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ATD Blog

The Global Workplace


Wed Aug 31 2011


The Global Workplace: Learning Beyond Borders examines the challenges organizations face in developing the skills of employees consistently across the organization in locations near and far from headquarters. There is much more to global learning and development than simply developing and delivering content for regions outside an organization’s headquarters. Many considerations must be taken into account to establish and sustain an effective global learning and development function, including resources, governmental issues, cultural concerns, organizational design, and delivery approaches. And this development must be done in such a way that all employees are positioned to support the organization’s goals and strategy.

Sponsored by the International Coach Federation (ICF), ASTD and i4cp’s report is based on a survey of 637 respondents, half of whom reported that their organizations are currently offering global learning or planning to do so within three years. In addition to the survey, follow-up interviews were conducted with select respondents, who revealed persistent concern about rapid growth many organizations are experiencing outside their headquarters and the corresponding challenge of effectively communicating to new hires the nuances of the corporate culture.


Key findings include:

• Every region poses challenges.

• Among the top challenges faced with global learning programs, respondents cited language, translations, and cost in that order, followed by budget and time zone differences.


• More subtle challenges range from multifaceted cultural divides to resistance to change.


• Organizations are grappling with issues such as deficient technological infrastructure and capability in some regions of the world.

• Cultural differences and language divides require a high level of adaptation and patience on the part of all parties involved.

While some respondents described the challenges of global learning and development as infinitely rewarding, there also was acknowledgement of a degree of frustration. Some learning professionals said they continue to find that no matter what programs they create, certain regions will continue to resist them. Instead, they create their own programs and initiatives that organizations don’t always have visibility to and sometimes discover inadvertently.

There is little doubt that for global learning and development initiatives to be effective, learning professionals must be flexible, open-minded, and adept at relationship building and diplomacy. This diplomacy must be present in their organization’s headquarters as much as in other regions and countries. There are times when a balance must be struck between the goals of the organization and the preference of another culture, and this may require compromise. While some cultures are more receptive to curriculums developed outside their region, others prefer to write their own, and some may unequivocally insist upon creating their curriculums. The understanding and insight required to be able to make these decisions is essential to the global success of an organization.

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