Last updated: 27.07.17

Creating local learning strategies for international markets

Localising training is not merely about translation. In today’s hyper-competitive business market, how can companies ensure their e-learning strategies are successful?

Advances in communication technology have made it easier than ever for businesses to expand globally. But as multinationals grow, new obstacles spring up. One of the major challenges faced by multinationals is how to create training that can be effectively delivered across such a wide audience.

The first thought many international trainers will have is to ensure the e-learning content is translated into the first languages of the learners - but for effective training, there is often much more that needs to be considered. This is where localisation comes in.

What is localisation?

As businesses often struggle with the challenges of cultural adaptation, a localisation strategy aims to tailor products for particular cultures that can go a long way to helping.

This means that instead of tweaking one e-learning course slightly to remove cultural markers before rolling it out to one audience, a variety of products will be developed to suit different learners. These courses will be much better developed for particular groups, and therefore more effective at conveying the messages and information within them.

A simple localisation strategy may just be to translate the course’s content. This would require only minimal input from individuals with cultural insight, as the changes would be relatively minor. A complex strategy, on the other hand, could include everything from new layouts to content tailored specifically to each culture it is targeting. This type of strategy would require a much deeper understanding of the various cultures within the organisation.

Localisation challenges

Creating effective training content for a diverse array of learners is a complex task, particularly when the trainers are not familiar with the cultures they are attempting to target.

One common pitfall for companies, due to this lack of knowledge and information, is relying on cultural frameworks, which result in training materials that come across as stereotypical. No-one would assume that a country is home to just one culture, and so it is ineffective to target learners in such a narrow way. Far from having the desired effect, trying to target stereotypes can turn learners from that particular culture off, harming learner retention and even coming across as nonsensical.

It needs to be about understanding the target audience’s culture - specifically in the context of the organisation - rather than just the country’s overall culture.

Another challenge regarding global training in a hyper-competitive market is to combat the perception that localisation stops at translation. While translation is a large part of upskilling people from a number of different countries, to truly aid learner retention, other aspects of the learning process need to be taken into account too.

Consider the communication style; employees in many countries would be taken aback by too informal an approach, while those from other parts of the world may feel bored and alienated if the learning materials come across as overly formal. Other cultural elements that can impact on learning style include making sure images are both relatable to the people who will be looking at them, and also that they’re appropriate for the culture in question and won’t offend anyone. Even the colours used throughout the training materials can signify different things to people from different cultures.

Tips for a successful local learning strategy

Many of the challenges companies will face when attempting to localise training can be lessened through strong research into the various cultures within their workforces.

Companies should turn to cultural insiders within their own organisation for information, rather than relying on external research that can often miss the mark. These experts will have a much better idea of how to effectively engage with different people within the organisation, and trainers can therefore avoid addressing cultural stereotypes, and better communicate messages.

Furthermore, to ensure the same quality and care is being applied to the training being given to people from every culture, it is vital that local learning strategies are based around a strict methodology and process. Once the stakeholders within a company have decided on the best way to localise their training, this process should be put in place - and stuck to - for all e-learning materials.

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