Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cultural training moves offshore

From: ITworld

At a software development facility in Bangalore, trainer Saparna Jain is filming a conversation among Indian software engineers that she will play back to them with tips for improvement.
Although these software professionals have been educated in English, their native tongue still has a strong influence on the way they write and speak English, according to Balakrishna Jayasimha, behavioral consultant and founder of Wynnwood Consultants in Bangalore.
Wynnwood and TrainCraft are two of a growing number of such training outfits in Bangalore. Their key clients are software development and business process outsourcing (BPO) subsidiaries of multinational companies, as well as Indian outsourcing companies whose business comes primarily from the U.S. and Europe.
The training often does not stop at improving communications skills and "neutralizing" Indian accents, but also includes coaching in Western culture and etiquette, which in training industry jargon is called "cross-culture sensitivity."
Indians have very elaborate etiquette codes. But Western etiquette is a mystery to many of Bangalore's workers, who have traditionally preferred to eat with their hands, have avoided formal Western suits as unsuitable for the city's climate and shunned toilet paper as less hygienic than plain water.
The new business in training staff in Western communications skills and etiquette has attracted a number of entrepreneurs, many of them former employees in the hospitality industry.
Software companies with a large number of staff traveling abroad also need to familiarize employees with the culture and etiquette of countries they visit. About 40 percent of the 1,600 staff at the software development and technical support subsidiary in Bangalore of LogicaCMG PLC travel often to the company's key markets in the U.K. and the Netherlands, where they interact with both customers and LogicaCMG staff, said Sameer Khanna, head of training, compensation and special projects at the Bangalore operation of LogicaCMG, which is based in London.
CWSolution focuses on collaboration between software development teams in India and the U.S. The training programs include both Indian and U.S. staff. "It is very important that the American understands that this collaboration is not about re-engineering Indians to become Americans, but about Indians and Americans finding a common platform by which they can extract the maximum benefit," Craig-Jones said.
However, training non-Indians on Indian culture, values and manners is not big business, according to Jayasimha. The culture industry in Bangalore is mainly a one-way street, as most multinationals and Indian outsourcing companies focus only on training Indian staff to be able to operate in a westernized culture, he said.

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