CULTURAL MENTORING IN ENTERPRISES - A WAY TO IMPROVE CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING BY USING STUDENT PLACEMENTS IN ENTERPRISES AS AN EXAMPLE
This session outlines the cultural mentoring concept designed in the context of the SKILL2E project, an EU-funded multilateral university-enterprise cooperation project with partners from Austria, England, Finland, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the US. It addresses the issue of sustainable intercultural competence acquisition and successful integration of students in transnational placements. While students studying abroad can usually draw on a number of preparatory and accompanying measures including mentoring from their own and the host university, this aspect has often been neglected with students on placements abroad. Both the student and the enterprise, usually focus on a domain-specific task to be carried out during the placement period. In many enterprises, therefore, training with regard to intercultural competence and attention to cultural issues is often only considered at higher managerial levels and for employees on international duty. On the other hand one can also see that mentoring usually is something that takes place between new employees (not students) and more experienced employees. Furthermore the focus is here clearly on the cultural mentoring, not mentoring as such. Cultural mentoring can in this project involve both national, professional and company cultures. However, the role of the national culture will be highlightened since we have chosen to look at transnational placements (internships).
SKILL2E started in October 2010. One of the first goals was to get a good insight into former research on the topic. Establishing a thorough theoretical framework provides a firm a basis which can be further developed by interviewing companies ( 2010-2012). The here defined concept will later on be piloted and implemented in university-enterprise cooperation where the student take the role of the mentee and the enterprise representative will take on the role of the mentor. The unique context for our implementation will however be taken in to consideration when focusing more on the concrete implementation plan for a cultural mentoring program for international internships in enterprises. The context will also be considered when specifying the qualification and task profiles of the mentor. It details a qualification and task profile for cultural mentors aimed at best identifying and resolving culture-induced workplace conflicts at any level. Thus, motivation and integration of placement students can be enhanced, their potential fully leveraged and performance increased. The concept is designed in close cooperation with enterprises and could provide a general model for managing the increasing diversity of today’s workforce.
The session has four main objectives and stages:1) introducing the concept both from the university and enterprise perspectives 2) outlining the integration of the concept into the overall SKILL2E approach with pre-departure training, mentor/mentee training and accompanying intercultural reflection 3) discussion of enterprises’ perspectives on the cultural mentoring so far 4) discussion of benefits with cultural mentoring