Which competencies are the most in demand for international business?
And what type of business training do companies need to invest in to ensure their talent pool is equipped with the competencies required to succeed in markets around the world? These are questions which continue to come up in the conversations with our clients. Consequently, the next question usually is:
How do global businesses structure their training initiatives to provide talent and leadership development programs which address these skills needs?
First, let’s take a look at some of the 21st century abilities that are usually named by business and education experts: Showing technical or professional expertise, inspiring and motivating people, displaying integrity, analyzing, problem solving, communicating with impact, building relationships, thinking strategically, etc. The list goes on and on, and in fact there are plenty of excellent directories available online, e.g. the “19 soft skills every leader needs,” the “Top 10 skills every great leader needs,” the “Three skills every 21st century manager needs” or the “Critical leadership skills“.
What does global talent really need to learn in the 21st century?
According to a report by the World Economic Forum there is a gap between the skills people learn and the skills people need, and traditional educational methods fall short of equipping students with the knowledge they need to thrive. And too often business training fails to provide programs to fill this gap.
In our experience, many of the so-called soft skills have become part of business training curricula, which is a good thing. However, too often professionals receive instruction in these skills based on the social norms of their home culture. Communicating (verbally or non-verbally), giving feedback, negotiating, delivering unpleasant news, saying “no” and handling resistance, managing change, dealing with difficult colleagues, building morale, recognizing good work – all of these leadership strengths are hard enough to develop in your own culture. Successfully executing these tasks in foreign markets and with multinational teams is an entirely different ball game.
Know when to apply business training and when to rely on coaching
If you look at the image above you’ll see which 21st century skills the WEF report has identified. You’ll also notice those circled in yellow: These are the fields our trainers focus on when working with our clients. The fact that the WEF report acknowledges the foundational relevance of cultural and civic literacy is a validation of our work. While cultural competence and communication skills can be taught via well-designed business training programs, character traits like adaptability or cultural awareness require some time to develop.
Smart learning and development teams understand the different effects of training and coaching for their employees. One approach shouldn’t exclude the other, though.