- Strategic thinking involves SYSTEM THINKING, reframing (e.g., positive thinking), and reflection (e.g., evaluating one’s reasoning). Strategic thinking is best enabled in unforceful leadership communities and has positive effects on information seeking behavior (Pisapia, J., 2006)
- A system thinker (as compared to a linear thinker) is able to improve the performance of a whole by not only improving its parts but by enhancing the RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE KEY PARTS systemwide.
- Often, solution approaches are rather reactive and focus on addressing symptoms rather than the underlying problems. CHANGES COMES AT THE LEVEL OF CULTURE, mindset, by regenerating MENTAL MODELS based on (self-) awareness.
- Be aware of the heuristics (“rules of thumbs”) in DECISION-MAKING STRATEGIES. For important decision, mental shortcuts may rely too heavily on limited (personally available) and representative (personal image) information.
- Although GLOBAL MOBILITY SURVEYS (BGRS, 2016) report the strategic importance of global mobility function for the competitive advantages of large organization, only 10% of the respondents answered that their company’s global mobility strategy is aligned with the broader talent agenda.
- Immersion into international assignments/expatriation may foster more deep LEARNING ABOUT THE ‘HOW’ AND ‘WHY’ of how foreign cultures on the otherwise invisible level work. This can be beneficial for individual career capital and talent retention.
- Different career trajectories (e.g., dual careers) require a more strategic ALIGNMENT OF LIFETIME STAGES AND CAREER STAGES that are integrated into the organization’s strategic direction.
- Cultural tightness (independent of nationality, culture, and legislation for gender equality), in some organizations in some countries, hinders ADVOCATING WOMEN LEADERSHIP (Toh, Leonardelli, 2013)
- REVERSE/BACKWARD MENTORING can help to bring together the younger generations’ digital talent and the older colleagues rich experience, while providing both a possibility to engage and develop (Claire, 2011).
- More PROFESSIONAL FREEDOM, MEANINGFUL WORK, and WORK-LIFE BALANCE tend to constitute job characteristics increasingly crucial as a high-level tendency across different cultures. The question remains how far these can be achieved in environments of fierce competition and profit requirements.
Advancing globalization requires new workplace competencies . Among Global Talent Managers, there is the sobering realization that people working in an increasingly global environment find themselves challenged in acquiring the necessary cultural agility  In today’s world Global talent management, mobility, and cultural agility belong together . “Bridging the global skills gap” through international assignments was rated as a priority for more than 1,200 globally surveyed CEO’s (. p. 19).
The term “cultural agility” was already used before as, for example, by Freedman (2003) who saw cultural agility to be needed in teams working around the world . In Caligiuri’s (2012) book, the same is more specifically defined as a mega “Mega-competency that enables professionals to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations . . . [it is] a combination of natural abilities, motivation to succeed, guided training, coaching, and development over time” ( pp. 4–5). In Caligiuri’s work, one can find a later leaner version that goes as follows: “Cultural agility is the ability to quickly, comfortably and effectively work in different cultures and with people from different cultures” . Other researchers accepted cultural agility to play a role in cross-cultural professional contexts .
As per the analysis of Gibbs and Boyraz (2015), cultural intelligence (CQ), global mindset, and cultural agility are sometimes used interchangeably, and most scholars might agree that these concepts are in minimum inter-related . In the form the cultural agility mega-competency is broken down into four categories that are behavioral, psychological, cross-cultural interactions and decisions, and comprising of a dozen more specific components, cultural agility seems to contain all that is needed to perform successfully in cross-cultural settings . The so-called “jangle fallacy” (Kelley, 1927, as cited in Brenneman, Klafehn, Burrus, Roberts, & Kochert, 2016) exists when a construct is conceptualized differently and, therefore, also named otherwise . This is roughly what was found when analyzing four frameworks related to the field of cross-cultural competency (C3) . A generally agreed-upon definition of C3 is that it is the “knowledge, skills, and affect/motivation that enable individuals to adapt effectively in cross-cultural environments” .
