Lived experience of Indian employees with training

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Lived experience of Indian employees with training a phenomenological study to understand training customization for culture
Ponnappa-Brenner, Gitanjali
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xiii, 237 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Occupational training ( lcsh )
Foreign workers, East Indian -- United States ( lcsh )
Employees -- Training of -- United States ( lcsh )
Educational anthropology -- United States ( lcsh )
Educational anthropology ( fast )
Employees -- Training of ( fast )
Foreign workers, East Indian ( fast )
Occupational training ( fast )
United States ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 220-237).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Gitanjali Ponnaooa-Brenner.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
606841223 ( OCLC )
LD1193.E3 2009d P66 ( lcc )

Full Text
Gitanjali Ponnappa-Brenner
B.B.M., Mount Carmel College of Management, 1997
M.B.A., Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Education Leadership and Innovation

2009 by Gitanjali Ponnappa-Brenner
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Gitanjali Ponnappa-Brenner
has been approved by
Rodney Muth
fate //////a?

Ponnappa-Brenner, G (PhD, Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Indian Employees of a Multinational Company: What is their experience with
standard training? Building a Case to Customize Training by Incorporating Local
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor, Laura L. Summers
The purpose of this phenomenological research study is to describe the
experiences of Indian employees of a global, multinational company with standard
training. The intent of the study is to gather a deep understanding of what it means to
be an Indian employee and receive standard training and if there is a need for
customization of training. Currently, many American companies have a large number
of employees in India. The percentage of employees in India is rising, making it more
and more important to gain insight into their daily lived experiences with the training
they receive.
This study describes the training experiences of six Indian employees
of a global, multinational company who are living and working in the United States
for a few months. Each of the participants has completed some standard training such

as Ethics and Compliance, Respect in Action, and Harassment in the Workplace in
the past year. Each of their experiences is described in individual summary stories,
which give rise to certain themes, Sense of Community and Collectivism, Highly
Contextual and Hierarchical Frame, and Corrective and Content Customization
Perceived as Effective. These themes represent the essence of their experiences with
the training they receive. Quotes from the actual interviews provide an opportunity
for the reader to reflect upon the voice of the participants and increase the credibility
of the research study.
The emergent themes give rise to recommendations to the corporate
world and to the instructional design community on customizing standard training for
the local culture of Indian employees. The researcher acknowledges the very need for
customization of training for culture to promote equity of learning. The researcher
recommends rethinking existing instructional design approaches to support multiple
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Laura L. Summers

One needs the help of an entire village to grow rice.
My mother, Usha, for filling my bucket of self-esteem so high that nothing
can empty it. My father, Ponnu, for his conviction that I am worth all of this. Rich, for
sacrificing his time with me, so that I could pursue my dream of higher education.
Dick and Janette, who shared every up and every down with me. Vinay, for sharing
secrets on how to survive a doctoral program and have some laughs along the way.
Hilary, the one-who-went-before-me, for graciously sharing every trick in the book
with me. Pete, my mentor, manager, and friend, whose support allowed me to attend
classes yet keep my job! My many friends, who kept tabs on my progress, and stayed
in touch even when I could not. Finally, Ajax, my buddy, for staying up late nights
and not thinking I am crazy to run ideas by him.
Thank you.

List of Figures..................................................xii
List of Tables..................................................xiii
I. INTRODUCTION....................................................1
Research Question............................................5
Research Design.............................................10
Personal Narrative..........................................11
Additional Background.......................................16
Chapter Summary and Dissertation Overview...................20
II. LITERATURE REVIEW.............................................23
Community of Practice.......................................24
Organizational Culture............................................25
Educational Background of Indian Employees........................27
Existential Reality...............................................28
Culture Defined.............................................31

Theoretical Framework........................................36
Trompenaars Cultural Value Orientations..........................36
Hofstedes Cultural Dimensions....................................39
Types of Training............................................41
Typical Approach to Customization............................43
Three Cs of Customization....................................49
Chapter Summary..............................................58
III. RESEARCH DESIGN...............................................60
Planning Phase...............................................60
Research Question and Phenomenology as a Method..............63
Sample Selection.............................................66
Interview Setting............................................69
Informed Consent Process.....................................70
Data Collection..............................................70
Bracketing and Centering.....................................72
Phenomenological Data Analysis...............................79
Data Management..............................................83
Trustworthiness Features.....................................84
Chapter Summary

IV. FINDINGS AND INDIVIDUAL SUMMARIES..............................89
Survey Results................................................89
Description of the Trainings Discussed........................92
Ethics and Compliance...............................................92
Harassment at the Workplace.........................................93
Respect in Action...................................................93
Security Awareness..................................................94
Arriving at the Stories.......................................94
Individual Summaries..........................................95
Ajay: The One in the Boat...........................................96
Arjun: The Experienced One.........................................108
Amav: The One Who Struggles with Whats Ethical....................115
Rahul: The One Who Wanted to Talk More.............................121
Rishi: The One Who Craves Social Interaction.......................130
Samir: The One Who Needs to Relate.................................136
Chapter Summary..............................................142
Arriving at Themes...........................................143
Major Themes and Essence of the Experiences..................144
Sense of Community and Collectivism................................144

Highly Contextual and Hierarchical Frame....................152
Corrective and Content Customization Perceived as Effective.160
Essence of the Experiences..................................165
Challenges of the Present Study.......................169
Promote Equity in Learning..................................174
Rethink Instructional Design Approaches.....................178
Encourage Instructional Designers Understanding............183
Further Research......................................185
Establish Causal Relationships..............................187
Justify Cultural Customization..............................188
A. RESEARCH FLOW.....................................194
B. E-MAIL TO IDENTIFY PARTICIPANTS...................198
C. OVERSIMPLIFIED VIEW OF STUDY......................201
D. LIST OF PSEUDONYMS................................203
E. EMPLOYEES DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY......................204
F. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS...............................205

H. LEARNING OBJECTIVES...................208
I. DIVERSITY WHEEL.......................210
J. MEMBER CHECK EMAIL....................211
K. COMMUNITY CHECK EMAIL.................214
L. MEMBER CHECK RESPONSE.................217
N. GLOSSARY OF HINDI WORDS...............219
N. GLOSSARY OF HINDI WORDS...............219

Figure 1. Cost spectrum.................................................8
Figure 2. Community of Practice (CoP) of Indian employees.............25
Figure 3. Terms used in describing cultures across a spectrum.........35
Figure 4. Common training terms........................................42
Figure 5. Some elements to customize standard training................50
Figure 6. Indian culture on a spectrum of cultural dimensions.........54
Figure 7. Engaging with employee participants.........................67
Figure 8. Interview questions for Indian employees....................78
Figure 9. Data analysis................................................81

Table 1. Employment in India by Select Large Non-Indian Software
Table 2. Global Software Services Spending and Indian Share by Categories of
Table 3. Survey Results...............................................71

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Many multinational American companies have large numbers of employees in
India (Dossani, 2005). Typically, instructional designers who create training content
for employees in the United States also devise training for employees in India (Gilley,
Greer, & Rasheed, 2004). The result is that too often, Indian employees receive the
same standard training without any modifications (Krishna, Sahay, & Walsham,
2004), and Indian employees of large multinational companies increasingly feel like
commodities (Krishna, Sahay, & Walsham, 2004): They do not feel valued by their
organization (Bhagwati, Panagariya, & Srinivasan, 2002; Commentary: Outsourcing
jobs Is it bad?, 2003; Kenney & Dossani, 2007). This research examines the
experiences of Indian employees of a large multinational American company with
standardized training designed in the United States, and focuses particularly on their
perspectives regarding the standardized training they receive.
The world economy is evolving rapidly and changing how, where, and with
whom firms conduct business (Friedman, 2005). Global labor markets are
increasingly fluid, allowing both jobs and workers to move across borders (Palich &

Gomez-Mejia, 1999), and many organizations now have employees worldwide
(Bhagwati, Panagariya, & Srinivasan, 2002). Outsourcing has become an established
practice as U.S. companies seek to control costs and increase profits (Currie, Desai,
Khan, Wang, & Weerakkody, 2003). In its simplest terms, outsourcing is a business
arrangement whereby American companies send work to countries with lower labor
costs, such as India ("Commentary: Outsourcing jobs Is it bad?," 2003). This work
can range from straightforward operations like back office functions, such as
accounting and payroll, and front office functions, such as customer service, to more
complex, strategic functions like research and development (R&D) (Heeks, Krishna,
Nicholson, & Sahay, 2001; Kenney & Dossani, 2007). In 2006, approximately 20%
of the R&D budget of organizations was spent in the United States and in India
(Tyrrell, 2007).
Economic reasons have driven the rising trend of outsourcing to India for
more than a decade. India is attractive on many grounds, from preexisting economic
conditions to policies that allow outsourcing to be lucrative for corporations. India
has one of the worlds largest populations of highly educated, English-speaking
citizens (Heitzman & Worden, 2004). Workforce costs in India are significantly
lower than those in developed markets (Dossani & Kenney, 2003), and having access
to a talent pool of Anglophones in a country with historically cheap labor rates lowers
the cost of doing business.

One reason labor rates are low is that, prior to multinationals presence in
India, high unemployment or underemployment made many workers willing to accept
wages far below those paid to employees of the parent company (Dossani & Kenney,
2004b). For example, in 2002, the hourly wage of an employee in Kansas City, KS
was $12 and the hourly wage of a comparable employee in Mumbai was $4; a
software engineer in India earned $5,000 per year whereas a software engineer in the
United States earned $45,000 per year (Dossani & Kenney, 2003). Outsourcing entire
processes can save an organization up to 40%, and with complete business process
reengineering, the organization might save up to 50% within two years (Dossani &
Kenney, 2004a). With evidence of such savings, organizations continue to ramp up
the number of employees they have in India. As Table 1 shows, many large American
companies have a significant percentage of employees in India (Kenney & Dossani,
2007). A recent report estimated the number of Indian employees to be as high as 1
million for 2008 (NASSCOM-Everest India BPO study, 2008).

