Cultural Competence Empowers Outsourcing Capabilities

Cultural Competence Empowers Outsourcing Capabilities

What makes an outsourcing center successful? Some keys are knowledge about the region’s business atmosphere and language skills. In Cognizant’s Vilnius-based delivery center, accountants, and IT experts become fluent in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish within five months. Candidates are lining up to join.

The business model in the outsourcing division at Cognizant is based on tasks being distributed such that the client gets the best competence at the most sensible cost. That is why strategic advice is offered by experts in the client’s market, while more time-consuming tasks are solved in countries and regions where the cost is lower.

To adapt to this way of delivering, Cognizant has gone further in its quest to provide the best service. Since 2007, Cognizant has had a Nordic language school in Vilnius. At this school, university-educated people with strong language skills are recruited to learn the Nordic languages in five months. 

Provides something no one else can
“Speaking the local language gives us a better prerequisite to help those that are outsourcing their business processes. This is unique for Cognizant and something we are immensely proud of,” says Natasha Jasrotia. 

She is in charge of Cognizant’s training program in Europe and for the global growth markets. This includes all units in the corporation that delivers services to a lot of Europe’s largest corporations. 

“Because we have this offering, we can deliver services that demand high competence at a lower cost. I’m not exaggerating when I say this language training facility is critical for our business,” says Jasrotia. 

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13 with master’s degrees in Scandinavian languages
Jurate Cesne is the manager of the language center and speaks a mix of Swedish and Norwegian with an impressive Swedish pronunciation. She has a master’s degree in Swedish and manages a team of 12 teachers where all have a university degree in Scandinavian language and have lived in one of the countries. Two of the teachers are even Norwegian and Danish. 

In addition to the language part, the training also consists of learning about cultures, traditions, norms, and rules in each market. This means that the students watch Nordic movies, read newspapers, celebrate St. Lucia in December, and St. Hans or mid-summer in June. They also have a tradition of tasting the infamous Swedish delicacy made of herring, surströmming. 

“There is a running joke that tasting surströmming is ten times worse than going through exams,” says Cesne. 

Access to the best staff
Those recruiting candidates for Cognizant looks for candidates that are at the top of their profession and with proven, strong language skills. Candidates are fully paid during training and applicants are lined up to join the school. 

“It takes on average 110 days to learn a language and by then they are self-sufficient with their new language,” Cesne says. 

The training is done in three parts, all with an exam at the end. After that, the students go straight into working with Scandinavian businesses. Some of the candidates also receive two to three weeks of extra curriculum if they need to learn the local business jargon within the different disciplines. 

“The language training is popular and it’s easy to recruit the absolute best and most motivated candidates within the various professions.” 

Language challenges 
Since the language in Lithuania doesn’t have many similarities with Scandinavian languages, it’s not uncommon that some find the training challenging. The most common hurdles are the pronunciation of vowels, placing verbs in sentences, and a curiosity that also Swedes and Norwegians have a hard time wrapping their head around:

“The Danish numbers where they use “fjers” and “fems” is a challenge they all struggle with,” says Cesne. 

Going forward, the center will be upgraded to offer remote training. That makes it even easier for Cognizant to adapt to different needs where teams can receive special training for different tasks and specific deliverables. At the end of their training, the students are satisfied. 

“We’ve never had a bad review. The students are motivated and have normally put a lot of personal effort into the training to prepare for meeting clients at work. The center helps us attract new clients, as well as enables us to take on more responsibility and more challenging tasks from existing clients. It’s really a competitive advantage,” ends Cesne proudly. 
 

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