have found that Japanese, on average,
are unaccustomed to pictographic
Consider whether a symbol is easily
understood and achieves the intended
meaning. Instead of using only a pictogram, add text in the trainee’s language. If you are unable to find the right
symbol to convey a specific meaning for
one hazard, consider delivering a message
about overall risks, provided that such a
message complies with regulations.
Similarly, when you use eye contact,
facial expressions, body language, or
other nonverbal techniques, ascertain
that they are not objectionable to or interpreted differently by individuals with
diverse cultural backgrounds.
who do not have a good command of
the language used in training, speak
slowly and convey one message at a
time. Repeat as necessary. Avoid colloquial expressions and jargon. In a mixed
audience where some are proficient in
the language and others are not, schedule extra time afterward to work with
those who may not fully comprehend the
materials presented, so those who have a
better understanding are not bored.
People who are not fluent speakers
may have an easier time communicating
in writing. They may also prefer face-to-face conversations over phone conversations—some words are easily misheard
over the phone, so speaking slowly and
clearly is crucial.
sults. Provide an opportunity to perform
a practice test if possible.
Deep-rooted traditions may inhibit
some trainees from implementing what
they have learned if it is drastically different from their culture. After the training, follow up with encouragement,
support, and reinforcement.
Challenge and Opportunity
If you are conducting training outside
your home country, understanding the
culture of the host country is imperative.
Other considerations such as logistics
come into play as well. Regardless of the
location, your goal is to meet training
Training a multicultural work force is a
challenge that requires OEHS trainers to
overcome the barriers of linguistic diversity and cultural differences. It is also an
opportunity for trainers to expand their
horizons and help their employers or
clients take advantage of the globalization
of work. To achieve these purposes, trainers should enhance their cultural intelligence and apply culturally sensitive
communication and facilitation skills.
Employ Suitable Instructional and
Training in some countries is based heavily on lecture. Trainees from such countries may be unfamiliar with other
instructional strategies, such as role-play
or group discussion. Their cultural orientation toward reticence and formality and
their concern with losing face creates
barriers to learning. Explain the process
to them in a positive and encouraging
manner. Promote a supportive learning
climate. Allow them plenty of time to adjust to the new learning experience.
Modify your communication style
and pattern according to your trainees’
customs and traditions. For example,
people tend to speak louder in some
cultures than in others. Preferences in
direct versus indirect communication
may differ—an important consideration
when giving or soliciting feedback.
If your audience includes individuals
Check for Comprehension
As always, you should encourage participation, solicit questions from trainees, and ask
them questions. Some trainees may be culturally predisposed not to ask for help.
People who aren’t fluent in a language may
be afraid of asking questions, of not being
understood if they speak, or of making
mistakes, so help them by building trust
and encouraging feedback. For trainees
who come from a culture where collectivism
prevails, consider using a trained peer
from the same culture as their role model.
Check for comprehension at regular
intervals. Note that some trainees may
nod or say “yes” to indicate that they
are listening, not necessarily that they
When selecting a testing method or
deciding on the use of computer-based
training or testing, consider whether the
trainees’ language ability or computer
literacy might affect training or test re-
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Across Cultures. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press (2003).
2. Globish Solutions Inc.: “Globish.”
[Online] Available at
www.globish.com. [Accessed July 4,
3. Smith-Jackson, T. L., and A. Es-suman-Johnson: “Cultural ergonomics in Ghana, West Africa: A
descriptive survey of industry and
trade workers’ interpretations of
safety symbols.” Int. J. of Occup.
Saf. Ergon. 8(1): 37–50 (2002).
4. Hara, K., et al.: “Results of recognition tests on Japanese subjects of
the labels presently used in Japan
and the UN-GHS labels.” J.of
Occup. Health 49( 4): 260– 7 (2007).
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