Table 1
Employment in India by Select Large Non-Indian Software Firms
Firm % employed in India Year
Oracle 20 2005
Adobe 13 2005
IBM 18 2007
Accenture 19 2007
Microsoft 7 2006
Since 2005, Oracle has based 25% of its workforce in India ("Careers at
Oracle," 2009). Adobes quarter-ending results for 2008-2009 show an increase in the
percentage of employees in India from 13% to 17% ("Adobe fast facts," 2009). IBM,
Accenture, and Microsoft reflect similar growth ("NASSCOM: IT services,
Engineering services, R&D and software products report," 2009). In the early 1990s,
the Indian government liberalized its notoriously bureaucratic economy, lifting trade
barriers, allowing foreign investment (Aghion, Burgess, Redding, & Zilibotti, 2003),
and opening the way for American companies to take advantage of Indias cheap
labor pool. Supporting this trend was the view of developed nations that data and

information are commodities to be processed in developing countries while they
focus on knowledge creation at home: Increasingly, if routine service activities can
be relocated to lower wage nations, the advanced developed nations will have to
compete in terms of superior creativity (Dossani & Kenney, 2004b, p. 42).
Research Question
The purpose of this study is to understand the effect of standardized training
on employees who are not native to the culture where that training originated. As
extant literature on this subject is sparse, a phenomenological approach is highly
appropriate for this study, which aims at understanding the perceptions and meanings
Indian employees construct around their experiences with out-of-the-box, off-the-
shelf training. The anchor of the study is the following research question: What is
the phenomenological essence of the experiences of Indian employees who receive
standard, non-customized training at one international company? The sub-question
that arises from this root question is How do Indian employees respond when they
perceive non-Indian influences in the training they receive?
Why focus on only India and Indian employees, when American companies
outsource to other countries as well? As Table 2 shows, a large percentage of the
multibillion-dollar software services industry does its business in India (Dossani,
2005). India is a significant player in this industry in three out of six segments, the

three segments being systems integration deployment and support, systems
integration applications and tools, and managed services.
Table 2
Global Software Services Spending and Indian Share by Categories of Work
Segments Global software services spending ($bn) Share (%)
Consulting 41.5 11.6
development Systems integration: Deployment and 18.4 5.1
support 91.7 25.6
Systems integration:
Applications and tools 62.4 17.5
IT education and
training 18.5 5.3
Managed services 124.9 34.9
Total 357.4 100
Multinational companies like the one in this study are increasing expenditures
on training for India-based employees. For Fortune 500 companies studied in 2007 by
the American Society for Training & Development, the average expenditure on

learning initiatives, as a percentage of payroll, increased from 2.05% in 2003 to 2.2%
in 2004 to 3% in 2007, holding the cost of creating training constant (Sugrue, 2007).
In this instance, the nearly 1% increase involves about $60 million (ASTD, 2005;
Sugrue & Rivera, 2005). An increase signifies an investment in employee training
(Cheese, Thomas, & Craig, 2008), which increases productivity, revenue, and profits
(Cappelli, 1999; Ghosh, Dutta, & Stremersch, 2006). Investment in training may be in
the form of mentor-apprentice programs, training developed in-house, or training
from third-party vendors (Chang, 2004).
Research shows that customizing standard training for the local culture
increases acceptance of training (Carrillo & Gromb, 2002), which lowers costs, as re-
training becomes unnecessary since the initial training effectively met learning
objectives (Isbell, Trutko, Bamow, Nightengale, & Pindus, 1996; Von Bergen &
Mawer, 2007). Companies indicate that return on investment in customized training
far outweighs costs (Ansari & Mela, 2003). Customization has the potential to reduce
information overload and aid decision-making (Cheese, Thomas, & Craig, 2008;
Nigam & Ghani, 2000; Redshaw, 2000b; Strother, 2002). Research also indicates that
effective training increases performance (Bhawuk & Brislin, 2000; Saner, 2002);
effectiveness of training increases with customization (Hager, Crowley, & Melville,
2003) and plateaus or decreases with generic or standard training (McLoughlin &

Oliver, 1999). Finally, culture has a known impact on learners goals, expectations
from the training, and communication modes (Bartel, 2000).
On the spectrum of cost, out-of-the-box training is at the lowest end (Hegstad
& Wentling, 2004; Redshaw, 2000a), with one-to-one mentoring at the highest end
(Fruend, 2005) and custom training at mid-range (Hegstad & Wentling, 2004), as
Figure 1 shows.
Low Cost
High Cost
Figure 1. Cost spectrum.
The high end of the cost spectrum encompasses many kinds of training, such
as (a) mentor-apprentice programs, (b) training developed in-house for a specific
objective (Cappelli, 1999; Ghosh, Dutta, & Stremersch, 2006), and (c) training from

third-party vendors (Galvin, 2003). These forms of training account for $6 billion in
training costs in the Training Magazines Top 100 companies (Von Bergen & Mawer,
2007). While costs associated with on-the-job training are difficult to measure and
determine (Bartel, 2000), training nevertheless has a positive and significant effect on
productivity levels (Bartel, 2000; Doucouliagos & Sgro, 2001). Even so, most firms
fail to calculate return on investment (ROI) for training investments because of the
difficulties in quantifying training benefits, separating the influence of training on
performance improvement from other factors, and gathering the data necessary for an
ROI calculation (Bartel, 2000).
In one study, the estimated marginal rate of return for 100 hours of training
ranged from 11% to 38%, and doubling training in any year reduced the scrap rate by
7% for a saving of about $15,000 per year (Bartel, 2000). Scrap rate is the rate at
which generation of waste occurs during a process. Training costs are significant and
organizations continuously look for ways to reduce costs (DeNisi & Griffin, 2001).
Cost savings can be almost 13 times the cost of the training program, which translates
into a 1277% ROI (Doucouliagos & Sgro, 2001). That is, each dollar spent on
training returned about $12.77. The ROI on training represents a highly attractive and
very healthy return on funds spent on training (Doucouliagos & Sgro, 2001).
One way of reducing costs is to find the middle ground by using standard, off-
the-shelf training content and outsourcing custom training to vendors (Von Bergen &

Mawer, 2007). Custom training reflects a recognition of difference, which leads
learners from diverse cultures to feel respected (Nieto, 2002). If learners do not feel a
connection to the content, learning is limited, but if the content reflects the learners
cultural experiences, the derived learning is far richer (Hollins, 1996). Instruction that
allows culture to play a leading role gives learners permission to make sense of the
training in culturally relevant ways. A safe learning environment that permits diverse
ways of learning, understanding, and communicating provides learners with fertile
conditions for growth and engagement (Nieto, 1996). When learners are engaged in
the learning process, they participate actively in their learning. In a culturally
mediated instructional environment, inclusion of multicultural viewpoints in
culturally appropriate social situations creates congruence with the learners culture
(Durocher, 2004).
Research Design
Phenomenology offers the best approach for understanding the experiences of
Indian employees of an American company. Phenomenology, which is grounded in
the qualitative tradition of life sciences (Wojnar & Swanson, 2007), strives to arrive
at the essential truth, or essence, of participants experiences (Hancock, 1998) by
analyzing the stories of individuals who are immersed in the phenomenon (Flick,

Interviews conducted with six participants allow me to derive findings from
their stories. I requested participants to describe a recent standard training that they
have completed. Participants share their thoughts on the impact of the training on
their work and describe how they would improve the training. I analyzed transcripts
and interview notes to arrive at individual summaries, and then provides a complete
analysis of findings and emergent themes. To validate themes that arise from these
interviews, I used a process called member checking and asks certain individuals who
qualified to be in the sample but were not interviewed to review the findings and
themes (Brown, 2005). Chapter III explains the research methods, data collection, and
data analysis.
Personal Narrative
A personal narrative explains why I consider standard training and its effect
on Indian employees to be a topic worthy of research and investigation. I was bom
and brought up in India. I completed my undergraduate and Masters degrees in India,
and worked in India as an organizational development analyst (ODA) for an Indian
consulting firm with clients all over the world. As an ODA, I consulted with different
project teams to identify their training needs, manage any upcoming change, and
deliver any needed training. When the Indian firm I worked for provided an
opportunity to work with the largest insurance provider in the United States, I moved
from India to Bloomington, IL to the insurance providers head office, where my

colleagues were fellow consultants from India and employees of the insurance
At this insurance company, my job was to help these Indian employees
understand the work culture at the organization. I developed a training package to
help these Indian consultants better fit in with their American teams. The training
curriculum included topics such as the American work ethic, e-mail communication
with American colleagues, and interpersonal relations within a blended team of
Indians and Americans. The Indian consultants gave the training above-average
scores on the evaluative smile sheets at the end of the training, and the responses
from the smile sheets were used to calculate the overall score for the training. The
smile sheets addressed such questions as whether the class was of the right duration,
whether the trainer covered all learning objectives listed, and whether the trainee
would recommend this training to other Indian employees. Trainers refer to these
surveys as smile sheets because trainees tend to be in a hurry to complete the survey
or are uninterested in providing their feedback, and the data collected from the survey
usually do not reflect the true experience of the trainees (Jones, 1993). The true
experience of these Indian trainees came to me through informal conversations.
In informal conversations, my Indian colleagues expressed disappointment
that I was so naive as to think that a prescriptive, how-to training manual would help
them, and me, understand how to assimilate, live, and work in America! Some of

these colleagues were my friends, and they confided that they were surprised that I
had not provided any personal anecdotes of experiences of moving and working here
in the States. I felt that my colleagues were questioning my credibility as an Indian
instructional designer, and I was saddened that I had not thought how I could have
used my personal experiences to guide the training program.
In continued conversations with a few of my more critical Indian colleagues
and managers, I heard comments like, How do you even pronounce Marilee?! and
Why cant I write my usual Dear Susan instead of Hi Susan? Whats wrong with
using dear? Prior to coming to America, I had been through an orientation session
where the Indian trainer explained to me that using dear is inappropriate in the
American workplace as dear could be misconstrued as a romantic salutation. The
trainer recommended that I stick with using hi as a more neutral form of salutation
in e-mails. I included this comment in the training that I created for these employees,
but I never checked with any of my American colleagues to determine whether
Americans actually prefer the use of hi to dear.
These comments from the Indian consultants made me realize that I had
completely missed the mark with the training. I felt stupid, and I thought my
colleagues felt disrespected in that, while being Indian myself, I had not related to
their questions and had failed to address their concerns during the training. While I
was glad they felt comfortable teasing me about the content of the training, as teasing

showed I was one of them, I was troubled that they did not feel comfortable
candidly sharing such thoughts and feelings in the written course evaluation.
This courtesy bias the hesitancy to voice concerns or put anything on paper
- occurs primarily in Asian cultures where no one disagrees openly and individuals
avoid any topic that might affront (Colias, 2007). All test scores and course
evaluations showed nothing negative, but they did not reflect how the Indian
employees really felt about the training. Researchers analyzing trends of how Asians
answer on surveys are finding that Asians tend to pick scores on the higher end of the
scale (Willcocks, Hindle, Feeny, & Lacity, 2004). For example, on the smile sheet,
my Indian colleagues picked fours and fives on a scale from one to five, with one
being lowest and five being highest. The result was that the course evaluation scores
were above average even when participants experiences with the training were below
In the past few years, in casual conversations my colleagues from India have
made jokes about the standard training they receive, but none of them feels
comfortable enough to make a comment about it directly to the training coordinator
or even their own managers. I feel strongly that these employees need a voice and a
forum to express their concerns. One must not ignore or trivialize informally shared
concerns, as there must be some reason for these comments, even though they occur
in jest.

