Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three Considerations for Global Learning

I have been working in Learning & Development for many years.  Until now, I have only occasionally had to support projects that were global in scope.   Most of the time, that meant creating something here in North America and then shipping it overseas to be translated.

But recently my company has been evolving from a multi-national operation to one that is truly globally integrated.   This has meant that my team has been asked to develop learning solutions to support our employees in all markets in which we do business, not just those here in the US.  So now we are working to scale up our operations.   We are trying to develop curriculum that is appropriate for broader audiences, and to create design processes that take into account that we need to work with stakeholders and subject matter experts that may be in other parts of the world.  We are clearly on a journey here.  We have a long way to go, but we are learning a lot along the way. 

Here are three observations so far about creating global learning solutions.   They may seem simple and obvious to those of you who have been operating this way for a long time, but for those of us who are in the early stages of our global journey, their implications are profound.

Culture is more important than language.   It isn't enough to do word-for-word translations of your learning content.  Localization is just as important.  You have to make sure that the context, style, and learning examples are consistent with the beliefs, values and expectations of your audiences. Also, people have different expectations about what constitutes a learning experience.  This impacts how they interact with instructors and peers in class settings.

Technology must be tested.  Technology is not the easy answer.   Technology deployment is uneven around the globe.  Bandwidth issues exist in many places.  If you plan to use virtual delivery tools or elearning, my advice is test and retest the technology before going live with it.

Local resource support is critical.   You can accomplish a lot more with active local support than you can on your own and at a distance.   We have engaged our  Human Resource Business Partners and key local business leaders to help us create the right conditions for learning and help us minimize the pitfalls. So far, this has proven to be the most critical factor in helping us to be successful.

There is certainly more to the story than these items, but they make a big difference for us.