Multinational enterprises (MNEs) today often use the term “cultural agility” to describe their expectations regarding employees’ “flexibility.” The ability to adapt culturally intelligent to local situations, from such a usage perspective, addresses the need to be responsive in a global marketplace . Cognitive complexity refers to the ability to switch between distinct cultural demands  and strikingly illustrates how agility suggests “movement” as an organizing principle . “Cultural adaptiveness” in that sense is only one out of three possible “responding moves” that define cultural agility. The second is “cultural minimization” that is required from an employee when putting a supervisor’s command above a cultural norm, and third, there is “cultural integration” that is the consideration of concurrent cultures as, for example, in a multi-cultural team .
Some authors also distinguish cultural learning and cultural agility as two aspects of 3C (; ), matching the discrimination between “understanding about” and “knowing to use knowledge” as pointed to in Hounsell (2016) . It is the notion of cultural agility that is meant to be required to integrate cultural inclusion respectively to use the knowledge of inclusion to manifest it in a behavior that is producing inclusive organizational results . Therefore, for the further course of this systematic review, the following short definition is used: Cultural agility is “related to the ability … to use your cross-cultural learning effectively” . Training and development are significant for International Human Resources Management (IHRM) . The question to be investigated by this research aims to shed light on how much focus exists in the literature on the “usage” aspect of cultural knowledge. A systematic review shall provide for the answer by analyzing the relative emphasis put on training (i.e., specific knowledge/skills acquisition) as compared to development (i.e., a longer-term gathering of experiences and lessons learned as applicable fur improved cultural agility). Furthermore, developmental approaches shall be studied and reported to potentially support GTM practices in their challenge to extend their repertoire of available approaches and measures.
For Methodology and Results details, see Appendix A.
Similar to this systematic review’s finding that only 20% of the analyzed articles did specify cultural agility in connection with training and development, others found that only one out of four companies do assess cultural intelligence or agility in their international assignment candidates . Although in Lundby and Caligiuri’s (2013) survey cultural agility was rated as the third most important senior leader quality, the results of this review tendentially lean to support existing gaps in delivering brand success in GTM and a related need for not only training technical skills but developing cultural agility competencies , . Foreign culture on-site programs like the Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL)  may be effective solutions to narrow the gap. Interactional experiences with peers from other cultures seem to be an effective path to develop cultural agility .
Implications and future research
The findings and discussion in this article imply that experiential development opportunities should be sought by GTM practices to supplement a learning system towards increased effectiveness in developing cultural agility . A stronger link between organizations GTM function and their international assignee selection should be established. Psychological measures like the Cultural Agility Climate Index (CACI) could be used to support candidate and assignment effectiveness assessments . Measuring the current state would provide for the basis justifying the sustainable investment into cultural agility competencies . Watson (2014) found that diversity and inclusiveness training is standard practice, while the long-term building of cultural agility was found to be a less usual investment .
A facet of cultural agility this study came across too is the motivational component of the construct. While “willingness” had been included already in earlier conceptualizations of cultural agility , the term “agility” does not naturally imply such a component. Interestingly, Caligiuri, Baytalskaya, and Lazarova (2016) came later up with a construct of “cultural humility” and found evidence for its effectiveness in enhancing leadership skills, performance, and engagement . It would be interesting to see how the concepts of cultural agility and cultural humility could be integrated as some scholars still see cultural agility and the will for cultural adaptation as complementary rather than inclusive concepts .
More research should have been done to evaluate the precision of the use of the terms “training” and “development” in the analysis of this systematic review. It can be that the inclusion of synonyms or the more in-depth study and interpretation of the literature analyzed would have led to different results. Also, relying on Google scholar search and only processing around 30% of the results does not represent an as complete study as possible. Also, the result interpretation may be biased as it was not benchmarked against any further industry standards than mentioned in the article.