In another example of culturally misdirected training, rather than being the
trainer I was one of the participants. During the course of writing this dissertation, I
attended a seminar in Chicago for management consultants of the company in which I
work. Consultants came from all over the world for the weeklong training on
understanding financial statements and managing projects. Approximately 250
consultants attended the seminar, and 70% were from countries other than the United
States. On the first day of the class, the instructor talked about the U.S. financial
accounting system, and called the European accounting system upside down
accounting. She was using the term to imply that the European accounting system, in
comparison to the U.S. accounting system, displayed the data backwards, to mean
that the European system was different from the American system by accounting in
the opposite order of the U.S. As she continued to explain the U.S. accounting system
to consultants who did not use or care about the U.S. system, the consultants slowly
grew restless, lost interest, and started talking among themselves. During a break, I
asked a colleague from France what he thought of the session, and he mentioned that
the instructor should have understood the profile of the audience and covered the
international accounting system, which was familiar to 70% of the class, instead of
talking about the U.S. accounting system. He was also offended by the use of the term
upside down. This experience emphasized to me the importance of good audience
analysis and instructional design that engages the learner. The experience also

illustrated how learners disengage when the context of the content is not relevant to
their own personal and professional experiences.
Such personal experiences are valuable lessons. As an instructional designer, I
now draw from my own experiences as an Indian and make the training more relevant
to other Indian employees by providing Indian examples and occasionally using
Hindi, Indias national language. My interest has grown in understanding how
organizations can customize standard training to incorporate the trainees indigenous
culture. As I continue to work in corporate America, I try to keep my focus on how
organizations can customize and localize off-the-shelf training for a global employee
base to reflect respect for employees local culture.
Additional Background
This research focuses on employees of one global organization, a
multinational U.S. management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing
company specializing in cross-industry consulting. As of August 2008, this $23.39
billion corporation had extensive relationships with the world's leading companies
and governments. The corporations employees work with organizations of all sizes,
including 96 of the Fortune Global 100 and more than three-quarters of the Fortune
Global 500. Many of the mandatory training courses for employees emphasize the
core values that shape the culture and define the character of the company.
Representative core values are attracting and developing the best talent, mobilizing

the power of teams to deliver consistently exceptional service to clients anywhere in
the world, and valuing diversity to ensure an interesting and inclusive environment.
The companys diverse workforce includes more than 181,000 people in 120
countries, with over 50,000 employees in India. To provide a sense of scale, in 2007,
the U.S. information technology workforce was approximately 3 million workers in
comparison to Indias 1.4 million. As these figures show, a large proportion of the
worker composition in multinationals is Indian (Kenney & Dossani, 2007).
Like other multinationals operating in India, this company has had the benefit
of Indias pool of well-educated workers. India has the worlds largest higher
education system outside the United States, with 250 universities and 12,000 colleges
(Cheney, Ruzzi, & Muralidharan, 2006), and education in India is inexpensive
compared to the cost of education in developed countries (Cheney, Ruzzi, &
Muralidharan, 2006). More than 50% of the Indian employees in multinational
corporations hold graduate degrees, primarily in engineering and management. The
company in this study recruits from the best colleges in India, such as the Indian
Institutes of Science (IISes) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), which have
programs modeled on the undergraduate curriculum of Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (Dossani & Kenney, 2002), and over one-fourth of the Indian employees
of this organization have postgraduate degrees.

Multinational companies operating in India, like the organization in this study,
have large campus-style infrastructure. Characteristically, these campuses have a
large intake of entry-level employees fresh out of college and place a strong emphasis
on training. Most new employees undergo new-joiner training, a form of orientation
that introduces employees to the mission and goals of the organization, familiarizes
them with the management and structure of the company, and introduces them to
basic human resource activities like the process of conducting performance
appraisals. Depending on their job function, many employees then take technical
training too, to build their skills in activities such as writing computer software code
and testing software. In addition to new-joiner training and skill-based job function
training, all employees undergo certain mandatory training sessions. A commonly
required training is Ethics and Compliance, which introduces employees to corporate
policies and guidelines on such topics as insider trading, information security, and
data management. Employees also must complete an online, eLearning training
session on Sensitivity in the Workplace, which covers workplace scenarios that
employees must avoid, such as discrimination and sexual harassment. These trainings
are soft-skills training.
The intent of this research is to discover and document concerns Indian
employees may have about the standard training they currently receive from this

multinational company. Examination of their stories of experiences will help reveal
the truth, or essence, of taking standard, non-customized training. I am specifically
looking at the experience of Indian employees to develop a true understanding of
their experiences in order to better design instructional experiences for them.
(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney,
2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)(Dossani & Kenney, 2004b)The readership for this
study includes corporate organizations with Indian employees and with instructional
designers who develop training for Indian employees, American owners of businesses
who employ Indians, and academics who work with international students or in the
field of instructional design.

While this study is limited to one organization and its Indian employees, I
hope to present the descriptive essence of Indian employees training experiences as a
strong case for customized training. Organizations may then begin to acknowledge
the need to evaluate further an increased investment in customized training. Ideally,
this study provides a descriptive foundation to support organizational investment in
sociocultural instructional design methods that permit customization for cultural
This study provides instructional designers with an opportunity to understand
better Indian culture and to gain more awareness of the issues of diversity. An intent
of the study is to answer some questions about how to develop culturally relevant
localized training material. This research encourages open dialog and constructive
thinking among instructional designers regarding cultural customization of
instructional design. This study aims to create awareness of the need to customize
training for local culture, which may encourage organizations to structure future
studies to assist instructional designers with customization. A potential outcome of
such future studies might be a menu of suggestions on how to customize training for
Chapter Summary and Dissertation Overview
Chapter I introduces the research question that aims to establish a need for
customized training for Indian employees of global corporations. The focus on India

and Indian employees is justified with extensive details on the scale of business in
India due to outsourcing. The personal narrative grounds the study in my background
as an Indian who has lived and worked in India. This chapter introduces
phenomenological research design and establishes the significance of the study.
Chapter II proposes the need for three Cs in customizationcorrective
changes, customized content, and cultural customizationand explains each of these
elements at length, along with the benefit that organizations and learners receive from
modifying training for culture.
Chapter III contains a full description of the methodology used to conduct the
research study. The chapter addresses the criteria for participant selection and the
engagement of participants in the study and contains particulars of data collection and
an overview of the data analysis techniques employed.
Chapter IV revisits the interview process and provides a summary of survey
results, and includes some basic information on the types of training participants had
taken. The bulk of the chapter contains the individual summaries that represent Indian
employees experiences with standard training.
Chapter V discusses the phenomenological findings in terms of emergent
themes and presents implications and recommendations for the practice of
instructional design and for organizations needing to build a case for customizing
standard training for culture.


No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Of interest in this study is whether findings regarding a single organization
apply to an understanding of how Indian employees of global organizations
experience standard training. This chapter reviews the literature regarding
communities of practice and definitions and organizational considerations of culture,
which bear on this research.
Participants in this study live within one organization, one culture, and one
community of practice (CoP). This chapter presents the concept of community of
practice in detail, as understanding the community is imperative to understanding the
accounts of Indian employees who belong to the community. Each CoP has its own
culture, as does this CoP consisting of Indian employees of a global company. The
chapter also fully describes culture in the context of the study and the CoP. To
provide a foundation for the need to customize training for culture, the chapter first
explains uncustomized, standard training, including descriptions of the various types
of training, to distinguish between customized and standard training. The chapter then
introduces a number of concepts related to culture and its influence on

communication. Finally, the chapter presents the three Cs of customization
corrective customization, customized content, and cultural customization.
Community of Practice
A community of practice develops when members create their own code of
procedure, language, and acceptable behavior, that is, a common culture that fashions
individuals identities (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Belonging
to a CoP motivates learners toward legitimate peripheral learning, or LPL (Smith,
1998). LPL is social and reciprocal; that is, within a CoP participants learn from
experiences of others and develop the ability to learn from peers and near-peers
(Banks, et al., 2007). The concept of LPL supports the idea that learners learn best
within the culture of the CoP (Lesser & Storck, 2001). Engaging learners by
acknowledging their culture moves learners from peripheral learning to full
participation. In simplified form, CoPs for Indian employees can be thought of as
three intersecting influences: (a) the organizational culture of the multinational
company in India, (b) the Indian educational system, and (c) the existential reality of
Indian employeesa day in the life of an Indian employee, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Community of Practice (CoP) of Indian employees.
Organizational Culture
CoPs have their own inherent culture, derived from the factors of corporate
culture, the educational system, and the existential reality of employees.
Organizational culture is composed of many intangible phenomena within the
organization, such as values, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, behavioral norms,
artifacts, and patterns of behavior. It is the unseen and unobservable force behind the
visible and observable organizational activities (Shafritz & Ott, 2001). An

organization's culture is shaped by many factors, including, for example, the larger
societal culture in which it resides; its technologies, markets, and competition; and the
personality of its founder(s) or dominant early leaders. Culture is to the organization
what personality is to the individual a hidden, yet unifying theme that provides
meaning, direction and mobilization (Schein, 1999).
The terms organizational culture and corporate culture refer to the same
dynamics. Organizational culture defines common norms and values that employees
within an organization share and controls when they interact with each other and with
those outside of the organization (Schein, 2003b). Corporate culture dictates
acceptable behavior, tacitly agreed upon guidelines for interaction, and expectations
of the organization and its people (Schein, 1993, p. 2). A CoP defines the very
attitudes and experiences of employees and stakeholders (Schein, 1993, p. 2).
Communities of practice within organizations facilitate knowledge sharing and aid
skills development, and provide employees with an opportunity to network within
their culture. The culture of a group of people within a community is a pattern of
shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external
adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered
valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive,
think, and feel in relation to those problems. Culture provides meaning to the
participants within the culture, and this meaning is local to the culture (Schein, 1993).

Educational Background of Indian Employees
The CoP under consideration consists of Indian employees within a larger,
global organization. Providing an overview of the Indian educational system may
make clear how Indians learn best.
The quality of education in India varies widely. Government schools, whether
urban or rural, have poorer infrastructure than private schools. Thus, employees come
from varied educational backgrounds, and the quality of education is uneven. Some
Indians, mostly the more affluent, go to English-language schools and take the British
high school examination (Kapur & Mehta, 2004).
While the Indian Certificate for Secondary Education is similar in content to
the British General Certificate of School Education (GCSE) (Basu, 2002; Sharma,
2002), a major difference is that Indian students are not expected to solve problems or
apply knowledge (Ballard & Clanchy, 1997; Lall, 2005), possibly because the Indian
educational system does not encourage independent thinking (Sharma, 2002). Rather,
Indians typically learn by rote and through reproduction (Basu, 2002). The rote
approach excludes critical analysis, a skill which debate and discussion generally
develop (Cheney, Ruzzi, & Muralidharan, 2006; Jain & Matukumalli, 1996). As the
Indian system is teacher-centered (Kapur & Mehta, 2004; Ninnes, Aitchison, &
Kalos, 1999), debates are taboo.

Instead of demanding critical thinking, Indian teachers emphasize content
transmission without requiring comprehension of course content, and tests are passed
on the basis of memory alone (Kapur & Mehta, 2004). The Indian student is highly
motivated to achieve extraordinary levels in college entrance exams, and numerous
study help centers and private schools support the drive for higher tests scores,
thereby making the Indian a skilled test taker (Kelly, 2005).
When I first joined the doctoral program, I had several struggles with the
American educational system. In India, debate is not encouraged; in America, I had to
develop the ability to openly speak my mind and engage in dialog with classmates
and instructors. I had to put in additional effort to read articles and be able to
synthesize the content. Indian teachers do not develop synthesis as a skill among
students. Throughout elementary school one of the key exercises used in English
classes is to convert many pages of text into a 100-word precis. I had to learn to
expound on my writing through my doctoral program in the United States,
considering the Indian educational method only taught me to be concise.
Existential Reality
To completely comprehend the true nature of the CoP of Indian employees
one must immerse oneself in what it would be like to be an Indian employee. To
understand the need for customization of training, U.S. readers must first understand
the daily realities of these employees, compare, and contrast their own experiences of

working in the United States. This cognitive analysis of the experiential realities of
Indian employees provides a deeper understanding of the setting within which these
employees operate, live, and experience their daily lives (Kelly, 2005).
Multinational companies in India tend to operate out of large industrial office
complexes. Office buildings are throughout the city and even outside the city limits.
This dispersion means that most employees commute more than an hour each way.
Most employees live in shared apartments, called flats, live with their parents, or live
as part of a joint family. After morning breakfast with the family, many catch
company buses that take them to the various buildings through the city. Very often
companies provide transportation as the public transport infrastructure in India is
unreliable. Time on the bus is spent reading or socializing with colleagues.
On arrival at work, usually between 8 and 9am, employees attend team
meetings or start work at their desks. Most desks are located in close proximity to
each other, as enclosed offices are a luxury reserved for senior management. An
office space that seats four in the United States would accommodate twice the
number of employees in India. Indian employees take their personal phone calls
sitting right next to each other, and privacy is limited. Even conference rooms are
difficult to access, as usually a team has rooms reserved for meetings and conference
calls with clients and teams in the United States.

