By Corporate English Solutions

13 September 2022 - 15:30

Adapting TNA across cultures

Engaging busy stakeholders in Training Needs Analysis can be challenging. Even more so when working across different cultural contexts. But most of us have never thought about adopting a flexible approach adapted to the context. We share four essential tips to help you engage diverse stakeholders in the process.


Reading time: 8 minutes

Imagine this. You work remotely in country A for a company located in country B. And you’re not alone. You have many colleagues across three different continents working in the same way. 

This kind of remote, cross-border workforce is becoming the ‘new normal.’ And not just a fictional scenario of the future. Around the world, working from remote locations has increased 159% since 2005 [1]. And according to a recent report, 59% of remote teams work within 2-5 time zones [2].

What does this all mean for L&D professionals trying to engage busy stakeholders in training needs analysis? 

Well, the need for a multifaceted approach is crucial. Relying on previous training needs analysis methods may not work across different cultural contexts. In addition to knowing how to effectively conduct a training needs analysis, having intercultural communication skills is also a necessity.

Are you up for the challenge (and the rewards) of increasing engagement in training needs analysis among your diverse stakeholders? We share our top tips to help you successfully navigate four different cultural contexts.

1. Prioritise gaining management support in hierarchical contexts

Two weeks into his new job, Michael emails the sales team a training needs analysis survey. Later, he finds out that their manager is upset. Michael forgot one important rule. When working in hierarchical contexts, always remember to involve the manager.

In many parts of the world, the organisational structure is hierarchical. Managers often make the decisions and give instructions to team members. If you consult them on important projects, they may be more receptive and open to collaboration. 

So, how do you gain buy-in for training needs analysis in hierarchical cultural contexts? Here are some essential tips to consider:

Rules for engagement

From the start, work closely with managers to get their input on business needs and priorities. Then, link the training needs analysis directly to their needs. This way, they’ll be more likely to get their teams to understand the purpose of training needs analysis and to engage in it.

Tool suggestions

Select tools where managers give direct input about their team members’ skills gaps (interviews, surveys, on-the-job observations). Consider linking skills gap analysis to the Continuous Performance Management process. That way, managers will be more closely involved and their teams will take it seriously.

Communication approaches

Arrange for communications about training needs analysis to come directly from managers. If they ask their team members to do it, employees will more likely engage in the process. If you need to send messages yourself, explain management’s involvement. This will help you be respectful of the hierarchy and communicate clearly within the team’s cultural context.

2. Engage all levels in egalitarian contexts 

Now, how do you engage stakeholders in egalitarian contexts? Encourage everyone to participate – not only the managers. In this type of organisational structure, all employees are expected to take initiative and make decisions.

So, it’s important to reach out to all levels of seniority, experience and status from the start. Here are some practical ways to get everyone on board in training needs analysis:

Rules for engagement

Give employees opportunities to share their knowledge, expertise and viewpoints. Allow time for conversations about business objectives, priorities and skills needed – now and in the future. That way, employees will better understand the purpose and advantages of training needs analysis.

Tool preferences

Select tools that allow both individuals and peers to directly give input (self- and -peer assessments, interviews, surveys, 360-degree feedback). Offer a range of options for training needs analysis where possible. Then, people can select one that suits them best.

Communication approaches

When communicating, remind employees that they’re an important part of the journey. Emphasise how essential they are to the success of the training needs analysis process. Consider including their WIIFM (‘what’s in it for me’) priorities in your messages.

3. Focus on efficiency in task-based contexts

We’ve outlined how important it is to understand differences in cultural contexts. But that isn’t the whole story. 

Whether hierarchical or egalitarian, there are some workplace contexts where people are more task-focused. Having the right expertise and successfully completing tasks builds trust more effectively than focusing time building the relationship. 

So, what’s the secret to doing training needs analysis in task-based contexts? Be efficient.

Here are some effective ways to succeed in these environments:

Rules for engagement

Respect employees’ time. If their viewpoints are needed, email questions instead of meetings to save time. Or send the questions beforehand so the purpose of the training needs analysis is clear and the meeting time is optimised.

Tool preferences

Select efficient tools to measure skills gaps. Tests, assessments and work review checklists may have a stronger impact than interviews, surveys and focus groups. 

Communication approaches

Make all communications quick and easy. Keep emails brief or consider short video messages. Be very clear about the actions needed, along with fixed deadlines and specific responsibilities.

4. Build strong connections in relationship-focused contexts

If efficiency is the basis for trust in task-based environments, then building personal connections is the key in relationship-based contexts.

The time you spend on forming connections will be well spent, as you’ll gain greater buy-in and outcomes from the training needs analysis process. It may also lead to employees appreciating training needs analysis benefits.

Here are some ways to easily connect in these environments:

Rules for engagement

Before you even get started on training needs analysis, begin by forming connections with key teams. Relationship-building takes time. So, plan for more questions, conversations and context building. Since this work environment may view time more flexibly, be aware that they may need reminders about deadlines. But be flexible if deadlines change. Remember maintaining relationships may be given precedence over task completion. 

Tool preferences

Select tools that give different people opportunities to connect with you. Combine interviews, surveys and focus groups with tests and assessments. Also, make sure you show genuine interest in everyone’s input. 

Communication approaches

Begin all communications with personalised, relationship-building messages before outlining tasks. Where possible, have conversations or meetings before sending emails. If not possible, use video messages instead. Also, ensure all messages are sent from someone who knows the team well and has a strong relationship.

Final thoughts

Remember every context you work in will be different and won’t always neatly fit into these categories. And contexts change all the time too. The bottom line? Be flexible. Adapt your training needs analysis approach to suit the preferences of diverse stakeholders and cultural contexts.

Bonus tip: Each time you start a new training needs analysis cycle, review it to ensure you have the right assumptions before you start.

Find out how our Intercultural Communication Skills courses can help you develop intercultural competence to succeed in influencing stakeholders in different cultural contexts.

Find out more here >

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