The role and characteristics of the professional intercultural trainer in the South African workplace
Organisations invest in training and development to compete financially on an international level. The organisational environment is characterised by cultural diversity as a result of international immigrants, organisations expanding across international borders, as well as the cultural diversity within a given country. South Africa is no less different with its eleven official diverse languages characterised by unique cultural practices and ways of interaction. The development of a culturally diverse workforce who can interact effectively towards the achievement of the organisational goals can be supported by making use of qualified intercultural trainers. The qualification of an intercultural trainer has received considerable attention on an international level but a gap exists on a national level as the cultural component required to interact with culturally diverse learners has not been incorporated into the current qualification of the intercultural trainer. Prompted by this, the main aim of the study was to determine the ideal role and characteristics of the professional intercultural trainer in the South African workplace and to integrate these findings into a proposed curriculum framework for the training of intercultural trainers. Firstly, a narrative literature review was conducted to review the training and development platform with the focus on intercultural competence and the role of the intercultural trainer on a national and international level. This allowed an understanding of the required intercultural competence and the role of the intercultural trainer in an organisational environment which is characterised by cultural diversity. Reviewing the role of the intercultural trainer, various themes emerged from literature which suggests that an intercultural trainer should create and foster a learning environment, use effective training delivery methods and remain continuous life-long learners. Furthermore, an intercultural trainer should engage in self-reflection, establish credibility with trainees, and conduct a needs analysis. Literature further suggests that an intercultural trainer should evaluate the outcome of training objectives, obtain experience in the training and development industry and develop learning materials. As part of the role of an intercultural trainer, he/she should have subject matter expertise and be able to facilitate learning. Secondly, an exploratory qualitative study was conducted in which data were collected by means of face-to-face semi-structured interviews with twelve registered trainers who conducted training in services and production organisations located in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. A limitation of this study was that it was conducted within the Nelson Mandela Bay area, as the study was self-funded by the researcher, and budgetary constraints imposed a limitation on the scope of the sampling that was feasible. Therefore, the scope of the sample was limited to cluster sampling by focusing on a specific area, namely the Nelson Mandela Metropole. Findings revealed several characteristics in the form of knowledge, attitudes and skills components which participants valued as ideal for an intercultural trainer. The themes that emerged in the knowledge component suggested that intercultural trainers should have a training qualification to conduct training in a culturally diverse environment, acquire knowledge of training methods that are culturally appropriate, gain cultural awareness when interacting with learners, acquire knowledge of the learner’s background which include the learner’s academic, occupational and cultural background, acquire knowledge of the socio-economic and political conditions in order to understand and relate to the background of culturally diverse learners, and be a subject matter expert in obtaining knowledge in a specific subject that relates to his/her educational or occupational background. Several other themes emerged from the findings as part of the skills component. The skills component was divided into two main categories namely interpersonal and management skills. Skills that formed part of the interpersonal category included communication skills, language awareness, listening, questioning, emotional intelligence, conflict management, assertiveness and self-control. Themes that emerged as part of the management category included problem-solving, analytical, action, planning and preparation, goal orientation, time-management and flexibility. Additional themes that emerged from the data included the necessity for intercultural trainers to possess observation, presentation and professional skills. Furthermore, the analysis of the data also pointed to the importance of certain attitudes. Various themes emerged in the attitude component which comprised of having a positive approach, motivation, curiosity, empathy, patience, respect, trustworthiness, tolerance for ambiguity, determination, humour, open-mindedness, non-judgemental and self-efficacy. Two prominent findings congruent with literature signifies that an intercultural trainer should demonstrate respect and empathy towards learners to understand their diverse cultural backgrounds including their cultural beliefs, values and meanings. Thirdly, in an attempt to develop a curriculum suitable for qualifying intercultural trainers nationally, the findings culminated in a curriculum framework. The devised curriculum framework incorporated the role and the knowledge, skills and attitudes components as part of the characteristics of an intercultural trainer. Each of these components was defined and aligned in accordance with the requirements set by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) with regards to learning outcomes to be achieved in each learning component. The devised curriculum framework was developed by using the six-step approach by Kern and his co-workers for curriculum development (Kern, Thomas, Howard & Bass, 1998). The curriculum framework was evaluated by an expert panel and their feedback formed the final part of the findings generated in this study. The researcher recommends that this framework serve as the basis for further development and implementation of a formal, recognised training qualification for intercultural trainers working in South Africa.
- Humanities