International advisors and cultural awareness trainers eliminate cultural barriers to business. At a time when even small and medium sized businesses are going global, a lack of cultural, social and political understanding, combined with economic disparity between nations, can be a major threat to establishing successful business relationships across national boarders. A respectful understanding and appreciation for the cultural uniqueness of business associates and clients creates business professionals who are flexible, sensitive and skillful at conducting business within different cultural and social paradigms.
It’s the job of cultural advisors and cultural awareness trainers to help instill these virtues and give proactive advice on the cultural feasibility of business and marketing strategy to the corporate executives and managers, sales people, marketing specialists and other business representative who come in contact with clients and business associates of other nations.
In many cases, cultural advisory and cultural awareness training services are considered two components that combine to achieve a common objective. As such, the role of cultural advisors and cultural awareness trainers often overlap. Most cultural advisory firms employ both advisors and trainers, and often a single experienced professional is well qualified to fill both roles. These firms are contracted by businesses looking to explore foreign markets, providing both advisory and training services to company employees and executives.
Cultural Awareness Training
Cultural awareness trainers, also called cross-cultural trainers, work with businesses either through human resource departments of companies that routinely conduct business overseas, or through dedicated cultural awareness training and advisory firms contracted on an as-needed basis by business with less of an international presence. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, Hodge International Advisors, Kwintessential, Communicaid and Cultural Savvy are among the enterprise training and culture-specific communication skills consultancy firms that specialize in providing cross-cultural training to corporate employees and executives.
The primary role of cultural advisors is to equip business people with the tools and know-how they need to be comfortable and successful conducting business with international business clients and associates. Sometimes training is specific to a certain country or region, but more often it is focused on general skills and awareness, allowing participants to adapt to and learn about a wide variety of cultures, thereby gaining a more global perspective that can be applied to business relationships.
Cross-cultural trainers use a variety of strategic and creative methods to teach practical skills and attitude adaptation. They meet with business managers to assess the needs of the company and set the training objects based on established needs. They then plan, organize and execute both skills-based and knowledge-based training sessions. Cross-cultural trainers are often tasked with adapting their training methods to the needs of the company, the training delivery format (online or offline) and the time available in which to provide training.
Corporate cultural awareness trainers will usually structure training sessions to include the following lessons and exercises:
- Presenting cultural briefs on specific regions or cultures
- Designing role-playing scenarios that explore different aspects of communications
- Describing scenarios that illuminate cultural differences
- Giving feedback and recommendations to trainees based on observation
- Facilitating dialogue and answering questions about culturally-challenging interactions
- Maintaining professional networks to help businesses connect to available resources specific to their target culture
- Helping business people identify their communication profile, learn what their communication style means and compare their communications styles to the dominant styles of other cultures
- Delivering technical expertise and researching strategies that deal with legal and logistical matters across cultures
Trainers typically evaluate trainees to determine the effectiveness of the session so as to determine what further instruction may be needed.
The Various Roles of Cultural Advisors
Cultural advisors play a more direct and active role in the business process. Advisors may provide language support throughout business transactions or interpret and translate during meetings and conferences. They may also translate business documents, providing a summary of key points. Cultural advisors with a more extensive business background may be called upon to give input on reports and proposals and perform in-depth analysis of communications to convey the nuances of culturally specific styles of communication.
Advisors also act as liaisons between company managers and clients, suppliers, manufacturers, transport providers or other logisticians and supply chain professionals. In all interactions, the goal of international business cultural advisors is to facilitate respectful and effective business interactions by eliminating the frustration that comes form misunderstandings that would otherwise hinder progress and alienate clients and partners.
Some cross-cultural experts also work for companies that provide support to the government and military. These cultural advisors often work in conflict-zones with the goal of mitigating cultural friction and helping to facilitate an on going peace process. Cultural advisors can also provide resources and training to missionaries and other oversees workers. Firms like TRAIN International and Mission Training International have honed expertise in providing this very specific type of cultural advisory service. The experience cultural advisors gain working with people of different cultures also makes them well equipped for humanitarian work. While the applied use of their skills may be different, the ultimate goal of all cultural advisors is the same: facilitate clear, conflict-free communication so as to streamline progress toward establishing and achieving goals between representatives of different cultures.
Degrees for Cultural Advisors and Cross Cultural Trainers
Cultural advisors and cross-cultural corporate trainers very often have bachelor’s degrees in communications, human resources, business or political science, depending on the specific type of work they perform. Many advisors begin their careers in the human resources department of their company while acquiring experience and honing their expertise in international matters. A minor in international relations or in a foreign language would be appropriate when majoring in communications, business, human resources or political science.
International relations and cross-cultural communications are more targeted areas of study, and can be pursued as a major at both the undergraduate and graduate level, with many schools offering degrees that include:
- Bachelor of Arts in International Relations
- Master of Cross-Cultural Communication
- Graduate Certificate in Cross-Cultural Communication
Courses specific to international relations and cross-cultural communications programs would include:
- Orientation and Personal Leadership
- Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations
- Process of Change
- Culture in the Organizational Context
- Concepts of Intercultural Relations
- Advanced Intercultural Communication Theory
Advisory firms that specialize in cross-cultural training and advising tend to require some experience. For example, Hodge International Advisors requires an advanced degree and significant corporate training and coaching experience from cultural advisor and cross-cultural trainer job candidates.
Cross Cultural Communication Certification for Trainers and Businesspeople
HumaNext offers online and classroom-based certification programs designed to equip cross-cultural advisors and human resources professionals with the skills necessary to teach Diversity & Inclusion Training and Cross Cultural Communication/Global Competency Training.
The Intercultural Communication Institute offers a certificate program through their Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication affiliate that provides professional development for professionals working in training, general business and consulting, which leads to certification at three successive levels: foundations, practitioner and professional.
Cultural Savvy offers a Protocol Certification Course in partnership with Protocol Professionals, Inc. geared toward cultural trainers, business executives, conference planners and staff of corporate briefing centers. The three-day course covers international protocol and etiquette, American business and social protocol, as well as special event planning and production.
Cultural Advisor and Cross-Cultural Trainer Salary
In its May 2010 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the wages of training and development specialists and managers, which is inclusive of cross-cultural trainers. According to this latest report published by the Bureau, the largest number of training and development managers worked within management departments of companies and other enterprises and earned an average of $102,010 yearly, considerably more than the average for this profession across all industries, which was $95,800 in 2010. The average for top earners, who make up the 90th percentile across all industries, was $148,950.
The highest paid trainers worked for companies in the computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry, where the average salary was $131,850, followed by professional, scientific, and technical services companies, which paid an average of $129,820 per year. Radio and television broadcasting companies paid cross-cultural trainers an average of $125,550 yearly, while trainers working for software publishing companies earned an average salary of $123,080 in 2010.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ broader management, scientific and technical consulting services classification is inclusive of corporate cultural advisors, as well as those that work for advisory firms. The top paying advisors worked in operations management departments earning an average of $130, 395 as of the latest report for this occupation published in 2008.