Due to the increasing globalization in the world, people are interacting all over and exchanging their culture, backgrounds, and beliefs (French, 2007). This has helped in creating diversity at the place of work, promoting creativity in organizations. Management today is more concerned with maximizing and capitalizing on the diversity at the workplace. Managing diversity has remained a major challenge in organizations, which means that managers must learn the skills that are required to manage a multi-cultural environment (Browaeys, and Price, 2008).
Intercultural Awareness & Skills
It’s the work of supervisors and managers, to teach others and themselves how to value multicultural differences in the organization, to ensure that everybody in the organization is treated with dignity (Zeira & Banai, 1985). This can be done through creating a program at the workplace where the workers are taught diversity, its strengths, and limitations, for them to fully embrace it.
Many people think that diversity is about racial and cultural differences, yet it is beyond that (Browaeys, and Price, 2008). Diversity is the art of understanding, valuing, acknowledging, and accepting differences in other people concerning their ethnicity, class, age, physical and mental ability, gender, spiritual practice, sexual orientation, and race (Esty, et al, 1995). Given the increasing differences in the population, it means that the issue of diversity needs to be addressed with a lot of preference due to the future effects that may result from it (McCourt & Eldridge, 2003). Diversity can increase productivity and also has its competitive advantages, thus companies should focus on enhancing and embracing diversity at the organizations (Esty, et al, 1995) (Robinson, 2002).
Benefits of diversity
Diversity at the workplace is important both to the employers and the associates. According to Esty, et al. (1995) “This is because respecting the individual differences at the workplace helps in increasing productivity and in reducing lawsuits thus increasing the marketing opportunities, recruitment, the creativity of workers and improving the image of the business.”
Limitations of diversity
Diversity experiences various limitations given that it’s not only concerned about knowing the differences among people. Managing people from different cultures involves curbing discrimination and prejudice at the workplace as well respecting people in the differences that they possess (Terrence, & Marinus, 2004). The prejudice, complaints, and discrimination that take place at the workplace may make managers lose personnel, who may then take legal actions against the organization (Zeira & Banai, 1985).
Negative attitudes by some workers at the workplace can be great barriers when managing diversity in an organization as they harm the working relationships and as a result, may damage the morale of the workers. These negative attitudes may include; stereotyping, discrimination, and prejudice which the managers should highly avoid especially when hiring, terminating, and retaining workers (Greenberg, 2005, January 24).
Every individual is unique in his/her way and as such cannot be used as a representative of a certain group. Therefore managers should understand the consequences that are brought by discrimination as well as recognizing the cultural biases and prejudices that are there. There is no single solution to countering diversity in a working environment but what managers need to do is to understand what is best for the organization. Roosevelt 2001, regarded managing diversity as a very inclusive process in which everybody in the working environment is included (Roosevelt, 2001).
To ensure the workforce at the workplace is very successful, though, from different cultures, managers need to identify the personal differences that exist and thus concentrate on them (Terrence, & Marinus, 2004). This means that managers should develop training that is continuous to help people change their behaviors; this is because change is a slow process that cannot take place instantly (Koonce, 2001). Another important thing that needs to be looked at in promoting and managing diversity is ensuring that a workplace is a safe place for both the employer and the associates. This can be done through organizing social gatherings and meetings where every person has a chance to speak and to listen as this will enhance the art of people respecting one another by respecting the ideas of others (Black Enterprise, 2001).
The dimension has been applicable almost in every context, especially in the behavioral sciences. It’s in management and marketing that it’s widely used in examining cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors, the identification and intentions of employee turn over and in comparing stereotypes across the different cultures. Hofstede’s divided his dimension into the following;
Power – Hofstede said that “the power distance, is that extent to which the members who are powerful do expect and embrace power distribution in an unequal way” (Doole & Lowe, 2008). He said that the cultures that have got high power distance do have centralized and a top to down power control whereas those cultures that have low power distance embrace greater empowerment and equality.
Individualism as compared to collectivism- Hofstede claimed that “for an individual’s environment, the person feels that their rights are much more necessary than those of the groups that they belong to,” whereas individuals from a collective society do respect the ideas of other people and the rights of a group always come before their own. They like teamwork and sharing ideas as groups.
According to Robinson (2002) “Gender (masculinity versus femininity)-on this Hofstede, focused on the degree in which the ‘traditional’ roles of any gender are assigned by a community’s culture i.e. where men are considered to be aggressive people who are competitive and women are considered to be gentle people who should only be concerned about the family.”
