Russia, the world's largest country, covers more than an eighth of the Earth's land area and spans 11 time zones. Russia's economy is prospering with an average 7 percent GDP growth over the last nine years. It now ranks as the world’s seventh largest economy. Russians identify themselves as a highly cultured nation with a rich heritage and valuable contributions to the world of arts and sciences. In the Soviet era, the country focused on planning and production and favored "hard" technical skills and academic rigor over "soft" skills.
These factors influence current thinking on training and development in Russia. Russians are hungry for development. Research shows that Russian employees consider training just as motivating as salary increases, according to the Association of Managers of Russia HR Committee Roundtable held last September. Russian companies such as Rusal, Severstal, Nornikel, Beeline, Eurochim, and the Ilim Group, as well as multinationals operating in Russia such as Novo Nordisk, recognize this and provide corporate training in the form of corporate MBA programs and in cooperation with Russian, European, and U.S.-based universities.
National Pride (GORDOST')
Many Russians expect Russia to be treated differently from other countries and for people from other nations to show deference toward their nation. As a former superpower, Russians also are sensitive to any condescending attitude from outsiders.
When training, remember to:
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the local realities.
- If you are a Westerner, avoid a "West is best" attitude.
- Ask for participants' opinions.
- Have a command of basic Russian phrases such as "Dobroe utro" (good morning) and "Spasibo" (thank you).
Ours/Not Ours (SVOJI/CHUZHIJE)
The Russians' world is clearly divided into two categories: svoji (ours; insiders) and chuzhije (not ours; outsiders). Russians typically consider themselves members of specific groups (e.g., family, circle of friends, a club or association, work collective, city, or country) where they are insiders. The efficiency of getting something done and how people treat and support one another largely depends on insider or outsider status.Trust is not automatically granted to outsiders; it has to be earned. To enter the circle of insiders, trainers can:
- Build relationships with participants during the pre-work, preferably with face-to-face interactions.
- Be ready for open arguments and challenging questions from participants.
- Understand the idea of "team leader" from the Soviet era. Identify the leaders within the audience and win them over. Then it will be easier to win over others and organize productive teamwork.
Russian society is permeated by unwritten rules that are shared and enforced by practically all its members. For each situation, there is an accepted set of behaviors, rituals, and symbols. Those who do not
comply with poryadok risk being considered "uncultured."
In training situations:
- Prove your credibility, qualifications, and professionalism by articulating theories and offering examples from your experience.
- Provide high-quality, framed certificates at the end of the training as a symbol of achievement, delivered in a ceremonial ritual with a handshake
from the trainer.
With good preparation and an acknowledgement of Russian employees' cultural background and training needs, you will find that training Russians is a dynamic and rewarding experience. Russians are highly interactive audience members and will appreciate the new knowledge and skills you bring them.
Kimberly Blanchard-Cattarossi (right) is regional training director, EMEA for Aperian Global (www.aperianglobal.com). Irina Pshenichnikova (left) is senior consultant for Aperian Global and is based in Russia. Dr. Pshenichnikova is also a professor at the Academy of National Economy in Moscow.