As the world’s economy becomes more global in scope, more and more companies are rethinking the way they do business – everything from redesigning websites to attract a global audience to investing in overseas manufacturing and distribution facilities. At JLG Industries Inc., efforts to embrace a global economy also include an internship program that moves beyond job training to teach cultural nuances and encourage community outreach.
This past summer, the JLG Class of 2012 interns piloted an online cross-cultural training program that teaches cultural sensitivity and awareness, while enhancing cross-cultural business skills.
According to Michael Kannisto, Ph.D., director of talent management and talent acquisition at JLG, “The students entering our internship program are wired to be global. Many of them grew up in multi-cultural families, played in multi-cultural groups and are accustomed to working in teams, often with multi-cultural members. What’s more, they’re communicating with tools that provide instant connections to the world around them. At JLG, we acknowledge their global roots, and we have created an internship that builds upon and enhances their global experiences. Using this summer’s class of interns to pilot the CultureWizard program seemed to make perfect sense, given their backgrounds, their experiences, and their interests.”
CultureWizard is an online training program that is designed to create awareness of the impact culture has on people’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. “We see it as a way to help employees better understand cultures around the world, including social and business practices, so they can work together more effectively to serve our customers,” said Kannisto.
Intern Stephanie Song agreed, adding, “The program also helps you learn about yourself, your personality and your own culture – why you do the things you do and how that knowledge can improve both your personal and your professional relationships with individuals from other countries.”
As a native of China, Song is especially interested in the program. A graduate of the master’s program in human resources management (HR) at Rutgers University, Song joined the JLG internship program after meeting Kannisto at an HR conference. She was interviewed several months later in China, and offered an internship in the U.S.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to begin my career in HR,” she recalled. “The best part was they asked me to actually work on the internship program, helping to set up the program and coordinate intern activities with colleagues in JLG facilities around the United States.”
Her responsibilities also included rolling out the CultureWizard program to her fellow interns. “I was particularly interested in the program’s culture calculator, which helps you identify your personal preferences – what you value in your life and your work and how that compares to others in your home country as well as more than 125 other cultures. In my case, it helped me recognize the differences between the Chinese and American cultures, including business protocols and behaviors, and adjust some of my behaviors so I can work more effectively with Americans.”
Another of JLG’s 42 summer interns, Michael Dziados, also participated in the CultureWizard program and appreciated learning about cultures around the world. But the emphasis JLG places on community outreach equally impressed him. JLG offered its interns the opportunity to participate in a Habitat for Humanity project in Hagerstown, MD.