At lunchtime, entire teams typically go to lunch together. Most people who
work together are not just colleagues but also close friends. Many bring a packed
tiffin dabba, or boxed homemade lunch. For the convenience of employees, most
office complexes have cafeterias, where teams may sit together and eat their lunch,
sharing their meals, discussing their work, and their life. Customarily workers take a
short chai break late in the afternoon.
A typical workday is around 9 to 10 hours long, and employees catch
company buses back home. Buses run on a fixed schedule, so if they miss the bus,
they must wait another 30 to 60 minutes for the next bus. If the client they work for is
implementing a new system onsite in the United States, the India team will spend
more time working at night. Employees rarely work from home, as network
connectivity from non-office locations can be erratic. In fact, most Indian employees
do not have permission to work from home and must come in to the office to do their
assigned tasks. This description of the job and lifestyle applies to most software
companies (Kelly, 2005).
To summarize, Indian employees operate within a CoP influenced by the
organizations culture. The learning experiences of Indian employees in the CoP are a
product of the Indian educational system, and the daily experiences of Indian
employees provide a window into their existential reality. From their place within the
CoP, Indian employees receive and experience standard training.

Culture Defined
The word culture originates from the Latin cultura, which means to
cultivate (Harper, 2001). Interpreted loosely, culture could mean the cultivation of
common habits, similar food, and shared beliefs (Hofstede & McCrae, 2004). Culture
manifests itself explicitly in many ways, in the form of dress, language, food, and
display of emotion (Terrell, 2001), and the literature offers many definitions of
culture. By the 1950s, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions
contained a list of 164 definitions of culture (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952)!
That list has grown in the passing decades, as experts from different
disciplines use different lenses to define culture (Bate, 1994; Sewell Jr, 2005).
Anthropologists define culture in terms of how humans use symbols to communicate,
organize activity, and construct a society (D'Andrade, 2001; White, 1949).
Archeologists define culture through the lens of relics, artifacts, and remains left by
humans (Terrell, 2001). Social scientists focus on social interactions (Lave &
Wenger, 1991; Wenger & Snyder, 2000), viewing culture through the lens of norms
and values (House, Javidan, Hanges, & Dorfman, 2002). Over 100 years ago, culture
was defined as a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,
custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of
society (Tylor, 1871). Using factors such as nationality, ethnicity, and race to define
1 culture is limiting. These terms only provide a restrictive view of what culture truly

is, and considering these elements together with Tylors definition provides a more
rounded view of culture.
Nationality is simply the nation that a person comes from, the place of birth.
However, as nations have their own culture, considering nationality as merely
geographic placement is not an appropriate way to define a more encompassing term
such as culture. Nationality is assigned by birth, bloodline, or naturalization and
affects culture on a macro level ("Nationality," n.d.; UNESCO, 1976). Many times,
language may define a nation and its culture. Language is often an obvious
manifestation of a national culture, as with the French. However, people who speak
Hindi, the lingua franca of India, share not just a common language but also shared
traditions that differentiate them from individuals of other nations.
Within a nationality may be numerous ethnic groupsthat is, groups of
people who identify with each other and who may have common language, culture,
religion, and possibly even behaviors. Members of an ethnic group may have
common biological similarities, common descent, and cultural continuity (Cohen,
1978). While there exists an interchangeable use of ethnicity and race, ethnicity arises
from shared genealogy, and race is concentration of genes in a specific geographic
location that may dissipate in time. Therefore, UNESCO suggests that race as a

means of defining a people be dropped altogether, and that ethnicity be used
exclusively in place of race (UNESCO, 1976).
A more robust definition of culture, through the eyes of social and cultural
scientists, also includes other qualifiers such as linguistics, art, and religion. One
researcher demarcates culture as Culture (or high culture) and culture (or low culture)
(Williams, 1961). High culture is manifested in music, literature, art, and theater and
is used as a tool to differentiate based on social class (Williams, 1961). In
comparison, culture with a lower case c, includes all products of human activity
including language, social, political, and religious ideas and institutions, and other
expressions, both conceptual and material (Dimitriadis & Kamberelis, 2006).
Therefore, the concept of high culture is excluded from this literature review, as it
does not fit the working framework of culture that goes beyond obvious
manifestations and overt representations such as art, literature, theater, language, and
personal characteristics (Hofstede, 1983;2001).
Cultures are often further detailed into subcultures, or groups of individuals
with a distinct set of behaviors that exist within the larger culture. Factors such as
class, race, and age can generate subcultures, as can religion, occupation, politics, or
sexual preferences. Subcultures are more prevalent in melting pot societies such as
the United States, where people come from different countries and yet retain their

original cultural loyalties. Migrants from the same country create a subculture,
sharing a common identity, food preparation techniques, language, and traditions
(Kymlicka, 1998).
Certain European countries, like Poland and Hungary, have a limited number
of immigrants. Such countries are monocultural. Monoculturalism is similar to
nationalism, which could give rise to a national culture derived only by virtue of
common citizenry (Tibi, 1998). In such a state, immigrants tend to assimilate and may
create subcultures for themselves (Mrozek, 2000). Bassam Tibi developed the
concept of Leitkultur, or core culture (Tibi, 1998). As long as immigrants support the
core culture, they can have their own identity (Mrozek, 2000). As Figure 3 shows,
multiculturalism lies at the other end of the spectrum from monoculturalism.

^ One
# of cultures
Figure 3. Terms used in describing cultures across a spectrum.
Multiculturalism, commonly referred to as the melting pot culture, allows
immigrant groups to preserve their heritage while interacting as one nation.
Multiculturalism is a state of diversity in culture, with many facets such as ethnicity
and demographic social space, and India is the second most diverse entity after the
African continent (Heitzman & Worden, 1996;2004). The secular democratic republic
of India is pluralistic with a nationalist belief. Language and religion define state
boundaries. India is at one end of the spectrum, which slowly begins to indicate that
training for a group of people who come from a multicultural tradition may differ
from the training for people who are monocultural.

Theoretical Framework
Fons Trompenaars (Trompenaars, 1996; Trompenaars & Woolliams,
2001;2003) and Geert Hofstede (Hofstede, 1983;2001;2005; Hofstede & Bond, 2001;
Hofstede & McCrae, 2004) have contributed widely to the literature on definitions of
culture. Their works have greatly influenced the research study. I have used a
combination of cultural orientations that they recommend to explain cultural
customizations of standard training. The following explanations of Trompenaars and
Hofstedes views of culture offer a frame within which to view the aspect of culture
as used in this study. The intent is to provide an understanding of what it could mean
to customize standard training for culture.
Trompenaars Cultural Value Orientations
The view of culture proposed by Trompenaars offers a fair idea of regional
cultures on some specific dimensions, such as (a) relationship with people, (b)
attitudes to time, and (c) attitudes to the environment ("Working across cultures kit,"
2008). These dimensions drive how every culture distinguishes itself from others by
the specific solutions it chooses to certain issues.
Relationship with People
Trompenaars elaborates on relationship with people using the dimensions of
(a) universalism versus particularism, (b) individualism versus communitarianism, (c)

neutral versus emotional, (d) specific versus diffuse, and (e) achievement versus
Universalism versus particularism. The universalist approach roughly holds
that whatever is good and right is defined and applies always. Particularist cultures,
like India, give far greater attention to the obligations of relationships and the unique
circumstances that relationships accord. For example, instead of assuming that
following only the single good way as an option, the particularist reasoning is that
friendship has special obligations and must come before all else.
Individualism versus communitarianism. An individualistic culture is one in
which people regard themselves primarily as individuals, who can contribute to the
community as and if they wish. Communitarianism, on the other hand, considers
individuals to be primarily part of a group. In India, it is more important to consider
the community first since that is shared by many individuals.
Neutral versus emotional. Should the nature of our interactions be objective
and detached, or is expressing emotion acceptable? In North America and
northwestern Europe, business relationships typically focus on achieving objectives,
with emotions held in check because Westerners believe emotions may confuse
issues. In cultures like India, business is a human affair and the whole gamut of
emotions is appropriate.

Specific versus diffuse. When the whole person is involved in a business
relationship, real and personal contact occurs, instead of a contract prescribing the
nature of the relationship. In many countries, as in India, a diffuse relationship is not
only preferred but also necessary before business can proceed.
Achievement versus ascription. Achievement means that judgment occurs on
what one has recently accomplished and on ones record. Ascription means that status
comes from birth, kinship, gender, or age, and by connections, who one knows, and
ones educational record. In an achievement culture, a question regarding educational
background is likely to be phrased as What did you study? while in a more
ascriptive culture the question will more likely be Where did you study?
Attitudes toward Time
The way in which societies look at time also differs among cultures. In some
societies, knowing what someone has achieved in the past is not as important as
knowing what plan they have for the future, However, in cultures like India, a person
can make more of an impression with past accomplishments than with those of today.
With respect to time, to Americans what matters is present performance and plans to
make it in the future. This is nouveau riche for the French, who prefer the ancien
pauvre; they have an enormous sense of the past and relatively less focus on the
present and future than Americans ("Working across cultures kit," 2008). In certain

cultures like the American, Swedish and Dutch, the perception of time is if it passes
in a straight line, a sequence of disparate events.
Attitudes Toward the Environment
Some cultures see the major force affecting lives and the origins of vice and
virtue as residing within the person. Here, motivations and values are derived from
within (Alderman, 2003). Other cultures see the world as more powerful than
individuals, with nature as something that evokes fear or emulation. In cultures like
India, motivation may be more extrinsic than intrinsic.
Hofstedes Cultural Dimensions
A cultural view as proposed by Hofstede provides six dimensions of culture
(Hofstede, 1983;2001;2005; Hofstede & Bond, 2001; Hofstede & McCrae, 2004).
These dimensions are (a) power distance, (b) individualism and collectivism, (c)
achievement nurturing, (d) uncertainty avoidance, (e) long-term and short-term
orientation, and (f) masculinity and femininity.
Power Distance
Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of
organizations or cultures accept and expect that power distribution is unequal. Power
distance reflects inequality, more versus less, but defined from below, not from
above. It suggests that a societys or an organizations level of inequality is endorsed
by the followers as much as by the leaders.

