The days when expatriate trainers could arrive in Eastern Europe like conquering kings and queens are long gone, says Oliver Perkins. Nowadays the demands of learners are extremely high and second best simply won't do. Here's his first report from the training front line in Romania.
As Europe expands, so do training and team building opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe for UK based organisations.
With companies such as Nokia in the news for having recently relocated here and with hundreds of multinationals already established, demand for external providers is on the up and opportunities abound in the former communists bloc. However, before the entire British training industry packs up and heads East in search of easy pickings, it's best to do some background work and get the basics right before jumping on that EasyJet flight.
Over the past 10 years I have watched in anticipation as wide-eyed, opened-mouthed trainers come to the region only to leave days later with their tails between their legs and their egos packed in suitcases much smaller than the ones they arrived with. In their wake, long-suffering training directors are left to pick up the pieces and repair the damage.
The facts of the matter are that the days when expatriate trainers can arrive in Eastern Europe like conquering kings and queens are long gone. Nowadays the demands of learners here are extremely high and second best simply won't do. Similarly, whilst many of us in the training industry manage to bridge the cultural gap, some simply fail due to lack of adequate planning and ignorance.
I recall one such trainer who arrived in Romania and greeted the group with the immortal words "it's great to be in Budapest" which of course would have been fine had he have been in Hungary.
I have heard stories about trainers who arrive with the attitude that West is best, which may be true in some instances but having it rammed down Bogdan's or Natasha's throat with irrelevant Anglo centric metaphors doesn't exactly bode well for glowing happy sheets.
Whether you work in Moscow or Moldova, basic common sense holds true. We must, despite that fact that many participant's speak English beautifully, always adapt our language patterns to the fact that most of our audience are non native English speakers. Of course slowing down doesn't mean dumbing down, and if you do so you can be sure that a bunch of burly Croatia sales people will let you know!
Generally speaking those that do succeed know that they have to add value in the training room, do their homework beforehand, learn a couple of words of the local lingo, modify their language patterns and show genuine interest in the host country where they are working.
There are also some very good cultural awareness and induction workshops on the market too. I would certainly recommend them to anyone who plans to be a part of a medium to long term project.
The reality is that each country in the region is remarkably different, whether it's the Latin vibrancy of Romania, the hospitality of Serbia or the generosity of Bulgarians. But perhaps the one thing, in my experience, that unites all of the learners in the region is that after a period of state control, people's ambition, desire to learn and openness to new ideas is strikingly obvious. This in itself is good reason for any trainer to hop on a plane.
With this in mind, it's now up to us - trainers and facilitators - to get the basics right and the rewards, financial and otherwise, of working in an immerging market, with all its difficulties, can lead to a remarkable experience.
Oliver Perkins is the MD of Brainovate, a Bucharest based training organisation. For information on training, team building and venues in Romania you can contact him at [email protected]
Or see the website www.brainovate.com