From a U.S. perspective, training efforts often do not address the needs of the international business traveler, as most HR programs focus on topics concerning race, gender, age, and disability in order to ensure compliance with federal equal opportunity laws. While these may be worthwhile programs to help manage the diversity of the U.S. workforce, they do not address the diversity among other cultures and countries. Therefore, hundreds of American men and women travel outside their home country to conduct business using U.S.-based communication skills. This is not unusual; I frequently observe it in my professional role as an international trainer for a large transnational corporation. I believe that companies that take the initiative to develop effective programming are rare. An example of one such company is Interstate Bank, which took their cultural diversity program to a new level by including socio-economic class as a major factor in learning how to deal with their diverse population. (Thomas, 1996, 87) Dealing with the implications of the socio-economic status of employees and/or customers is an innovative approach to dealing with real-world issues, so that the organization can appropriately target particular groups of people. Another positive example is Aramco, a large Arabian-American oil company, that provides employees and their families with three intensive training days, orienting them on issues such as Islamic culture, geography, use of alcohol, and recreation. (Lee, 1995, 23) Through experiences and successful ventures, companies like these are learning the benefits of preparing employees, through cross-cultural awareness and education, to be successful communicators and business people in our diverse world. When transnational corporations choose to ignore or neglect this type of programming, they may end up with wasted financial resources and frustrated employees. Employees can be placed in uncomfortable situations because they are not educated in effective cross-cultural communication skills. This may cause them to be ineffective in their business ventures, job tasks, and, when applicable, homelife abroad. The challenge lies in looking at alternative ways to begin teaching employees about managing cross-cultural issues.


Human Resources Management