Time- with time, Hofstede considered this as long versus short-term orientation is mainly focused on the extent to which a group invests in the future, how patient it is in waiting for results, and also how persevering it is (Doole & Lowe, 2008).
Therefore it means that when doing business with other countries overseas, it’s important to research their culture along the mentioned dimensions to check first what the people there use. It’s important to take account of these cultural factors even if they are revealed mistakenly while talking with their national groups. When the expatriate managers go to other countries to do assignments, they should be made aware of the kind of culture that they are expected to find there. This will make them get psychologically prepared on what they are expected to find and what they are expected to adhere to (Doole & Lowe, 2008).
Trompenaar in the year 1993 did research in which questionnaires were distributed to around 15, 000 managers, who were from 28 countries. The responses got from 500 managers from 23 countries were then used in producing cultural dimensions. Trompenaars is so much into the international culture, and does not talk of stereotypes of a country but deals with the need to understand individuals. Out of the dimensions that he came up with five were relating to business and marketing. They were classified as follows;
Universalism vs. Particularism in universalism the rules are more general and do not refer to any specific thing; they are broad, whereas particularism involves a case of judging something on its own merits or demerits and not necessarily attempting to force a rule to fit in it (Doole & Lowe, 2008).
Analyzing vs. Integrating- analyzing is where you break down something into components for you to find out its details. In Doole & Lowe, 2008 “Trompenaars claimed that, “such people find that those who only look at the big picture as people who are not in touch with reality and that Integrating as well, helps in bringing pieces together to form, the big picture.”
According to Loysk, B.(1996) “Individualism vs. communitarians- individualism looks at the rights of individuals, thus seeking to make each person to either grow or fail on their own at the expense of groups, whereas in ‘communitarianism,’ it’s all about the rights of the society or group. It aims at placing the family, country, group, and company ahead of individual needs.”
According to Hazel, et al (1996) “Inner-directed vs. outer-directed- inner-directed is all about thinking of self and making personal judgments in our minds, whereas outer-directed is thinking about the world. It assumes that we should look out for information in the world and make out decisions from there as we live in a real-world as this is very important to expatriate managers as they conduct their assignments in foreign countries on their day to day life.” They can assess the culture of a country before going there and are thus able to compare from which dimension the culture of that country falls. This will enable them to be able to carry out their assignments well as they can group and compare on which dimension their culture falls on (Doole & Lowe, 2008).
Weaknesses of Hofstede’s framework
It has been a concern on the empirical validity of Hofstede’s cultural framework given that several studies have risen out this question. Research conducted on the studies that have attempted to use this framework showed that two-thirds of them had little or no support on Hofstede’s cultural framework. As for those studies that had focused on individual dimensions of culture, they did cast a high doubt on this cultural framework. Some of those who used the framework have claimed that there is an overlap in the various dimensions of culture, whereas others noted that the reliability of some of the dimensions of culture is too low. Therefore from these studies conducted showed that the validity of the cultural framework was still under question and needed to be investigated.
Weakness of Trompenaars cultural framework
The framework is only dealing with comparing and contrasting different aspects. It deals with diversity in a shallow manner. It does not give a comprehensive report on the diversity of culture thus its validity is in doubt. Though it is widely used in marketing and business, it suffers the fate of lacking to show how diversity can be well managed.
The models can be made more useful if they could well explain how to manage the diversity that they are mentioning in the workplace. This is because diversity comes in very many aspects, which have not been tackled clearly by the models. They should provide a comprehensive framework for managing this diversity in a workplace situation.
Expatriates, who have come from various cultural backgrounds have learned the art of respecting the culture of other people, they do make very efficient and effective leaders at the workplace as well as motivating other staff members. Motivation comes in the sense that the expatriate has realized the diversities that lie in different individuals and is thus able to embrace what a particular individual does and appreciates it, and not just shunning the person down as incapable. This should be viewed when the manager is dealing with both women and men at the workplace where he/she should accept the work done by a woman in the same way as that done by a man and not just shunning the woman down as a weakling. He/she should portray the art of respect for the diversity in potentials of workers and their gender as well (Esty, et al, 1995).
Culture of individualism & collectivism
Individualism- an individual who has come from a culture that values the rights of individuals first, at the expense of the rights of a group, makes the individual selfish and only recognizes his/her ideas. The person from this culture will have difficulties in working in a collective society, as he/she gives priority to his/her ideas and as such does not respect the ideas of other people. Therefore we can say that an expatriate from an individualistic society working in a collective society will not be able to gather the ideas that he or she wanted as he/she will not be able to interact well with the society at large.
