Implementation of SKILL2E Cultural Mentoring Model at COPA-DATA
COPA-DATA is an SME based in Salzburg but acting internationally through branches and distributors on all continents in over 50 countries and as diverse as . The company produces HMI/SCADA, Dynamic Production Reporting and integrated PLC-System software for dynamically optimizing production processes. Their main product is the automation software zenon. The success of zenon worldwide requires a culturally competent workforce to facilitate customer interaction, properly addressing customer needs and to communicate appropriately across business and organizational cultures. Building intercultural competence has been recognized as an important factor in implementing COPA-DATA’s slogan Do it your way not only as related to the software solutions but also to establish mutually beneficial customer relationships.
In the preliminary preparatory discussions, two main groups were identified at the Salzburg headquarters with respect to the need for intercultural competence building in the organization:
1) Administration: These employees have fairly few direct interactions with people from other cultures. It was agreed, however, that the necessity for awareness raising towards intercultural issues is also relevant for this group, especially if capacity building in the organization itself was to be taken seriously.
2) Sales / Technology /Training: These employees are actively involved in customer relationship building and have frequent interactions with people from other cultures though with varying intensity. The need for intercultural competence building was acutely felt and seen as highly required.
It was also restated that the main objective was to build sustainable intercultural competence in the organization as a whole, in order to leverage the creative potential of diverse teams.
The overall approach at COPA-DATA fully adhered to the mentoring concept devised during the project lifetime. COPA-DATA also committed to using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as a supportive measure to identify the individual and organizational orientation towards other cultures. The IDI was both used for individual feedback conversations as well as for customising the sensitivity training through the group profile.
As the focus is on capacity-building in the organization and enterprises need to monitor progress to justify expenses, a three-phase approach was conceptualised and agreed. Phase 1 focused on awareness raising and sensitivity training as well as identifying suitable mentors. Phase 2 would see the actual mentor training and supervised first attempt at delivering mentoring. Additionally, a further group would be exposed to sensitivity training. Phase 3 would, on the one hand, comprise the continuation of the actual mentoring with supervision and sensitivity trainings and, on the other hand, the training of new additional mentors and their first supervised rounds of mentoring. Each phase would be concluded by an evaluation and feedback part as to spot potential problems, remedy these and generally, to optimize the approach for all involved. For all phases, the company would leave participation except for trainers in the field, on a voluntary basis.
In more detail, the three phases involve/d the following activities:
Phase 1 (January to December 2013) : Awareness Raising / Acceptance Building for Intercultural Competence as a Vital Success Factor
a. Identification of originally 18 volunteers from all teams across the above mentioned two groups with a stronger representation from group 2
b. Generation of individual and group IDI profiles
c. Personal feedback sessions on the IDI results of roughly 30 minutes with 14 of these volunteers to trigger their self-reflection and critical assessment of their current attitude and communication as well as behaviour towards people from culturally different backgrounds
d. 1-day training with 12 participants, respectively 2 participants who were unable to attend the originally scheduled training. This training was customized on the basis of the IDI group profile as well as the identified individual needs. It focused on sensitizing participants for the topic, addressing attitudes and culture-general knowledge and skills through short theory inputs and hands-on exercises. Critical incidents and examples in the training were as much as possible taken from, respectively related to the personal experience of participants and the cultures they usually had to deal with. It was, however, clearly communicated that this training had a culture-general not a culture-specific orientation
e. Evaluation, feedback and lessons learned from Phase 1
Phase 2 (January – July 2014): Mentor Training and Supervision / Continuation of Sensitivity Training
a. Selection of mentors from the volunteer group in Phase 1. Criteria included suitability against SKILL2E mentor qualification profile, the expected impact on the organization and, of course, their willingness to act as mentors
b. Intensive 2-day Mentor Training with 3 participants based on identified needs of the two potential mentors; focus: skills development like active listening, non-judgemental behaviour, appropriate communication, feedback giving and taking as well as conflict resolution in an intercultural context
c. Generation of IDI-Profiles of further 9 volunteers
d. Personal feedback sessions on the IDI result
e. 1-day sensitivity training with further 9 participants (details see Phase 1)
d. Evaluation, feedback and lessons learned from Phase 2
Phase 3 (planned for September 2014 - ): Implementation of Cultural Mentoring and Start for Mainstreaming
a. Continuation of active mentoring with supervision
b. Continuation of mentor training
c. Continuation of sensitivity training
d. Evaluation, feedback and lessons learned from Phase 3
With the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.