International Assignments: Working in the UK

International Assignments:  World-leading companies often use international assignments to increase the leadership skills and global mindset of their employees. But expatriate assignments can be extremely expensive: up to three times the cost of a person’s typical annual salary, according to some statistics.

The unfortunate reality is that even companies providing well-crafted relocation packages may not always offer in-depth cultural training and support, help assignees and their families settle in, and operate at their optimum.

The Challenge:  Our client had developed a multi-million pound extension to its factory in Derbyshire. Given the need to drive new process equipment innovations and provide technical assistance, they invited a team of existing Russian employees to relocate on short-term rotation to the UK. Here, they would manage a project team of British, German, Swiss and French nationals. Their role was to establish standards and coach engineers on new methods of working.

Given the prevailing Russian management style, our client’s Head of International Assignments recognised that it would be best for the inpats to have cultural training as soon as they started work on the factory floor to avoid them getting off to the wrong start.

Alternative Description
Alternative Description

Our Solution:  During our Needs Assessment, the objectives of the workshop were agreed – Babel would deliver a closed workshop with the Russian engineers as a group talking about their cultural expectations including organisational culture, with a follow-up session set aside to answer their questions on practical daily living issues.

The engineers spoke Intermediate/Upper Intermediate English but as our Course Leader was fluent in Russian, we offered – and it was felt better – to deliver the programme in Russian. This helped engender trust in the delegates and allowed them to speak confidentially about their concerns in their mother tongue (some of which were then – with their agreement – fed back to the International Assignments team).

Our practical, highly-interactive workshop identified the keys to understanding different British cultural preferences, identified the differences in Russian and British business approaches and how best to persuade, motivate and influence employees when introducing new innovations. The content focused on:

  • Getting it right from the start in a British business environment
  • What are your cultural assumptions, attitudes and behaviours
  • What is British culture? (Geography and climate, Political and social history, Belief systems/Religions, Education, Economy, Ethnic backgrounds. Characteristics of British society and the British mindset).
  • Exploration and comparison of key British and Russian values, attitudes and behaviours re communication (verbal and non-verbal), leadership and management, decision-making, money, truth, relationships, motivation and negotiation.

Our Solution:  How do British attitudes and behaviours impact on work and daily life? Equal opportunities, Political correctness, Timekeeping, Deadlines, Hours at work, Purpose of work, Titles and Status

  • British business culture and etiquette – how to dress and behave.
  • Written or oral communication
  • Common challenges and how to overcome them. Potential for conflict and creative synergy through cultural diversity. Strategies for recognising and addressing cultural differences.

Living in the UK: The Practicalities

  • Getting started: Renting or buying a property, bank accounts, driving, going shopping, schooling, healthcare, travelling around.
  • What’s it really like where I live? A guide to the region and town.
  • Socialising: British dinner parties, small talk – what to talk about, and what to avoid; appreciating their food and drink; punctuality; giving gifts; what to wear.

We also recommended some one-to-one coaching with the engineers. The aim of the coaching was for them to practice role-play situations which allowed them to run-through their work situations with our course leader before tackling difficult conversations with staff on the factory floor.

Finally, there was also an option for them to come back for more coaching on a trouble-shooting basis in the future.

The Result:

“We have had some excellent feedback from our Russian inpats following their cultural briefing. Timing was perfect as they felt they had some experiences to help them identify with the course and they thoroughly enjoyed the day. Well done to all concerned”.

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