February 17, 2020, Potsdam: It is Monday and a special day for our participants of the Salzgitter International Training Program (SITP) 2020, which will start any minute. Twelve young professionals of the whole Salzgitter Group are taking part in the program this year which consists of 3 different modules of 4 or 5 days each. Working on soft skills (e.g. teambuilding) is one common target the group will follow up during their encounters. They will get to know new working techniques (e.g. setting priorities and planning effectively) and learn to increase intercultural awareness and self reflection. And maybe far more than that.
But see for yourself what the group experienced:
Twelve, eight, and four: these are the figures for this year’s SITP. Twelve people from eight countries – Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, USA – working in four companies of the Salzgitter Group – KHS, Mannesmann Stainless Tubes, Mannesmann Precision Tubes, and Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung. We gathered in the capital of Brandenburg, Potsdam, whose rich history was a great addition to the training.
Although two participants could not physically attend due to the Coronavirus outbreak, this did not prevent the whole group from having a very instructive and enjoyable experience. They participated online via Skype and were completely integrated into the daily training sessions. “Even though I was physically separated from the training group, I felt strongly connected with the group during the entire week,” says Leif from KHS China. Thanks to today’s technology and good organization, it was possible for them to participate in China.
Module 1 started with a discussion on cultural diversity and how we perceive each other in different cultures. We performed an exercise that consisted of finding five stereotypes for each nationality. After brainstorming all the possible stereotypes, we compiled them on post-it notes and gathered all the data. The result turned out to be a bit awkward as there seemed to be no single explanation on how we see another’s culture. This simple exercise made us realize that it’s easy to misperceive a culture based on stereotypes alone. Instead, we should look into each person and find out what makes them truly different from one another.
We prepared company presentations in three groups: one group presented KHS, another presented MST, and the last group presented MPT and SZMF together. The KHS presentation was especially challenging as there were seven people from different units and countries, with Prince and Leif participating via Skype. Together, they managed to give a great overview of the structure and portfolio of KHS. In the end, everyone was happy to learn more about the individual subsidiaries within the group as there is minimal contact with one another in the day to day business.
The team collectively participated in an interactive activity called Ecotonos in which four groups created a culture based on a few guidelines provided by our trainer. Individuals from some cultures were then switched to a different culture with opposing values and beliefs. The simulation brought to light the challenges that must be overcome when cultures merge and adapt to one another. This was an eye-opener for our group and we were appreciative of the lesson behind it.
We also learned about the theoretical approaches to forming the perfect team, but more importantly, how to apply those rules directly. Considering everyone possesses their own unique experiences and characteristics, a successful team contains a diversity of strengths. We worked on self-perception exercises and were able to give very open feedback on perception to others, leading to formation of smaller subgroups for optimal experience exchange. This very open – and mostly correct – depiction of each other’s characters in such a short time was most impressive to many. In the end, we were able to form ideal learning groups with people that possess opposing strengths so we would all benefit from one another.
While our group dedicated many hours to training, we were fortunate to have time to explore and relax together. We had the opportunity to show our abilities at indoor wall climbing and singing as professionals in karaoke. From discovering the rich history and architecture of Brandenburger Tor and Cecilienhof Palace, admiring the red brick buildings in the Dutch Quarter, to enjoying the delicious German dishes, sightseeing and training in Potsdam was a success…ENJOY!
Baltazar, Constantin, Jayshil, Jelissa, Leif, Mario, Mauricio, Prince Zi, Ryan, Simon, Thomas and Yannic