To gain a greater understanding of the importance of cross cultural training for expatriates, it is important to be aware of a few key terms such as: expatriate; the difference between expatriate success and failure; and finally what cross cultural training is. Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright (2006) define an expatriate as an employee sent by his or her company in one country to manage operations in a different country. Expatriate success can be hard to define as the criteria used to determine is considered as success, are usually examined independent of each other (Kraimer, Wayne & Jaworski, 2001). However, according to Aycan & Kanungo (1997) there seems to be general agreement on the fact that 'overseas success' is evident if expatriates: remain in the assignment until the end of the term; adjust to living conditions in the new culture; and perform well on the job. Expatriate failure, like expatriate success, does not have a concrete definition, as it is not as simple as the expatriate returning home early. Tung (1987) defined expatriate failure as an inability of the expatriate to perform effectively resulting in either being fired or recalled home. Black (1992) extended the definition of expatriate failure to include returning from an overseas assignment and subsequently leaving the company within a year of repatriation. According to Landis & Brislin (1996) and Morris & Robie (2001) Cross Cultural Training (CCT) can be defined as the educative processes used to improve intercultural learning via the development of the cognitive, affective, and behavioural competencies needed for successful interactions in diverse cultures. However, being aware of what CCT is is not enough to know how it can affect whether or not an expatriate succeeds or fails. It is also imperative to know the purpose of CCT, and is effects on expatriate success or failure.
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The ability to adapt to new culture is one of the most important elements of a successful international assignment(Forster, 2000). Forster (2000) believes that the purpose of cross-cultural training is to teach employees the importance of culture, to sensitize them to cultural differences, and to be aware of the inevitable psychological stresses when living in a new culture. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the overall purpose of CCT is to improve an expatriate's probability of success on the foreign assignment (Black &Mendenhall, 1990; Forster, 2000) by equipping the expatriate with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for cross-cultural adjustment, effective on-the-job performance, and interaction with the host nationals (Forster, 2000). According to past research, CCT has been identified as a major technique for improving the cross-cultural effectiveness of managers (Bhagat & Prien, 1996; Bhawuk & Brislin, 2000). Bhagat & Prien (1996) believe that CCT differs from traditional training in that the focus is on attitudinal changes rather than on the acquisition of information. Past researchers have stated that the overall purpose of CCT is to improve an expatriate's probability of success on the foreign assignment (Black &Mendenhall, 1990; Forster, 2000) by equipping the expatriate with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for cross-cultural adjustment, effective on-the-job performance, and interaction with the host nationals (Forster, 2000).
If CCT is a vital factor in predicting expatriate success, as has been suggested by past research, why do many multinationals continually fail to provide adequate training for their expatriates? According to Tung (1982), the most common reasons why western multinational enterprises neglect preparatory training for international assignments include the following reasons: training is not thought to be effective; lack of time; the temporary nature of most assignments does not warrant budget expenditures for training; lack of knowledge of how to carry out training and what courses should be offered (lack of training experts and expertise); no need for training because there is a belief that technical skills are the only ones needed to carry out assignments abroad; and the right people do not need to be trained. This lack of training is said to lead to a higher incidence of expatriate failure. Expatriate failure results in costly consequence (Bennett, Aston & Colquhoun, 2000). This is supported by Storti (2001) who states that when failure does occur, it is costly to organizations, including missed opportunities, poor productivity, and diminished relationships that can be more costly than financial expenditures. There is the belief that the reason why an early return is often seen as the ultimate sign of failure is because it is much easier to identify than measuring underlying factors (Bennett et al. 2000). Other indications of a failed assignment may be delayed productivity and start-up time, disruption of relationships between host and expatriate nationals, damage to company image, lost opportunities, negative impact on successors, and poor repatriation integration leading to high turnover (Bennett et al., 2000; Littrell, Salas, Hess, Paley &Riedel, 2006). According to Selmer, Torbiörn, & de Leon (1998) there are some uncertainties about the effectiveness of CCT. A study by Puck, Kittler & Wright (2008) tested the impact of CCT participation and comprehensiveness on the expatriate adjustment and found no positive relationship. However, many studies have come very close to meeting all criteria and have shown strong empirical and methodological support for the value of CCT (Kealey & Protheroe, 1999). Although being aware about the importance of cross cultural training and the effects of expatriate failure can influence an expatriate's experience, it is also important to know how the timing of training can also influence an expatriate's experience.
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When training expatriates it is important to ensure that they take part in training before departure (pre-departure training) and once they arrive in the host country (post-arrival training. Pre-departure training is said to help expatriates form more realistic expectations of the host culture and work environment (Littrell, et al., 2006), whilst post arrival training addresses the real-time issues that are prompted by experience in the host country (Bennet, et al., 2000). The most common practice for providing CCT by most multinationals is the provision of pre-departure training (Forster, 2000). Some researcher believe that pre-departure CCT is most effective when conducted prior to departure for the foreign locale (Caligiuri, Phillips, Lazarova, Tarique, & Bürgi, 2001; Forster, 2000) because the expatriate is able to form more realistic expectations of the host culture and work environment. However, there are other researchers who argue that post-arrival training will be more effective. They prefer post-arrival training because the training programs can address real-time issues-the issues that are prompted by experiences in the actual culture (Bennett et al., 2000). It is unclear as to which of CCT programs, pre-departure or post-arrival, is the best to use, however there is a new model of CCT that encompasses the advantages of both pre-departure and post-arrival-the sequential model of adjustment (Selmer et al., 1998). Selmer et al (1998) propose that CCT training programs should be structured to correspond to the cycle of adjustment that most individuals progress through in foreign cultures. This model is based on the assumption that the impact of training differs throughout the various phases of the foreign assignment in that the individual will be more psychologically receptive to training interventions at certain stages in the expatriate assignment (Selmer et al., 1998). Therefore, they suggest that training should not be solely offered pre-departure or post-arrival. Rather, it should be offered pre-departure, post-arrival, and after return to the home country. But ensuring expatriates receive this training pre-departure, post-arrival, and after return to the home country does not ensure success. The timing of providing these training programs can also have an effect. For instance, if cultural training is given too close to the actual departure date, the expatriate will be overwhelmed, but given too early, the risk is that the expatriate will simply forget about everything. According to Bennet et al (2000) the ideal time of pre-departure cultural training should be completed anywhere from a month to three weeks before the move. Thus, training expatriates culturally can increase his or her knowledge, skills and abilities to function effectively on the assignment, especially when provided at the appropriate time.