Individualism and Collectivism
The spectrum of individualism and collectivism, similar to Trompenaars
individualism and communitarianism, reflects the degree to which individuals
integrate into groups. On the individualist side, loose ties exist between individuals:
everyone looks after himself or herself. On the collectivist side, people integrate into
strong, cohesive in-groups, which protect individuals in exchange for loyalty. Such
groups are common in India.
Achievement and Nurturing
This dimension refers to the distribution of roles between the genders and the
assertiveness of the culture, in which the assertive pole is achievement and the
modest, caring pole is nurturing. This dimension is similar to Trompenaars
dimension of achievement and ascription. Women in feminine countries have the
same modest, caring values as the men; in masculine countries, they are more
assertive and competitive.
Uncertainty Avoidance
Uncertainty avoidance is the tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It
indicates to what extent members of a culture feel either uncomfortable or
comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown,
surprising, and different from usual. Uncertainty-avoiding cultures try to minimize
the possibility of such situations through strict rules. People in uncertainty-avoiding

countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner energy. The opposite type,
uncertainty-accepting cultures, is more tolerant of opinions that differ from the
prevailing norm; these cultures try to have as few rules as possible. People within
these cultures are more phlegmatic and contemplative, and their environment does not
expect them to express emotions.
Long-Term and Short-Term Orientation
Values associated with long-term orientation are thrift and perseverance;
values associated with short-term orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social
obligations, and saving face.
Masculinity and Feminity
This dimension indicates the extent to which the dominant values in a culture
tend toward assertiveness and the acquisition of things, and away from concern for
people and the quality of life.
Types of Training
The two basic categories of training are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)
training (Fowler, 2004; Wheeler, 2006) and custom training. Prepackaged training
ready for use and not specifically tailored for any particular learner group is classified
as COTS (Wheeler, 2006). In contrast, with custom training clients, users, or learners
receive training specifically suited to their needs and their culture (Fife, Wheeler,

Frame, & Popelas, 1993; Saner, 2002). Figure 4 shows other commonly used terms
for COTS training, which are out-of-the-box, standard training, and generic training.
Figure 4. Common training terms.
Out-of-the-box training, standard training, and generic training are
interchangeable terms. As an example, software typically comes bundled with non-
custom prepackaged training, as such training is less expensive to produce and
maintain (Wheeler, 2006). Such generic training typically does not make allowances
for cultural differences among learners (Kymlicka, 1998;2003). For example, out-of-
the-box training is available when you purchase a new cell phone. The product
manual that comes with the phone is a one-size-fits-all manual in English, with
translations into languages like French, Spanish, and Chinese. The cookie-cutter
training manual is ready for use, even though a farmer in India may set up and

configure a cell phone quite differently from a stockbroker on Wall Street. Off-the-
shelf training does not account for differences in needs. Another example of off-the-
shelf training is U.S. citizenship testing (Kymlicka, 2003). Standard study material is
available on Civics, the U.S. Government, and U.S. History. The only customization
of this prepackaged training relates to languageit is available in 11 languages. The
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offer no customized options that address
the different cultural and political backgrounds of immigrants.
Typical Approach to Customization
The context of the research study is out-of-the-box, off-the-shelf, standard
training, with the purpose of the study being to establish a need to customize off-the-
shelf, standard training for a given culture. One of the primary reasons for the need
for cultural customization is that globalization has had a profound effect on how
companies run their businesses. Most companies do not have just a home market;
they also have international offices staffed with local employees. Such a mix of
international offices makes for a mix of various cultures. In a global context,
corporations emphasize a common corporate identity to help employees across
different geographies develop a common identity that makes them loyal to the
organization. This corporate identify may conflict with their cultural identity.
Instructional designers tend to develop training material within a framework
constructed to reinforce a single corporate culture. Having a unified corporate culture

enforces a homogenous approach to training development. Specific issues arise in a
multinational setting (Armstrong-Stassen & Templer, 2005; West, 2004); there are
many complexities involved with striving for effective collaborative learning,
especially when collaborators are in different parts of the world and represent
different cultural backgrounds. One approach is to assume homogeneity: In a
multinational company, the course instructor might expect that all the learners will
benefit from treatment as fitting a single company culture. However, differences
among people will remain, and a more- productive approach would be to leverage
cultural differences.
In a scenario where organizations attempt to establish a homogenous identity
among their employees, customization means merely expanding or supplementing the
training package. The most challenging alternative is to substitute materials for some
parts of the package. The permission of the copyright owner may be required. To
account for local culture and corporate culture and identity, instructional designers
cut out unnecessary material and add content that relates specifically to the particular
regional arm of the organization, such as organizational structure, culturally relevant
problems, indigenous nomenclature, native terminology, and so on. To understand
better the process that instructional designers follow, the next section describes the
process used to design, develop, and deploy standard training.
Training Content Design

Rich (a pseudonym) is a U.S.-based instructional designer who develops web-
based, online, eLearning training material. He and his team of instructional designers
work in Denver, CO. They create a pre-course design, which includes tasks such as
conducting a role analysis that helps them understand which job functions or roles
will need the training. They try to answer questions like Does a manager need
this?and Will the receptionist need to complete this training? In conjunction with
the role analysis, they conduct an impact analysis, which brings to light how and to
what extent job roles are changing owing to the change in the organization. Finally,
they write a preliminary learning brief that describes the business need, target
audience, learning objectives, and any prerequisites.
During the audience analysis phase, the audience is limited to one or two sets of
employees in two different countries or regions, typically Canada and the United
States and English-speaking Europe. The reason for this limitation is that the cost of
translations for audiences across the globe and local customizations increases the cost
of training development (Cohen & Pine, 2007). The cost of conducting an audience
analysis for each of the more than 40 countries where the training may be delivered
and the associated cost of developing this customized and localized training are
prohibitive (Filipczak, 1995).
Training Content Development

The training consists of numerous components, such as (a) a self-study pre-
requisite, (b) core web-based training (WBT), (c) audio learning, (d) job aids, and (e)
a final test or lesson exercise. The training has a preliminary self-study component,
which provides skill-level learning of targeted content. Following the prerequisite, the
core of the course provides training on procedures.
Web-based procedural training conveys conceptual and business objectives,
and answers questions such as need for change and the challenges the change presents
to employees. The WBT contains ShowMe, TryMe, and TestMe simulations for
scenarios accessed from a learning management system. The ShowMe and TryMe
training ensures that learners understand the concepts in the material. The TestMe
segment tests proficiency of learners as it provides confirmation of user-skill
Audio learning nuggets primarily build awareness and reinforce key points
from the self-study. This audio learning component complements the WBT to
maximize on-the-job performance.
Job aids supplement the WBT and provide on-the-job guidance on how to
perform a specific task. The job aids are paper-based for learners to display in plain
sight or in a small reference notebook. Some examples include (a) decals, or pictorial
illustrations to act as a reminder, such as key steps in a process and (b) manuals
offering step-by-step guides to carry out tasks for a given job.

Finally, a capstone tests learners knowledge acquisition. The learning
exercise seeks to assess learners comprehension of higher-order learning objectives
by testing their ability to apply or draw upon their new understanding of the skill.
Question types include multiple choice, drag and drop, hot spot graphics, sequencing,
and matching. The self-study, WBT, job aids, and assessment are accessible in either
a printed or an on-line format.
Training Delivery
As an example, when the organization opens a new branch office, new
employees use Richs training to get up to speed on processes and procedures.
Existing employees also take this kind of training, as all employees are required to
complete yearly mandatory training on topics such as ethics and compliance. Chandra
(pseudonym) is the organizations newest employee in the recently opened India
office. Chandra is an engineer from a premier technology institute in India, the Indian
Institute of Technology (IIT) and he has an MBA in Marketing from the Indian
Institute of Management (IIM). He completes the training and successfully finishes
the test at the end of the training.
Chandra observes that the training content developed in the United States by
U.S. employees is for English-speaking American and European employees. The
training is translated for use in India for employees such as Chandra. The

instructional designers make low-fidelity, low-cost changes, such as adjusting the
content to accommodate British English and exchanging Western graphics for more
traditional Indian imagery. Chandra expresses the observation that a crucial element
of context remains unaddressed in the training in that the context in the training
material (in the scenarios and lesson tests) remains predominantly Western in its
approach, and he would like the training customized for his culture.
Customizing training can take many forms, such as (a) collaborative (where
learners select from among modules to choose topics that are relevant to their current
situation, (b) adaptive (where various training delivery options are available, such as
online, classroom or blended), and (c) corrective (where personalization exists not in
content but in presentation by changing logos, binder covers, or graphical user
interface) (Shor, 1992). Customizing off-the-shelf training to fit learner needs may
include revisions such as making training exercises, scenarios, and role plays more
culturally relevant (Banks, et al., 2007). Designers customize out-of-the-box, off-the-
shelf training by incorporating international professional knowledge on labor laws,
corporate policies, and cultural knowledge of local history and social attitudes. The
idea of cultural knowledge is the driver for the three Cs of customization.

Three Cs of Customization
To be culturally relevant, training must include habits of thought, reading,
writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant
myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere
opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and
personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience,
text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse (Shor, 1992). Culturally
relevant training does not reflect one dominant culture (Schein, 1993, p. 10). Learners
and their associated CoP are a resource for understanding perspectives. Learners
bring their cultural references to their learning experiences (Schein, 1993, p. 138).
Schein states Culture is to a group what personality or character is to an individual
(1993, p. 339).
Culture helps explain and normalize circumstances. Certain dimensions define
a culture, such as the nature of time, of space, of human relationships, and
instructional designers should be aware of these dimensions to create training that
would be culturally relevant within the learner's culture. However, Schein emphasizes
that not all elements within a culture are relevant or necessary. In customizing
standardized training there is no reason to change all the training; customization can
be simply a matter of changing one or two assumptions (Schein, 1999;2003a). I
recommend the approach of customizing training for culture (a) by considering

corrective changes, (b) by customizing the content and language, and (c) by
customizing training scenarios for the local culture, as shown in Figure 5.
Corrective Customization
Content Customization
Cultural Customization
Customized Training
Figure 5. Some elements to customize standard training.
Corrective Customization
Two key elements of corrective customization, or surface-level customization,
are colors and graphics (Moretti & Lyons, 2002). Color is related to culture and
religion (Adams & Osgood, 1973). Certain cultural color palettes are universal; black
is associated with bad, white with good, and red with power (Kay & Regier, 2007).
Cross-cultural studies found that blue was the most preferred color in general across
cultures (Singh, 2006).

In contrast, certain color palettes are far from universal and are unique to
certain cultures (Singh, 2006); for example, in India, white is associated with priests,
yellow with the working classes, and red with warfare. Blue is associated with the
Hindu God, Krishna, a symbol of love and devotion (Gribbons, 1997). Orange is the
most sacred color in the Hindu religion in India, but the Ndembo in Zambia do not
even acknowledge orange as a color. Muslims view green as a sacred color. For Celts
too, green is sacred. In Inuit communities, white is so important that it has 17 words
to describe it (McLoughlin & Oliver, 1999).
Incorporating local elements into graphics and visuals, such as local work
settings and local people, increases the effectiveness of training (Lohr, 2008, p. 171).
However, an approach that considers only certain elements and does not challenge the
dominant culture results in a superficial, cosmetic, corrective customization (Lohr,
2003; McLoughlin & Oliver, 1999). Incorporating examples and experiences from
learners local culture creates a bridge between current content and context and
previous learning as the interpretation of symbols and colors is highly dependent on
experiences, culture, and previous knowledge (Lohr, 2003).
Customized Content
Learners relate new experiences to previous experiences to generate learning
(Lohr, 2003). When new concepts build upon existing cultural perspectives, learning
is more effective (Lohr, 2008). Inserting previous experiences, emotions, and context

into the design of the instruction enables learners to develop new connections
between content and past experience (Merrill, 2002). Incorporating examples and
experiences from Indian learners local culture builds the bridge between current
content and previous learning (Lohr, 2008).
Addressing language use is another way to customize content. India has the
worlds largest number of English speakers (Ramanathan, 2002). However, Indian
English is quite different from American and British English. Indian English, a mix of
the national language, Hindi, and English, is sometimes known as Hinglish and is a
blending and fusing of British English, with Indian overtones (Thussu, 2000). Most
Indians use Hinglish (Ramanathan, 2005), and training content developed for Indians
should rely on Hinglish, because use of colloquial language increases the relevance of
instruction (Chen, Mashhadi, Ang, & Harkrider, 1999).
Cultural Customization
All cultures are unique and hold different world views and assumptions on
which they view their worlds (Aheam, et al., 2002). Valid conceptualization of views,
assumptions, and realities of a culture helps in designing better learning products
(Nieto, 1996). Learners learn about themselves and the world around them within the
context of culture (Kumar & Sethi, 2005). Inclusion of multicultural viewpoints in
culturally appropriate social situations results in congruence with the learners culture
(Choi, et al., 2003). To conceptualize the realities of a culture, one must first begin to

understand where a particular culture lies on a spectrum of cultural dimensions.
Figure 6 is a representation of different dimensions of Indian culture, derived as a
hybrid model between Trompenaars cultural value orientation and Hofstedes
cultural dimensions.

