Instructional Design for Training in India

Posted On: October 31, 2014

What should I keep in mind when considering instructional design for training programs in India?


Mapping a training strategy

For a US culture training, I deployed a culture intelligence quiz. Each participant would take this quiz and analyze how they fit into the US culture. Designed by Westerners for a Western and predominately, American audience, this approach was a disaster in India. Though I only deployed these highly touted (and expensive) tests a few times, each time, it was received with horrible reviews. Participants would “feel bad” to take such tests or managers would tell me that these tests hurt the sentiments of the participants. 

While these kinds of quizzes are very popular in the US to identify individual cultural fit or even how to fit individuals into teams, in my experience in India, these kinds of quizzes are not received well at all. Instead of personality quizzes, people want games, role plays, and activities. Indians have a lot of creative juices. They prefer to use these creative juices playing, acting or getting up and doing something. Americans on the other hand, may find such activities novel, but not appreciate them for corporate learning on an ongoing basis. Maybe the newer millennial generation could be an exception to this. 

In the article 34 Tips for Training in India, the author shares seven tips for designing your training programs to fit Indian audiences. Here, I will share my feedback and experiences with his tips. 

Class Organization
From the get-go if it is possible to break the class into groups, ask them to give a group name and play games to deliver concepts, they will love it. Assure that the concepts are discussed in the debrief, often through more direct, but open-ended questions. Ask them to also share how they can apply these learnings to their work. During the group discussions, walk around and sit with the groups and discuss a few points with them. Then, at the end, have each group present their feedback either by choosing one person to talk or forcing the group to present as an entire group, assuring each person stands up and speaks something. 

If your games get them to discuss the theory rather than listening to you blather on through PowerPoints, they will enjoy the training, learn more, and like you more. Which means you will be able to come back again! 

What to Talk About
To emphasize your points, whenever possible add in these elements:

  • Quotes from Famous People
    While I have used a few quotes from time to time, I really focus on giving quotes or telling stories from people like them who have done what they are about to do. More than Americans, Indians need that personal connection. I often tell stories about my Indian friends in the US and how they have experienced certain elements of American culture. Don’t worry NRI friends, I don’t use your names!
    Better than quotes, use photos or videos of people like them in the materials if possible. Once, an Indian friend and colleague who helped me design a course contributed her photos and stories of life in the US to the training. We made that into a short slide show and shared it during the session. The response was amazing. They audience stood up and cheered. Many of them asked me to send personal thank yous for sharing her story with them.
  • Sentimental Elements
    It’s ok to share a little feeling in your presentations. In the US, we may not appreciate it, but in India it is often well received. For instance, in one training program, someone asked me about why I do what I do. I said it was because, “I saw Indians in the US struggling to understand the US culture. Some of my friends who were very smart lost out on good career opportunities due to a lack of understanding of the culture. I am not only here to help you with these situations, but I am here because I deeply, truly care about your success.” After this, I did get a bit sentimental. And, after this, the audience connected with me on a bit deeper level and even to this day, three years later I am in touch with many from that session.
  • Culturally Relevant Stories or Examples
    Telling stories is a great technique, but if it is a story that is not relatable to the audience, then the value is lost. Interestingly, some common stories in the US culture could be common in India. For instance, the story about the boy who cried wolf does appear in Malayalam. I am forgetting the Malayalam translation of this title, but once I happened to want to use this story in a training program in Kerala, so I asked the audience if they had heard of this story. Some had heard of the English version. As I went on telling it, a few participants were happy to say, “This story is also in our culture. I have heard it in Malayalam growing up.” If you know the name of this story in Malayalam, please type it in the comment section below. 
To summarize, planning the look and flow of content in a training session and how it’s facilitated does vary from culture to culture. Learning a little about how Indians learn and absorb information will help in customizing the content to fit the learner’s need. Now, the trick is learning to feel comfortable delivering the same content in a new and fresh way! 

Author, Jennifer Kumar, has been delivering face to face and online live instructor led training programs to professionals in India since 2011. Jennifer, a US citizen, has lived in India for 10 years. She has earned a master’s degree in India, started and run a business in India, and lived in a cross-cultural family. She provides training and coaching to help you succeed as a foreigner working as an expat in India or working with Indians on remote, virtual, global teams. Feel free to contact her if you’re interested to know more. 

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Previous article, Managing Time in India 
Connecting with Indians in the Training Room 


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