This study identifies components and evaluates the focus on training and development in the cultural agility literature. This paper found introductory that cultural agility potentially surpasses the scope of cross-cultural competency (C3) as it entails a behaviorally consequential nature that makes it especially practical for GTM considerations . On the other side, possible motivational aspects of cultural agility need to be further clarified.
In any case, for various sectors in a continuously globalizing world, the development of cultural agility through experiential means such as mobility programs  could gain even more popularity as a promising success factor for MNEs’ search and development of talents.
This study assumed a descriptive, quantitative analysis-based approach of a systematic literature review. Systematic reviews help the creation of a scientifically derived summary of available evidence . It is not known to the author of this review that another study did systematically review the research question related to training and development focus on promoting cultural agility.
The systematic review as designed in this article first selected from the University of Liverpool (UOL) discovery database books, e-journals, and theses with the search term “cultural agility.” Second, the Google Scholar search widget on the same (UOL) portal with the same search term was used to retrieve more documents. The UOL discovery database search found 13 documents published in 2012 or later, whose checking resulted in the exclusion of 2 irrelevant and one non-accessible (commercially protected) file, leaving 11 documents for analysis. The Google Scholar search found 424 results, of which 130 were books, e-articles, or theses. Out of the 130, 63 sources were accessible for download. The check for the inclusion criteria of equal or higher than the year 2012 further reduced the population to 47 documents that have been downloaded then and analyzed. The publication date 2012 as an inclusion criterion seemed appropriate considering this is the year of the publication of Paula Caligiuri’s book “Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals.”
Data extraction and analysis
The analysis of the available documents included an in-document search for “agility” and “agile” to get to the section where a potential definition or description of cultural agility could be found; the according passages have been examined and studied for finding answers to the research question. In this process, additional 8 documents have been excluded due to irrelevance. The total number of included texts, therefore, was 50 and represents a significant amount of relevant and recent data sources across a broad range of scientific journals and other scholarly resources. The analysis report table documents copied text snippets from pertinent passages of the analyzed files. Due to space limitations, these were kept rather short without providing much further context.
Among the 50 documents derived from the databases and Google Scholar, nine were found to contain a mentioning or elaboration related to “training,” and six instances were found that include developmental aspects. Consequently, only 32% of the analyzed document did prominently refer to training and development in their section about cultural agility. A simultaneous presence of “training” and “development” appeared in five papers. In table 1, the 11 reportable results are outlined. The results indicate that more research articles do mention “training” as compared to “development” with regards to the concept of cultural agility. A couple of interesting operationalizations of cultural agility development were found as will be shown in the discussion section.
Table 1. Training and development in cultural agility related articles
|1||Mukerjee (2014). As universities become increasingly global in their reach and operations, cultural agility is likely to be a competency that will be sought after and reflected in the recruitment, training and development processes ||x||x|
|2||Dinwoodie, Quinn, and McGuire (2014) Strategic Drivers for Leadership for expansion into international markets: Cultural agility—promote the predisposition to appreciate diversity and develop cultural intelligence to operate successfully in unfamiliar territories. ||x|
|3||Gibbs and Boyraz (2015) These concepts – cultural intelligence, global mindset and cultural agility – have each been extensively studied in terms of leadership, but they have yet to be applied to team level processes. For instance, Caligiuri (2012) regards cultural agility as a necessary skill of global business professionals. These professionals are usually CEOs and top managers responsible for more strategic organizational functions, who generally get more customized training, coaching, and development, rather than lower level virtual team members. / Attracting global team leaders and team members with the important skills needed to manage cultural diversity – cultural agility, global mindset, and CQ – is an issue with significant implications for IHRM, not only for training and development but also for selection of team members. ||x||x|
|4||Hounsell (2016). The development in students of a global outlook or global mindset generally focuses on the internationalisation of curriculum content within and across disciplines or subject areas. The knowledge gained takes two main forms. The first is a fuller understanding about other nations and cultures, or the use of knowledge and perspectives derived in or from other nations and cultures, leading to what has sometimes been called ‘cultural versatility’ or ‘cultural agility’. In HKU’s overarching goals for four-year degrees, this is referred to as intercultural understanding. ||x|