Consensus, collectivism, and pluralism
Belief in synchronicityof time

Need for personal space

Figure 6. Indian culture on a spectrum of cultural dimensions.
Indirectness. Cultures in the East and the West pay attention differently to
indirect meaning (Kumar & Sethi, 2005); Indians are on the high end of the
indirectness spectrum. Indirect meaning is the difference between spoken meaning
and unspoken meaning (Sanchez-Burks, Nisbett, & Ybarra, 2000). Indirectness
extends not only to the spoken word and the speaker but also to how listeners
interpret messages (Choi, et al., 2003). When using indirectness, individuals tend to
infer, suggest, and imply (Sanchez-Burks, Nisbett, & Ybarra, 2000).
Indirect meaning is addressed in many theories, including Protestant
Relational Ideology (Sanchez-Burks, 2002). Protestant Relational Ideology is a belief
that relational concerns are inappropriate in the workplace, and that they belong only
in non-work-related situations (Bhagat, Steverson, & Segovis, 2007; Sanchez-Burks,
Lee, Nisbett, & Ybarra, 2007; Sanchez-Burks, et ah, 2008). A relational concern is
defined as a concern for monitoring indirect communication cues to enable harmony
in relationships and daily interactions (Jain & Matukumalli, 1996). Eastern cultures,
like India, consider relational concerns appropriate in both work and non-work
situations (Hong, Chiu, & Kung, 1997).
High and low context. Another element in customizing for culture is to assess
whether a culture is high or low context (Wurtz, 2005). In high-context cultures, the

listener relies on the culture and what is left unsaid, i.e., context of the message in
interpreting its meaning. That is, high-context cultures allow the culture to speak for
itself. Strong group affiliations and shared experiences characterize a high-context
culture (Bressan, 2005). East Asian cultures are high-context cultures (Hampden-
Tumer & Trompenaars, 2006a;2006b; Trompenaars & Woolliams, 2001) and are
characterized also by hierarchy and deference to seniority (Jain & Kussman, 2000).
In corporate settings, junior team members generally refrain from initiating
conversation and from communicating directly with elders. Indians prefer to use an
intermediary to communicate displeasure instead of directly confronting the situation
or the individual(s). Given the nature of hierarchy in India, Indian employees show
deference to authority.
Indians consider all aspects of communicationspeaker, body language, and
context. Communications preserve and strengthen relationships and are a tool to save
face. In such a case, Indians naturally find it hard to answer literal, dichotomous
yes/no questions. Instead, Indians prefer to be elaborate and express their views in
multiple ways, considering contingencies and implications. Instructional designers
should avoid typical true/false questions as they may create dissonance for Indian
Subjectivity>. Learners generally learn in ways congruent with the society in
which they are raised and educated (Hampden-Tumer & Trompenaars, 2006a;

Trompenaars & Woolliams, 2001). Objectivity is a Western cultural belief, which
contrasts with the Eastern belief of subjectivity. Under these circumstances, imagine
Indian learners, whose sense of objectivity is latent, and they are asked to perform
training exercises that require objectivity. If training does not accommodate their
innate subjectivity, they are bound to struggle with objectivity. Indians inability to
differentiate between who the person is and what the person does reflects subjectivity
(Jain & Kussman, 2000). Since doer and action are synonymous, Indians are unable
to draw a line between the person and the problem, making them highly sensitive to
criticism and direct feedback.
Consensus, collectivism, and pluralism. Asian cultures typically engage in
groupthink (Sitaram, 2004). India has a high incidence of collective-think (Bressan,
2005). Group activities and decision-making by consensus is characteristic of Indian
employees. Often, one will hear Indians use we instead of I, even when talking
about themselves, as the culture characteristically draws attention away from self to
community (Trompenaars, 1996). A common communication strategy used in
collectivism is avoidance and indirectness, to save face and avoid conflict (Sitaram,
2004). India is a pluralistic culture, like China. In China, one needs the help of the
entire village to grow rice. Membership in the community is a requirement for
survival in China, as it is in India. In contrast to pluralism, Anglo Saxon literature
glorifies the individual as the hero (Trompenaars, 1996), where as Eastern literature

focuses on group consensus and the collective process (Trompenaars & Woolliams,
2003). Thus, training that uses a collective approach to problem solving is more likely
to resonate with Indian employees.
Synchronicity of time. Most U.S companies with employees in India know that
the two cultures view time differently (Trompenaars & Woolliams, 2003). This
orientation is relative to the importance the culture places on the past, present, and
future. In India, time is more a subjective and abstract phenomenon than it is for
individuals in the United States (Kumar & Sethi, 2005). Westerners tend to think of
time as sequential as opposed to synchronic (Kumar & Sethi, 2005). Synchronic
views on time are predominantly Eastern, where the past, the present, and the future
are interrelated.
Ideological society. India is an ideological society adhering to a nationalistic
point of view (Kumar & Sethi, 2005), and in training, a heightened awareness of
ideology would make communicating with and designing for Indians much easier and
almost commonsensical.
Personal space. In East Asian cultures like India, status and hierarchy dictate
practices concerning physical distance or personal space. A common means of
communication is handholding, misinterpreted in Western cultures but acceptable in
India. Corporate America is familiar with the Indian head bob, where the Indian

shakes her or his head sideways instead of up and down to imply yes, instead of the
usually inferred no.
Cultures evolve different methods and means of dealing with daily situations,
usually unique to the cultural context (Arya, 2003; Kumar & Sethi, 2005). Culture
usually defines the approach and the sequence of steps taken to resolve issues and all
members within a culture tend to follow similar approaches to resolving issues
(Larsson, Boud, Madeleine Abrandt, Walters, & Sork, 2005).
Chapter Summary
The discussion on customizing for culture began with an explanation of the
context that Indian employees operate within while receiving standard training. This
context uses three dimensions of organizational context, educational background, and
existential reality. Next, the description of types of training that employees receive
introduces terms such as standard training, custom training, and off-the-shelf training.
These definitions provide the foundation for the explanation of how instructional
designers currently customize standard training for culture.
A detailed view of how culture is, and is not, used in the context of the
research study lends to an understanding of what it means to customize training for
culture. The cultural dimensions of Trompenaars and Hofstede are the basis of the
theoretical framework of the study. Finally, the literature review rounds out with the

establishment of the idea of the three Cs of customization, with each Ccorrective,
content, and culturalexplained in detail.

Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at
purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
- Mahatma Gandhi
This chapter presents information on the methodology employed for this study
on customizing training for local culture. The discussion includes a statement of the
research question and a description of the research design as well as a small study
carried out during the planning phase of the research. An explanation of the
phenomenological methodology provides the reader with a lens through which to
assess the quality of the study. An account of the process of engaging with
participants is included, along with an account of the approach to data collection and
the techniques for data analysis. The chapter ends with an explanation of the features
of validity and reliability of the study.
Planning Phase
During the planning phase, a small pilot study served to focus the design
considerations for this research study. The participants were two U.S.-based
instructional designers who had responsibility for customizing out-of-the-box,
standard training for Indian learners. Each designer had considerable instructional

design experience, had attended India-specific cultural awareness training, and had
moderate exposure to the Indian learner. I did not audio-record the interaction with
the designers, but took handwritten notes. The pilot study results were only for
planning purposes; this research study does not include the pilot study data.
I asked the designers to read an article about the Indian educational system.
After reading the article provided, one of the designers promptly observed that she
never knew how different the education system in India is and how the emphasis is
more on rote than on critical thinking. The results of the pilot study indicated that
even experienced designers do not truly know how to design training for Indian
learners and that the instructional design community needs direction on how to
develop training for Indians. Conducting the pilot study interviews and analyzing the
data helped me assess the research study design for any necessary changes prior to
recruiting potential participants. In addition, it confirmed the need to understand what
Indian learners experience when they receive standard training designed by trainers
who do not have the tools or the experience to develop India-specific training.
In a serendipitous coincidence, during the planning phase a doctoral student
interviewed me on the subject of leading and managing culturally diverse teams in
an Indian software company. He recorded the hour-long interview and took
extensive notes. This experience of being interviewed and being asked to share my
thoughts candidly raised my awareness of research interview techniques: I was able to

observe how to administer an informed consent form, how to ask permission to record
the interview, and, most importantly, how to steer the conversation to stay within the
realm of the research question without actually controlling the conversation, as
researchers must stay focused on the research question but also allow for flexibility in
the interview (Colaizzi, 1978). I also developed a new awareness of how participants
feel when interviewed, as well as an awareness of the excitement and nervousness
that accompany meeting a new person and not knowing what to expect. This
experience made me a stronger researcher and a better interviewer.
Additionally, during the planning phase I worked with a professor to
document what I refer to as the research flow (see Appendix A). The research flow
is a logical organization of steps needed to complete a research study. I used it as a
checklist to ensure that I addressed the various elements of any research study, such
as how data collection and data management occurs. The quasi-prescriptive, step-by-
step approach guided me through designing the study, functioning almost like a
checklist for identifying next steps and gaps. I used many tactical steps listed in this
approach during data collection, such as a data collection form. I came back to the
research flow repeatedly to check off each step in writing up the methodology as well
as implementing it.

Research Question and Phenomenology as a Method
This research employs a qualitative approach, phenomenology, to understand
the experiences of Indian employees who receive out-of-the-box, off-the-shelf
training. In phenomenological studies, the investigator abstains from making
suppositions, focuses on a specific topic freshly and naively, constructs a question or
problem to guide the study, and derives findings that will provide the basis for future
research and reflection (Moustakas, 1994, p. 47). That is, phenomenology aims at
understanding certain group experiences from that group's point of view. The primary
research question that guides this study relates to the experiences of Indian employees
who receive standard training: What is the phenomenological essence of the
experiences of Indian employees who receive standard, noncustomized training? A
sub question this study explores is, What does it mean to develop custom training by
incorporating local culture?
A qualitative approach is appropriate for generating an understanding of
experiences and is most often associated with the interpretivist, sociological
traditions, such as phenomenology (Krathwohl, 1998; Mason, 1996; Wojnar &
Swanson, 2007). Qualitative research such as phenomenology allows the discovery of
knowledge grounded in the lived experiences of Indian employees of a global
organization. Moustakas defines qualitative research as a multi method in focus,
involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that

qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense
of or interpret phenomena in terms of meanings people bring to them (1994, p. 2).
Social and human sciences researchers extensively use phenomenology. It is
the method most suited when human experiences are not approachable through
quantitative approaches (Moustakas, 1994, p. 21). It is a methodology used often in
sociology (Arnold, 2005; Denscombe, 2007), psychology (Bharuthram, 2003;
Kvigne, Gjengedal, & Kirkevold, 2002), education (Blase & Blase, 2003; Bogdan &
Biklen, 2006; Comett-DeVito & Worley, 2005), and nursing (Field & Morse, 1985;
Moscatel, 2005). Phenomenology is rooted in the philosophy of Edmund Husserl
(1859-1938), who oriented this method toward describing the experience of everyday
life: Phenomenology is the way of describing something that exists as part of the
world we live in. Phenomena may be events, situations, experiences, or concepts
(Hancock, 1998, p. 4). Describe is the operative word in phenomenological
research, especially when researchers intend to describe an event, occurrence, or
phenomenon (Boeree, 1998). In this instance, the phenomenon studied is the
experience of Indian employees with standard training, described in a subjective
manner by participants.
Phenomena are apodictic; that is, they speak for themselves and describe
themselves (Boeree, 1998). This construct is important to the research study as the
voice of participant employees provides a means of relating the participants

