The Importance of Cross-Cultural Training for Expatriate Managers in UAE

Becoming expatriate anywhere in the world is pretty much of a challenge with numerous pros and cons. While the positive side of it is obvious and includes international experience, good business opportunities, and solid income, multinational corporations (MNCs) hardly ever dedicate enough of the resources to help expats in adjusting to their new cultural surroundings. One of the main issues is the absence of appropriately qualified, globally oriented managers and the fact that most corporations focus only on the advancement of job-related competencies of their expatriate managers.

Dr. Rizwan Tahir, an Associate Professor of Business at RIT Dubai, and Dr. Gürdal Ertek, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Abu Dhabi University (ADU), have undertaken one of the first qualitative study regarding this matter in the UAE, aiming that the results help global HR executives to produce effective cross-cultural training (CCT).

The study provides information about the historical setting of the UAE, investigates the existing theories in the areas of expatriate management, describes the followed methodology and discusses the results.

Dr. Ertek and Dr. Tahir have used the databases of Expatriate Associations in the UAE, to select respondents for the study. The qualitative data on which this research is grounded was acquired through interviews with Western expatriate managers in the UAE from January 2016 to January 2017. Participants came from different backgrounds and displayed a diversity of gender, age, marital status, family type, professional experiences, and education while the average age of the respondents was around 50. They came from UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

It was found that of the 25 participants in the study, 19 of them had received some formal cross-cultural training, either prior to their arrival or during their stay in the UAE. All participants who had encountered issues during their adaptation to living and working in the UAE claimed that the adjustment process would have been easier had they received some cross-cultural training. Studies from 90s had revealed some of the main reasons for not having proper cross-cultural training: Such training may not be considered to be viable; lack of time; the temporary nature of most of the overseas postings; lack of ability concerning how to conduct such training; the absence of training specialist and expertise.

Western expatriate managers may end up managing staff from different cultures and nationalities. They, therefore, require an in-depth and functional understanding of both the local and the various other cultures of the neighboring countries.

The results of the study  revealed that the managers who were given cross-cultural training adjusted more quickly in their assignments, and were relatively more satisfied than those who were not given any such training. Furthermore, cross-cultural training decreases the severity of cultural shock and reduces the time required to adjust to and feel comfortable in the new culture. It also shortens the time required to become more productive during the assignment in the UAE. The research has also demonstrated that multinational corporations in the UAE can provide adequate cross-cultural training and support not only for their expatriates, but also adequate training and support to the expatriate’s family members.

Results of this unique study may help global HR executives to produce better CCT projects that can assist expatriate managers and their families.