ATD Blog

Training Across Time Zones

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

While it is important to keep in mind a number of variables when training across cultural and geographic areas, the most critical factors are no-brainers: time zones, and the differences in time between you and your trainees abroad. These problems are clear, but being aware of the differences in time and reaching compromises to reconcile those differences will help greatly in making your training more effective. Here are some best practices to consider for dealing with time zones.

Rotate Times
Rotating times is a great way to ensure that meeting times are chosen evenly and that the burden of making the required time isn’t too great for one side. All sides should be “sharing the pain.” Depending on the time differences, there may be some inconveniences for participants from one region involved in the training. To offset this, the next session should be scheduled for the most convenient time for that region, even if it’s slightly inconvenient for others.

Rotate Trainers and Trainees to Coincide With Time Zones
Similarly, teaching and learning roles can shift around with the changes in times. This is another way to ensure fairness within the group and makes sure that someone isn’t leading or receiving the lessons just because they’re in the “best” time zone.

Include Each Person’s Time Zone in Introductions
Along with all the other relevant contact information that is needed, establishing each person’s time zone right away makes group collaboration easier for everyone.

Integrate Polling to Keep People Engaged
Polling helps to make everyone feel involved in the decision-making process regardless of how far away they may be from others.

Be Certain That Tech Support Is Available
There are a number of options currently available that allow for quick and easy virtual training sessions, but regardless of which you choose, make sure that tech support can be readily accessed to keep things running smoothly in case problems arise.


Ensure Participants Are Ready and Motivated
Ideally, everyone should be fully prepared for a training session across time zones, just as they would be if the participants were meeting in the same room. This keeps the process painless and helps to accomplish the next tip.

Keep Sessions as Short as Possible
Having training sessions across time zones can require sacrifices, not the least of which involves setting aside some inconvenient times. All participants should be ready to meet, and getting down to business can avoid making things more painful than they have to be.

Rest When Preparing for a Trip
Though this may be obvious, preparing to travel out for that big in-person meeting requires you to be as sharp as possible to make the best impression. Rest is essential to minimize the effects of jet lag and help you adjust the rest of your patterns and schedule when you arrive. Also, ensure you are well rested to compensate for time differences in case you are training when it would be the middle of the night in your own time zone.


Use UTC (aka GMT) to Avoid Daylight Savings Time
Much of North America and Europe practice Daylight Savings Time; however, the practice is not nearly as common in other areas of the world, and the dates when times change can differ. Setting meeting times using UTC can help avoid confusion.

Use Multiple Technologies
Phone calls and teleconferencing may not be convenient at all possible times. Other technologies, such as group chat and other online tools, can provide some viable alternatives to allow for easier training session setups.

The Global Dynamics website has a resources page with several handy links to help you with your intercultural business needs. This includes a links to global time references, international dates and holidays, and other helpful tools, such as global meeting planners.

About the Author

Neal Goodman is an internationally recognized authority on globalization, global mindset development, and cultural competence for global corporations. His programs have helped hundreds of thousands of corporate executives to be more effective in international settings by learning how to apply a global mindset. Global Dynamics, the company he co-founded in 1983, designs, organizes, and implements programs that support global mindset development, cultural competence, global team building, global leadership, virtual workforce effectiveness, and diversity and inclusion in leading Fortune 500 companies that wish to succeed in the global arena. As CEO of GDI, he leads a team of more than 400 innovative, cross-cultural experts from around the globe to create in-person, blended, and web-based solutions for his clients.

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