|5||Vega (2012). The creation of an informative guide that addressed cultural agility in emergency medicine would benefit both the EMS and Vietnamese-American communities. ||x|
|6|| Honnor (2013). Explains how the learning and development function at Infosys supports its global activities by developing competences that offer the organization global and cultural agility.||x|
|7||Synoground (2013). Cross-Cultural Competency (C3) has surfaced as the term to describe cultural ability and adaptability in personnel. Cultural Agility, a term coined by Dr. Paula Caligiuri, is used here to describe a degree of talent that surpasses C3. Using these concepts as a framework, the analysis herein will make suggestions designed to improve cross-cultural talent recognition and recruiting practices and introduce a potential training paradigm to fit the traditional GPF and SOF/IW framework of the services. ||x|
|8||McKinley (2016). Internationalizing the curriculum: explicitly pugng in assessments or program requirements that relate to cultural agility ||x|
|9||Jameson and Goshit (2017). program participants (domestic and international) to develop the intercultural skills, knowledge, and mindsets to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries. For the IPDF this typically includes cultural agility, open mindedness, respect, patience, empathy, leadership, an understanding of intercultural communication styles, willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone, as well as a basic understand- ing of the impact of power and privilege. ||x|
|10||Martin and Zhang (2017). The main goal of the course is to further students’ understanding and knowledge of education and business leaders’ best practices and how they can apply these best practices to their current career, as well as their future career within the education arena. The course objectives are consistent for both the domestic and international trips and are as follows: – Researching emerging global paradigms, best practices, and structures in education and business. – Analyzing international assessment measures -implement, understand drivers, improvement. – Building learning partnerships with global school and business leaders. – Increasing students’ global awareness, perspectives, and cultural agility. – Understanding the transferability of global educational and business systems. – Understanding the external environmental impact on education and business. ||x|
|11||Pace, A. (2012). After detailing each of these competencies, Caligiuri shares how readers can attract, recruit, assess, select, train, and develop culturally agile employees. / As far as workplace learning and development, Caligiuri notes: “A learning system to develop cultural agility needs to include two parts, cross-cultural training and experiential development opportunities.” ||x||x|
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- Matching national and organizational cultures
- Prizing of social capital on individual, institutional, and societal levels
- The ‘paradox of unsocial sociabilities’
- Global citizenship, international careers, and the culture of global nomadism
Matching national and organizational culture
According to Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998), social capital is “the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from relationships” (as cited in ). However, it is not enough to design global leadership development programs with the goal to share knowledge according to national cultures in multinational enterprises (MNEs) without carefully making sure that the program also matches the organizational cultures involved (Espedal, Gooderham, & Stensaker, 2013).
Prizing of social capital on individual, institutional, and societal level
How the built social capital is prized depends on context. For example, Singaporean bureaucratic and political elite prizes social and cultural capital from the US, UK, and Western Europe highly as a result of Singapore’s unique history . In academia, it is known that the apt use of researchers’ social capital in the form of international research networks helps significantly in achieving excellence . On the other hand, global mobility experiences that come with a personal value such as new perspectives and knowledge about different cultures and systems can be not valuated as social or cultural capital by the home environment and therefore doesn’t get utilized by the respective institutions and organization . There can be even biases on individual, organizational, and societal level because of strong interpersonal and intergroup processes preventing non-discriminatory perceptions of the intercultural aspects they are confronted with .
The ‘paradox of unsocial sociabilities’
The ‘paradox of unsocial sociabilities’ describes the behavior of individuals who aspire to grow their professional global connectivity but remain emotionally relatively uninvolved locally . In the case of expatriates, they can be conflicted between resistance and acceptance of the new culture as part of incorporation its possibilities within themselves . For people from collectivist cultures, the loss of their societal embeddedness might not be felt as compensated  by the newly gained increase of social capital from a global perspective. Money can replace social capital in the sense that knowledge transactions can be bought anywhere (e.g., banking, legal, and medical services, etc.), independent of location .