Collectivism- expatriates from a culture of collectivism do give preference to groups and respect the ideas of other people at the expense of their own. This individual working in an individualistic society will have trouble while working in groups in that, the individuals that he/she is working with; only give preference to the individual’s ideas. The expatriates need to get proper coaching for them to be able to finish the assignment given.
Therefore irrespective of the culture that an expatriate comes from, he/she will require training or coaching to prepare them appropriately for what they are expected to encounter in the particular foreign country.
According to Revel miller, 2009,” even though the managers who are on expatriate assignments abroad are only 1% of the employees in an organization, are the most expensive employees that are next to the executives.” These expatriates, who go to other countries to do assignments, do suffer from stressful working conditions and the fact that they are coming into contact with a new culture. As a result, they tend to produce poor results as some do not complete the assignments given. This failure to complete assignments is very expensive to the company given the amount of money spent on the individual to go abroad. Since expatriates take a lot of risks both in their career and personal lives, they thus take a large percentage of investment at stake for an organization (Devoe, 1999). Therefore to ensure success it requires that these foreign assignees be given supportive assistance (McCourt & Eldridge, 2003). It requires that they are trained, to ensure that they are prepared both psychologically and physically. This will enable them as they go abroad, to be able to accept and respect the culture of other people, and as such be able to finish the assignment that they have gone there to do(Revel Miller, 2009).
This training is very beneficial both to the individual, and the organization. This is clearly stated in the figure below:
According to Kobrin (1999) “Training of employees for expatriate assignments helps them to orient quickly and adjust well with their new environment in the foreign culture so that they can keenly focus on the strategic business objectives and thus be able to appropriately utilize the business practices that are there across the culture.” This enhances confidence in managers as they are getting absorbed in confusing and very ambiguous work in the foreign environment (Devoe, 1999). This training will enable the expatriate managers to achieve the objectives of the business whether they are placed on either long-term or short-term assignments (Nina, 2003).
Value of the training
The expatriate managers who are on foreign assignments do appreciate this unique and long-distance training relationship, from which they can be able to;
- Come up with new ideas and strategies
- Discover their strengths and limitations
- Receive support that is not judgmental
- Express their struggles and the vulnerabilities that they are exposed to
Expatriates usually go through three stages which are; entry stage, the disillusionment stage, and the termination stage. In the beginning stage, the expatriate is excited about traveling and the encounter of a new culture after which the expatriate is no longer excited with the new vocabulary, and even finding the way around in the new country. It’s at this stage that the expatriates experience cultural shock and longs to go back to their families. It’s from here that the expatriates may terminate their assignment early and go back to their home country (Mendenhall, 1985).
How companies prepare expatriates
Companies should always look for individuals who can be able to pass the disillusionment stage and thus be able to become successful expatriate managers. With this they should search for individuals who have the following characters;
- Able to adjust to changes
- People who are never frustrated by things that are not done the way they are used to seeing them being done
- People who can work well with people of other cultures
- Individuals who can perceive that taking an international assignment will have a positive result in their career that is it will add upon what they have as a career.
Individuals to be chosen for assignment in a foreign country should have knowledge and skills that the nationals in the foreign country do not have (Deresky, 2008). This is because they will be expected to complete their assignments on their own requiring little or no help from anyone in the hierarchy of the organization. These individuals will have to be trained by the company first so that when they get to the foreign country they will be able to adapt to the culture of that country. Expatriates should not be chosen from rigid people, it should be from individuals that are very flexible in accepting and respecting the change of whatever caliber. Thus for companies to get results from other countries they should prepare the individuals that they are sending there appropriately. The individuals on their part should be willing to move to that country and must have undergone proper coaching for them to be able to manage the diversity that they are likely to encounter in the new environment (Zeira, 1985).
Therefore managing diversity involves planning the organizational systems and their practices and also implementing them so that the advantages of diversity are well maximized and ensuring that the disadvantages are minimized as much as possible. This is because diversity helps in promoting flexibility and creativity at the workplace which is important in meeting new needs and demands of customers. Research has proved that groups formed by people who are from different cultures, produce better solutions when compared to groups that are of people from one culture. When an organization can manage diversity it develops a good reputation. Esty et al (1995) says that “It also helps in attracting the best talents to the organization out of a shrinking labor pool and thus the organization can save time and money in the recruitment of new employees and also the turn over costs of employees.” Expatriate managers also contribute a lot to an organization; in terms of helping to achieve a competitive advantage due to diversity, and working out across cultures (Robinson, 2002). Its therefore important to train the expatriates who are to do assignments in foreign countries so that they are effective in their work and are able to accept and respect the culture of the foreign country, thus able to complete the assignment that they have been given.
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