experiences with the training. In phenomenology, researchers stay grounded in the
first-order construction of participants, which then leads to second-order construction
by researchers (Aspers, 2004). First-order construction is the meaning of the
experience expressed in the words of the participants (Aspers, 2004). It is the
subjective perspective of the participants (Boeree, 1998). As such, phenomenology
creates a description of the experience in the words of the participants (Trotman,
2006). The researcher then constructs themes from the data collected (Aspers, 2004;
Durrah, 2000). As an appropriate approach for researchers seeking to understand a
phenomenon through the voice of the individuals who have experienced the
phenomenon, phenomenology helps capture participants descriptions of daily
experiences with the phenomenon of interest (Comett-DeVito & Worley, 2005; Field
& Morse, 1985).
When the phenomenological method relies on interviews, questions in the
interview gather the subjective view of the participants. It is their feelings and their
views of their experiences that are open to the researchers interpretationthe
researcher attempts to understand not only what participants say directly but also
what they intend to imply. Phenomenology aims to understand participants daily
lived experiences without abstracting the subject of the investigation (van Manen,
1990). Phenomenology allows the researcher to be more thoughtful and not strive for
causality (Sokolowski, 2000). Since phenomenology is not expert research, its intent

is not to solve problems or arrive at interventions, although these might be incidental
by-products of the process (Cerbone, 2006). Rather, phenomenology provides a
window into the experiences of participants and an opportunity to share the wisdom
and insight from the process.
Sample Selection
Like other methods of research, phenomenology examines a sample that is
representative of a larger population. Indian employees and their experiences with
standard American corporate training in a business environment are the focus of this
study. Numerous considerations influenced the selection of a sample set, including
those of time, geography, and the organization (Mason, 1996). In the selection of this
group, the temporal criterion was that the selected Indian employees must have
participated in at least one standard training in the past 12 months, and that they must
have been employees of the company for over one year. The geographical criterion
addresses the fact that they are Indian employees with India being their primary
residence; that is, they primarily work in India. Organizational standards address
employees of the multinational organization under examination. Criterion sampling
limits the subjects (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) to Indian employees who fulfill the
criteria of individuals who work for a multinational, global organization, and who live
in India. Excluded from this study are those who did not fit these criteria. This
purposeful method of sampling targeted specific members of a larger population,

ensuring relevance of the data collected and minimizing generalization. This
sampling strategy provided information-rich interviews inclusive of unique
The employees selected for interviews were living in the United States for a
short period while they worked at U.S. clients sites, making interaction with them
more convenient than if they were in India. Accessibility to articulate participants is
critical to a phenomenological study (Creswell, 1998).
g Member check
transcript and
Figure 7. Engaging with employee participants.
In developing the subject pool for this study, employees were engaged in a
phased approach, as shown in Figure 7.1 sent an email to colleagues in the
organization explaining the research study, the criteria for selection into the study,
and the timeline for the study. I asked their help in identifying potential participants
(see Appendix B). The original email went to 10 colleagues who worked in the two
locations in the United States where I wanted to interview potential participants and
who might have access to participants who fit the profile I sought. These colleagues

forwarded the message to individuals they thought might be interested in participating
and who fit the profile I outlined in the email request.
This technique of using forwarded messages is referred to as snowball
sampling (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 28). Fifteen potential participants self-
selected into the study by contacting me. As soon as the first six contacted me via
email, I set a date and time to meet at a location that was convenient for the
participants. Selection of these six participants was chronological, and a wait-list held
the names of the remaining participants who expressed interest, so that I could contact
them later in the study, potentially to conduct a community check, as explained later
in the chapter.
For a phenomenological study, depth is important in both the interviews and
the associated data collected. Conducting in-depth interviews with fewer participants
achieves depth (Aspers, 2004; Bemdtsson, Claesson, Friberg, & Ohlen, 2007; Bogdan
& Biklen, 2006; Campbell, 2005; Dukes, 1984; Groenewald, 2004; Mapp, 2008;
Moran, 2000; Polkinghome, 1989; Trotman, 2006; Vandenberg, 1997). Unlike many
other research approaches, the nature of phenomenological studies is to have quite
small sample sizes, and as the phenomenological method generally relies on one to
twelve participants, the six interviews for this study met the criteria for this method.
In this research study, each interview needed an hour of preparation, about 1.5 hours
for the interview itself, and another hour after the interview to record thoughts and

ideas as interviewer notes, for a total of about three to four hours per interview. Each
interview generated transcripts of 50 to 60 pages. Transcription effort ranged from 40
to 60 hours per interview, depending on the ease of understanding the accent of
interviewees. Finally, data analysis took around 15 to 20 hours per interview. In all,
each interview took about 80 hours of research time in preparation, collection, and
Interview Setting
All participants elected to meet at their work place, after hours. They reserved
a conference room in their office building for our discussion, where there would be
no interruptions from their daily work. Each participant set aside one hour for the
actual interview. While exchanging emails on meeting logistics, I asked all the
participants whether they had any questions they wanted answered prior to meeting
with me. None had any questions and all responded with enthusiasm and were eager
to participate. With each email, I let participants know that I would not mind if they
needed to cancel the interview appointment or changed their mind about talking with
me. I assured them that they should feel comfortable letting me know if they would
like to cancel or reschedule the interview. None of the participants withdrew from the

Informed Consent Process
Certification by the Colorado Multiple Institution Review Board (COMIRB),
a board established by a consortium of health care facilities in Colorado to review
biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects, is required for human
subject research conducted at the institution overseeing this research study. I
completed the COMIRB certification prior to submitting the study for review to the
Board. On submission, the reviewer requested some updates to the language in the
consent form. The reviewer and I also discussed the study to ensure that her
understanding of the study was the same as I intended. COMIRB approved the study.
Data Collection
The purpose of this study is to understand the effect of noncustomized,
standard training by asking, What are the experiences of Indian employees who
receive noncustomized training? Indian employees of a multinational company with
offices in India participated in interviews to understand their perceptions and the
meanings they construct from their experiences with the phenomenon of standard
training. As depth in both the interviews and the associated data is critical to
understanding the deeper meaning of a phenomenon and the perspective of the
individuals experiencing the phenomenon, the interviews were conducted face-to-face
to permit observations of nonverbal responses that accompanied the interviewees

verbal descriptions of their experiences with standard training (Marshall & Rossman,
Prior to meeting with participants, I read a simplified view of the research
study (see Appendix C). This single-page summary states the research question and
affirms the importance or significance of the study. Revisiting a simple view of the
research study kept me grounded in what I was researching and why. I also reviewed
the interview questions ahead of time and rehearsed the questions, which allowed me
to re-familiarize myself with the questions so that I would not be distracted during the
meeting by wondering if I had missed any questions.
Further, prior to each interview I created an interview packet containing two
copies of the consent form, two pens, a list of names from which participants could
chose a pseudonym (see Appendix D), the demographic survey, and an interview
form. The interview form was a sheet of paper listing the interview questions, with
ample space for note taking as the interview progressed. I wore something Indian to
the interview, like a scarf or my mangalsutra, traditional Indian black and gold
marriage beads that are a sign of a married Indian woman, in the belief that anything
Indian and familiar would put the participants at ease and allow them to share more
with me.

Bracketing and Centering
As part of the broader process of data collection, I engaged in the preparatory
steps of bracketing and centering. Prior to each interview, I noted my own
predisposition toward the participant and the topic for discussion, my prejudices, and
my assumptions of not just the participants experiences but also of what I thought of
instructional design for Indians. This process of explicitly identifying beliefs ahead of
time stops these beliefs from muddying the phenomenon being investigated (van
Manen, 1990). Through the process of actively thinking about my notions, I was able
to set aside any bias I might have and avoid coloring or directing the interview. Van
Manen (1994) and Moustakas (1994) call this process of setting aside bias
bracketing, and acknowledge the challenge of bracketing the researchers personal
experiences from the experiences of the participants (Moustakas, 1994; Wojnar &
Swanson, 2007). Bracketing, or phenomenological reduction, involves the suspension
of preconceived notions, beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions so that the phenomenon
can be accepted for what it reveals itself to be (Boeree, 1998; LeVasseur, 2003). This
transparency in thought allows the researcher to view the phenomenon and the life
experiences of participants.
Centering is a calming step that accompanies bracketing. I sat in my car for
about 15 minutes before each interview, thinking about my preconceived notions
about training, culture, Indian employees, and American instructional designers.

Through this process, I was able to center my thoughts to ready myself to engage
fully with the participants stories and descriptions. Preparation, being early for
meetings, and quieting my mind prior to meetings, I could go into the meetings with
an open mind, which made me more receptive to any developments as the
conversation progressed.
At the start of every hour-long meeting, each participant asked about my
hyphenated surname, Ponnappa-Brenner. All were familiar with the Indian portion,
Ponnappa, but wanted to know more about the Brenner part. I explained that it was
my husbands last name. We discussed which home town we each came from and
what our mother tongue is. Mother tongue is the first language of the individual, the
language native to the individuals region (Cheney, Ruzzi, & Muralidharan, 2006;
Ramanathan, 2005). Within the Indian culture, these questions are similar to the
greeting rituals of Americans, who might start most conversations with, How are
you? and a discussion of the weather and weekend plans. Once we had completed
the opening pleasantries, we reviewed the informed consent form. Participants read
the form, confirmed their understanding of it, and signed it. Almost all remarked on
the formality of signing a consent form, commenting that they would have talked to
me anyway, without any formal paperwork. They were unfamiliar with the need for
human subjects approvals, and remarked on the unnecessary bureaucracy of

paperwork. I found this perception amusing, as India retains the highly bureaucratic
legacy left behind by the British.
Data collection occurred in two ways: (a) through a survey for demographics
(the second box in Figure 7) and (b) through interviews regarding the actual
experience of the phenomenon (the third box in Figure 7). The paper-based
demographic survey requested basic information, such as number of years at the
company, last date training was taken, and name of training attended (see Appendix
E). I also asked interviewees to pick a pseudonym from a list, to protect their identity.
I provided a list of names for them to choose from, instead of them providing me a
pseudonym. The reason for giving them a list is that I believe that if asked to pick any
name, I would struggle with the request to think of a name on-the-fly. If I had time to
prepare for the exercise of picking a name, then I would not feel discomfort when
asked for a pseudonym. I believe that this discomfort with impromptu thinking comes
from my Indian educational background where I had limited exposure to anything
creative and most schooling focused on memory and rote. I wanted to anticipate any
discomfort that the participants may feel and so provided a list of names for them to
The Interviews
Further data collection occurred through in-depth, open-ended, semi-
structured one-hour interviews (Bemdtsson, Claesson, Friberg, & Ohlen, 2007;