Global citizenship, international careers, and the culture of global nomadism
Social capital networks reinforce themselves  and education, financial means, and access to information and communication technology determine to what level talent can be optimized  . To get access to global social capital, globalized forms of education to foster global citizenship is recommended by the UN . Often international assignments don’t necessarily lead to returns home and can result in onward mobility and international careers within a community, which shares a culture of global nomadism  that is of horizontal multi-cultural nature . The alignment of an individual’s lifetime stages and an organization’s strategic direction can be helped through a mentoring, mutual help in storying and career/goal alignment that is managed by a well-integrated Talent and HR Management practice .
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Summary. The increasing number of expatriates reflects the need for multinational enterprises (MNEs) to compete in a global knowledge economy. Despite high pressure, mobility program cost management practices are often weakly formalized. To take full advantage of international assignments, the assignees’ gained knowledge should be matched with required job competencies. The ratio of parent-country nationals (PCNs) at subsidiaries is influencing business performance. Also, besides defensive and retaliatory actions, relational measures can be used to maintain access to social capital in case of poaching in the host country. Finally, intercultural training based on clearly defined goals for business and leadership development purposes can increase the success rate of international assignment significantly.
Over 200 million extra-national employees worldwide
The number of employees assigned to foreign countries in 2013 was 214 million people, tendency increasing . This article focuses in places on a multinational enterprises (MNEs) setting of interdisciplinary digital businesses from a Japan perspective (with global reach) that is heavily relying on knowledge and relationship-based intangible data assets.
Room to evolve in aligning the role of mobility with talent management
The information technology industry continues to be a growing sector with fierce competition and cost pressures . While almost half of IT companies do not systematically measure international assignment costs, companies respond sensitively to cost factors. For example, as a reaction to surging residence costs for expatriates, Japanese companies in 2014 sent 10,000 employees less to China than still in 2012 when the number was at 57,000 . Also, an international assignee attrition rate that could be problematic for a company when too high seems to exist in the IT sector, with survey results reporting a 25% of assignee loss as compared to overall survey respondents’ average of 14%. Generally, assignee’s increase market value serves as an explanation for their moving on to better career opportunities outside of the firm. The Japanese tenure- rather than market-value-based employment system  could mitigate that risk though. On the other hand, some Japanese expats may not return due to concerns with too much discriminating, rigorous, and long working hours required in the Japanese working world, as a popular Japanese blog suggests . In any case, to mutually benefit from mobility programs, both the employee and the firm should be able to count on HR’s ability to match the expatriate’s knowledge with job’s required competencies . Furuya (2007) suggested the deliberate and proactive use of appropriate HR policies and practices (e.g., job analysis) that help realize the advantages of global assignments . Indeed, successful mobility has become a barrier for Japanese MNEs; yet formal programs are rarely in place .
One out of five Global Mobility Trends IT sector survey participants responded that they do not know their business need for internationally experienced talents . Not enough parent country nationals (PCNs) at subsidiaries is curbing business performance; too many PCNs, however, let performance decline due to increasing resistance against loss of local identity . The APAC region’s (IT) companies see Brazil and second, Taiwan as their favorite destinations for foreign assignments beyond 2015 . From a host country’s perspective, e.g., Taiwanese firms seek Japanese employees’ knowledge  and increasingly poach Japanese workers . For MNEs, relational actions such as alumni to keep access to human social capital might be an additional alternative to overly defensive or punitive measures .
Need for intercultural training
20% of international assignees reported difficulties in acclimating to the new culture. Also, people from strong cultures like China and Japan tend to stick with their compatriots . Therefore, intercultural training  and/or timely termination (in case of issues) of expatriate projects are crucial to avoid relational damage . Also, separate but integral goals and strategies for business and talent development should be defined in Japanese MNEs mobility programs . Sufficient language proficiency has to be fostered too to enable an efficient knowledge transfer .
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