February 19th, 2018, Hamburg: the Salzgitter International Training Program (SITP) 2018 starts with thirteen young professionals of the Salzgitter Group from Brazil, China, the United States, France, Poland and Germany. The participants share the target of expanding their Salzgitter worldwide network and improving their soft skills. During three modules in three different German cities (Hamburg, Hannover and Dresden), they will learn about working techniques (e.g. setting priorities, saying “no”), communication in intercultural environments and of course a lot of self-reflection to enhance self-perception.

Let’s have a look at the first module in Hamburg:

Group BrauhausDay 1 of the SITP: All 13 participants gathered in the boutique hotel ‘The George’ in Hamburg City. The diverse group started with a warm-up round to get to know each other better and to share the expectations of the upcoming days and modules. Mr. Frank Gießelmann of central Salzgitter HR made a presentation to welcome everybody and to provide a framework for the program. The efforts for business culture change in Salzgitter under the YOUNITED umbrella were one of the main topics. Our trainers, Nikki and Michael, introduced the topic of communication which is a key factor for understanding each other, especially in an intercultural environment. An exercise gave us insights on important aspects of effective communication. The day was wrapped-up with preparations for our company presentations, which lasted some hours because every group was eager to present themselves in the best light.

On day 2 we started with guidelines for giving and receiving feedback which is again a key factor for self-awareness and working together. The trainers focused on the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of feedback and supported us in practicing feedback. How time flies! Suddenly it was time for the company presentations. Everybody was excited and eager to present their Salzgitter company to the rest of the group. The presentations had two targets: getting to know each other’s companies and improving our presentation skills. The second main event of the day was the ‘Fireside Chat’ with Mr. Frank Haesendonckx of KHS Corpoplast in Hamburg. We had the chance to ask him questions outside the daily business constraints in an easy-going setting. Personal traits and KHS Corpoplast business were just some topics covered. Besides the pleasant chat, we had the practical chance to use communication tools like skillful questioning.

Kaminabend des SITP-Team mit Frank Haesendonckx, KHS Corpoplast

fireside chat of the SITP-team with Frank Haesendonckx, KHS Corpolast

The topic of day 3 was culture, in particular managing cultural differences. In today’s global business environment, cultural differences strongly influence etiquette, workplace values, the way of thinking and communication. In order to experience this first-hand, we were divided into three groups with the task of creating cultures based on values and behaviors. These cultures also included our historical, geographical and environmental identities. After building identity with the “new” culture, our mono-cultural groups were mixed up. When two or three cultures come together, the question is: combine or integrate. It’s quite easy to reach an agreement and harmony with a mono-cultural background, but multi-culture proved less easy. Nevertheless, the desire to survive is coupled with a keen sense of responsibility for the good of the society. This exercise taught us that in the multi-cultural business world, reaching a common view, strategies and win-win situations based on an awareness of cultural differences is extremely important. The trend of globalization is irreversible, thus understanding cultural differences and how they evolve is therefore essential for doing international business successfully.

After the exercise, we were organized into our own cultural groups to discuss cultural dimensions and stereotypes. The cultural dimensions taught us not only to analyze the implications of differences but to find mutual balance as well. We also discussed stereotypes, for example how these simplifications help us to deal with unknown partners or cultures, but also keeping in mind the imperfect and exaggerated character of stereotypes due to our own cultural glasses. What we should do is to realize and understand the imperfection of our knowledge and acquire more complete observations in intercultural communication and replace stereotypes by own cultural experiences.

Magic StickDay 4 was all about team development. We learned about the four phases of the team development process (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing), and discussed how to identify these phases in our teams at work as well as how to reach the most important phase – performing. The intent of teamwork is to focus on and reach a shared goal. We practiced this in what we thought to be a simple exercise. Our aim was to bring a stick – resting on our index fingers only – down to the floor. We tried, unfortunately in vain and took home the experience, hoping to make it better in the next module.

In the afternoon, we deepened our team spirit during a guided walking tour in Hamburg and finished the day with a delicious beer at a local brewery.

The last day of module 1 dealt with self-management, setting priorities and saying “No” which we elaborated in smaller groups and discussed afterwards. With all the new learnings, we spread out for the last time in small groups to define a personal goal to implement the learnings and develop our skills between the modules. For sure, during module 2 in June 2018 all of us will find out, if we got any closer to our desired goals.

During module 1 we had the great chance to get to know colleagues from different Salzgitter subsidiaries all over the world. We learned about cultural differences and team building, we had the opportunity to experience the learnings within the intercultural group, which is now the “SITP 2018 Team”. We are looking forward for regathering in module 2 in Hannover and sharing the “real life experience” about the learned topics of module 1.