Creswell, 1998). Interviews are usually informal, topic-based, and interactive (Mason,
1996), an approach that is appropriate for this study since the focus of the research is
participants experiences, best recounted in interviews (Seidman, 2006). As
knowledge and evidence are contextual, situational, and interactional (Mason,
1996, p. 40), an interview is the most appropriate method for gaining evidence in the
words of the person who experienced the topic of the research. Interview-based
protocols offer the best way to handle qualitative research that seeks to understand the
meaning of a phenomenon from a participants view point (Seidman, 2006).
After participants had reviewed and signed the informed consent form and had
completed the survey, I asked their permission to start audio-recording the interview.
This request had two purposes: first, to obtain formal permission for the recorded
session, and second, to serve as a way to establish trust, letting the participants know
that I was not recording the initial conversation and that I would record only further
conversation. Appendix F provides the interview questions presented in Figure 8. The
questions framed allow participants to expand on each question by describing
experiences and perceptions. The opening interview questions applied the grand
tour technique (Seidman, 2006), which is used to encourage the interviewee to talk
in a general way about a broad question. In this case, the purpose was to put
participants at ease by asking them to reflect on the last training they took and to
describe the experience. Subsequent questions then focused more specifically on their

experience with standard training by asking, for example, Can you describe what
you told your colleague in India about the training? and Can you walk me through
your engagement with the training once you heard an Indian name used in the

Data Source Questions 3Cs of Customization Overall
Corrective Content Cultural Experience
Demographic Survey Did the training have any of these elements: practice scenarios, role- plays, and lesson exercises? X X
Interview Describe the training you received. Describe the scenarios, role- plays, and exercises, specifically. X X X X
Interview What portions of the training appealed to you? X X X X
Interview What about the training could have been better? X X X X
Interview If you could write your own training, what would it include? X X X X
Interview Describe the feelings you experienced during and after taking the training. X
Interview If you had to tell a colleague to attend this training, what would you tell her or him about this training? X

Data Source Questions 3Cs of Customization Overall
Corrective Content Cultural Experience
Interview How did the training benefit you? X
Review of transcript and interpretation Is the transcript accurate? What changes would you like to make? X
Review of transcript and interpretation What do you feel about the interpretations? X
Non- participant's review of transcript and interpretation What do you feel about others views on standard training? Is this how you feel too? X
Non- participant's review of transcript and interpretation Do you agree with the interpretation? X
Figure 8. Interview questions for Indian employees.
As I had reviewed the interview questions prior to the interview itself, I was
able to prompt the participants without actually directing the conversation. The
questions were broad and allowed for plenty of conversation and exchange. This open
dialog facilitated rich descriptions of participants lived experiences.

My interviewing skills improved with each interview. To stay focused on
what the content in an interview before going to the next interview, I reviewed
transcribed data soon after each interview, while the emotions and feelings from the
interview were still fresh and strong. I listened to previous interviews and read
transcripts prior to preparing for an upcoming interview. Listening, reading, and
reflecting facilitated the process of continued bracketing and centering. This
reflective focus helped me ask better questions with each interview and follow the
natural path topics took. I made the effort to capture the emotions during the
interview, noting, for example, when a participant laughed, whether a participant
seemed uncomfortable, and other such things.
Phenomenological Data Analysis
Creswell suggests that qualitative research is most successful when the
researcher is willing to engage in complex and time-consuming data analysis, the
ambitious task of sorting through large amounts of data and reducing them to a few
themes or categories (Creswell, 1998, p. 16). Researchers can organize, analyze, and
synthesize data by applying any one of many phenomenological data analysis
methods. Some common methods are that of Colaizzi (1978) and two modifications
by Moustakasone of the van Kaam method (1994, p. 120) and the other of the
Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method (Moustakas, 1994, p. 122). I chose to use the Stevick-
Colaizzi-Keen, as Creswell says that it is the method used frequently in

phenomenological studies (1998, p. 147). Appendix G contains a description of the
modified Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method. In essence, the steps in the method are the
1. Consider and record each statement in transcripts with respect to the
significance of the description of the experience.
2. List each nonrepetitive, nonoverlapping statement.
3. Aggregate statements into themes.
4. Synthesize the themes into a description of the textures of the experience by
including verbatim examples.
5. Finally, construct a composite textural structural description of the meanings
and essences of the experience, integrating all individual textural structural
descriptions into a universal description of the experience representing the
group as a whole.
To follow these guidelines, the researcher must analyze the data in a series of
steps, starting with transcription, bracketing, and horizontalization (that is, grouping)
of data, and finishing with chunking and arriving at themes, as Figure 9 shows
(Campbell, 2005; Creswell, 1998; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Moustakas, 1994).

Figure 9. Data analysis.
In transcribing the interviews, the researcher employs two lensesliteral and
interpretive (Hancock, 1998). Through the literal lens, the researcher examines the
actual form and structure of the interview, including the sequence, words, and
language the participant used (the first box in Figure 9). For literal data transcription,
I relied on a professional transcription service to listen to each interview and
transcribe the audio interviews. In using the interpretive lens, the researcher makes an
interpretive transcription, which is accomplished by inserting interview notes that
provide context to the sentences (Hancock, 1998). To these professional
transcriptions, I added nonverbal aspects of the interview, such as emphasis on certain
feelings, emotions, and words (the second box in Figure 9). An interpretive
evaluation is reading possibly implied meanings and drawing inferences (Denzin &
Lincoln, 2005). My interview notes with thoughts, ideas, and observations from the
interview, in conjunction with the transcribed interview, preserve the context of a

participants comments (Hancock, 1998). Using words, sentences, and themes
generated from interviews provides an authentic representation of the experience of
participants (Mapp, 2008). From the transcripts, I then developed individual
In applying the phenomenological method, the researcher examines and
reexamines all data to create an acute awareness of the information obtained about the
phenomenon under investigation, which then allows the researcher to begin seeing
emergent themes (Mapp, 2008). As I listened to participants describe their
experiences with standard training, I reflected on their words and developed a sense
of their tone, words, context, and meaning. I read and reread the transcribed data until
themes began to emerge (Cerbone, 2006). I then assessed how these themes matched
the key concepts revealed in the literature review. In addition, I created a list of
statements from the interviews about how interviewees experienced the phenomenon
of standard training (Campbell, 2005). Through horizontalization (Moran, 2000), or
logical groupings of these statements, deep descriptions of the experience emerge
(Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). I examined discrete units of the transcribed data and
documented emerging themes. Such chunking enables comparisons to build further
explanations, which then give rise to a summary description.

Data Management
Extensive measures protected the confidentiality of the data. First, I
transferred audio files from the recorder to my personal laptop, which is password-
protected, using as the file names the pseudonym the participants chose at the start of
each interview. I then deleted the original audio file on the recorder. Next, each audio
file was transcribed into an individual Microsoft Word document. These Word
documents were also stored on my personal laptop, with the file names of the Word
documents being the same pseudonym that was on the audio file. The audio file and
the transcript for each participant were stored in their own electronic folder labeled
with the pseudonym. All electronic files were backed up on an external hard drive
stored in a locked cabinet in my home office along notes from each interview.
I printed each transcript and hand-wrote the pseudonym on the front sheet. I
then hand-wrote my interview notes onto each transcript. The transcripts that had the
notes were also stored in the same locked filing cabinet in my home office. Finally,
for each participant, I collated the consent form, the survey form, the interview notes,
and the transcripts with the notes into a manila folder. I hand-wrote the pseudonym
related to the set of documents on the cover of the folder, and stored each folder in the
locked cabinet. At the completion of three years from the study, I will delete all
electronic files and shred all paper copies.

Trustworthiness Features
Creswell points out that an inherent characteristic of qualitative research is
that it does not have firm guidelines or specific procedures and is evolving and
changing constantly. This complicates telling others how one plans to conduct a study
and how others might judge it when the study is done. (Creswell, 1998, p. 17) To
counter such ambiguity in judging the study, I equipped myself for questions by
reviewing a number of books and articles on qualitative research (Boeree, 1998;
Creswell, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994), specifically phenomenology (Aspers,
2004; Groenewald, 2004; Moustakas, 1994; Polkinghome, 1989). I also reviewed
numerous dissertations, some that used qualitative methods other than
phenomenology (Pearce, 2007; Stout, 2004) and some that used phenomenology as
their preferred research method (Arnold, 2005; Greenebaum, 2009; Hoffart, 1995;
Moscatel, 2005). This reading prepared me for the rigor of the phenomenological
method of data collection, analysis, and presentation. Creswell suggests that one way
to assess the quality of a phenomenological study is to ask, Is it possible to go from
the general structural description to the transcriptions and to account for the specific
contents and connections in the original examples of the experience? (1998, p. 209)
Miles and Huberman lay out certain issues in assessing the quality of a research
study, which include (a) objectivity and confirmability; (b) reliability, dependability,

and auditability; (c) validity and credibility; and (d) utilization, application, and
action orientation (1994, p. 277).
The purpose of checking for objectivity is to ensure that the researcher has set
aside biases and has explicitly acknowledged any existing preconceived notions. One
also checks for neutrality when checking for objectivity and confirmability, to ensure
that others can replicate the study. Miles and Huberman (1994) indicate that certain
queries can lead the reader to determine objectivity. For example,
1. Are the studys general methods and procedures described explicitly?
2. Can we follow the actual sequence of how data are collected, analyzed, and
3. Has the researcher kept a record of the studys methods and procedures?
Reliability looks at consistency by asking whether the study is reasonably
stable over time. To assess the reliability, dependability, and auditability of a study,
the researcher can ask whether the research question is clear and the method used is
in congruence with the question, and whether any forms of peer or colleague reviews
were in place.
To ensure that thoughts and ideas shared by participants are accurately
captured and interpreted, the participants were asked to read the analysis of their
transcripts and comment on accuracy of transcripts and interpretation (Denzin &
Lincoln, 2005; Miles & Huberman, 1994). To initiate this step, by email I asked each

participant to review the interview transcript and interpretation (the fourth box in
Figure 7). Additionally, six members of the original sample of 15 respondents, who
were not interviewed, read the same analysis with the names of interviewees redacted
to perform a community check to validate whether their experience is similar to the
interpretation of the experience of the participants (Miles & Huberman, 1994) (the
last box in Figure 7). The intent of member checking is to test the validity of the
research study.
To test the validity is to test the credibility of the findings. Miles and
Huberman (1994) indicate that certain queries can lead the reader to determine the
internal validity of the study. For example,
1. How context-rich and meaningful are the descriptions?
2. Does the account ring true, make sense, seem convincing or plausible, and
provide a vicarious presence for the reader?
3. Did the original informants consider the conclusions accurate?
4. Were any predictions in the study, and if so, how accurate were they?
Consumers of a study must have all details of the study to be able to re-use
the study in an actionable manner. This completeness allows other researchers and
practitioners to make use of the study for practical implementations in the field of
training and education. Providing a robust foundation allows the research findings to
be better integrated into practice (Feuer, Towne, & Shavelson, 2002). What purpose

would a research study have if it is lost in academia and the findings have no
practical, real-world applications? Often, researchers tend to draw comparisons
between education research and medical research (Field & Morse, 1985). The benefit
of medical research is that no doctor ignores the findings of medical research. To
assess the action orientation of the study, Miles and Huberman (1994) indicate that
certain queries can lead the reader to determine the level of future use of the study.
Two examples of such queries are the following:
1. Do the findings stimulate working hypotheses on the part of the reader as
guidance for future research?
2. What is the level of usable knowledge offered?
This research study does not attempt to be generalizable. Rather, its purpose is to
create awareness about the phenomenon of Indian employees experience of standard
training and a need for customized training. This study can serve as a launching point
for future studies, as it provides a reusable structure for future studies.
Chapter Summary
This chapter describes how the employment of phenomenological
methodology helps to study customization of training for local culture. The primary
research question addresses the experience of Indian employees, who receive out-of-
the-box, off-the-shelf training, and a sub question explores what it means to develop
custom training by incorporating local culture. The chapter offers detailed