information in each meeting, or facilitate a discussion on positive globally trending news topics
  • Participate in group learning activities, such as a relevant online-based class, webinar, or forum discussion
  • Provide occasional fun extracurricular activities, such as film or book club, then regrouping to discuss plot points.

To further involve your team in these discussions, you could ask team members to provide these topics for discussion. By doing so, you can lean on these meetings to give you a good grip on your team’s understanding.

4.    Create Measurable Tracking Metrics to Monitor Training Progress

If you do not have the ability to track training progress, you will be unable to gauge whether or not your objectives are going to be achieved. Implement a tracking system with established parameters to measure progress by the effectiveness at each step, and/or by determining the progress to achieving the final, broad objective. There are various ways to quantify this information, but it’s recommended you build a percentage-based scale, with a specific percentage amount given to the completion of each step. Here is an example of some metrics to track activity based on effectiveness at each step:

  • Team A’s intercultural competence has reached 25 percent (out of 100 percent) in February 2015
  • Individual X’s intercultural competence has reached 25 percent (out of 100 percent) in February 2015

Additionally, to receive the most thorough information on team progress, consider other metrics to monitor beyond the specific set goals, such as:

While there are numerous ways to build a cross-cultural training program, or to evolve the basic process as listed, the need for one to exist in the first place will never change. Set your company up for success by integrating offshore development teams with your company culture from the beginning.

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Tara Waddle

Chief Operations Officer at Allshore Virtual Staffing
Tara Waddle is the Chief Operations Officer of Allshore Virtual Staffing, a remote staffing agency helping startups in the U.S. hire remote software engineers to work as full-time employees. Allshore provides all technical and managerial support via our client services and technology mentorship teams based in Norman, Okla. Contact Allshore today to schedule a free consultation call with a remote staffing specialist or request a free trial of our services.

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One Comment

  1. Aug at 11:52 AM

    Hi Tara!

    Congratulations for your article!

    we are working with international people offshore here in Brazil and brazilians abroad with a high level of success, so, thank you for your words about it. They deserve our attention and our best in this job,
    best regards,

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