Purpose of the Study
In today’s civilisation, organisations have emerged as one of the most important pillars of human development. Indeed, it is difficult to find communities that are immune to the actions of organisations or their proxies. The impact of corporate governance on modern society stems from the fact that many organisations are part of multinational global alliances, which have advanced data processing and telecommunication capabilities (Bijaoui 2016). Similarly, most of them have diverse and multicultural workforces that help them to achieve their financial or non-profit goals (Tarnue 2017). The growing influence of multinational corporations (MNCs) in the global society can be harnessed through cultural synergies because of the presence of a multicultural workforce (Bijaoui 2016).
Although many organisations try to achieve intercultural synergy, only a few of them understand what the concept means. According to the Management Association and Information Resources (2014), organisational synergy occurs when managers bring two or more cultures together to improve efficiency through combined strengths and skills. Alternatively, according to Smiraglia (2014), synergy is a combined action that occurs when two or more people who come from diverse backgrounds choose to work together in an organisational context. The goal of creating these synergies is to increase the effectiveness of their operations through shared perceptions, insights and knowledge.
However, synergy is not only limited to the achievement of common goals because it also allows groups to become effective because people become more innovative when they work together (van Zomeren & Louis 2017). From this model, managers harness differences in the world’s population to promote mutual growth through increased cooperation among partners (Bijaoui 2016). Therefore, organisations could benefit from increased efficiencies and success when they allow employees to share their opinions freely.
In most cases, cultural synergy manifests through the reproduction of a new cultural form, which differs from the initial ones that birthed it (Gopalkrishnan 2019). Regardless of the processes that lead to the creation of cultural synergy, globalisation is likely to force many organisations to strive for intercultural synergy. This is why many pieces of literature that talk about globalisation also discuss the concept of cultural synergy.
The purpose of this study is to identify strategies for promoting intercultural synergy at Marriott hotel being the case study.
Description of Study Context
This dissertation is a case study of Marriott Hotels and Resorts. Based in Bethesda, Maryland, the company has been in operation for more than 60 years (United States Securities Exchange Commission 2019). In addition, its global operations span more than 110 countries around the world (Marriott Rewards 2016). In these markets, the company operates about 6,500 properties and more than 1.3 million rooms (Statista 2019).
According to Comparably (2019), Marriott’s vision is “to become the premier provider and facilitator of leisure and vacation experiences in the world” (p. 1). Comparatively, the company’s mission is “to enhance the lives of its customers by creating and enabling unsurpassed vacation and leisure experiences” (Comparably 2019, p. 1). Marriott also focuses on promoting an intercultural workforce, as seen through statistics, which show that minorities hold about 26% of its management positions (Marriott 2019). In addition, women hold about half of these positions (Marriott 2019). The company’s mantra emphasises the need to respect cultural diversity because it is the link between the company’s past and future (Marriott 2019).
The current study is focused on promoting intercultural synergy at the hotel by identifying unique ways for advancing intercultural competence, addressing new perspectives regarding the practice and highlighting varied issues associated with it.
The study’s scope includes the need to undertake intercultural training as a technique for promoting synergies at the Marriott Hotel. Furthermore, the investigation will also centre on assessing the need for intercultural communication as a strategy for promoting intercultural synergy in the workplace. By understanding these insights, it would be easier for the hotel’s managers to cope with intercultural challenges that exist in its global business environment. The research aim, questions and objectives of the study appear below.
To identify strategies for promoting intercultural synergy at Marriott Hotel.
- Is there a need for intercultural communication as a strategy for promoting intercultural synergy at Marriott Hotel?
- What is the role of organisational change in promoting intercultural synergy at Marriott Hotel?
- What is the level of cultural assimilation at the Marriott Hotel?
- What is the role of leaders in promoting intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel?
- To find out whether there is a need for intercultural communication as a strategy for promoting intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel.
- To describe the role of organisational change in promoting intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel.
- To find out the level of cultural assimilation at the Marriott Hotel.
- To establish how to involve leaders in promoting intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel.
Significance and Justification for the Study
The findings of this study will focus on how to create intercultural synergy in the workplace. Doing so would help organisations to solve complex international operations that affect their operations. This study is timely because it appeals to the current global business space because any manager who is employed with a multinational company must be versant with the methods needed to promote intercultural synergies in the workplace.
In addition, they must be competently involved with cross-cultural communication. Previous research studies have alluded to this fact by demonstrating that the effectiveness of multinational companies in the global marketplace is predicated on their ability to be culturally competent.
Therefore, the findings of this study are timely to managers of multinational companies who have trouble realising intercultural synergy in their organisations. Indeed, as Barmeyer and Franklin (2016) point out, many managers can benefit from learning how to promote intercultural synergies in their workplaces because doing so would allow them to create a culturally diverse workforce that has many capabilities, perspectives and attitudes. Such managers are also likely to benefit from enhanced problem-solving skills and an increased familiarisation of techniques to develop unique solutions to cross-cultural problems (Barmeyer & Franklin 2016).
Particularly, the findings of this study will be relevant to managers in the hospitality industry because the case study is the Marriott Hotel, which is an industry leader in the sector. Therefore, the findings of this study are relevant to today’s post-modern era where there is a need for a high-synergy organisation managed by people who understand how to promote intercultural synergy. Lastly, the insights developed from the current study will not only be relevant to multinational organisations but also government agencies, intergovernmental organisations and non-profit companies that are engaged in international trade. The same is true for agencies or companies, which are becoming increasingly complex in scope and sophistication regarding the adoption of new technology.
Structure of the Dissertation
This dissertation is classified into five distinct sections. The first one is the introductory chapter, which provides a background to the study and a justification for why the researcher should conduct it. This chapter also contains information regarding the study context and its purpose. The research aim, objectives and questions that guide the study are also provided in this chapter. The second section of the dissertation is the literature review.
It contains a description and analysis of what other researchers have written about the research topic. The researcher will also provide a review of the theoretical underpinning of the study and explain the gap in the literature that the current study intends to fill in this section. The third chapter of the study is the methodology section, which outlines the techniques used by the researcher in answering the study questions.
Therefore, issues pertaining to the research design, research methods, data collection techniques and data analysis methods are described in this section. The fourth chapter of this dissertation will present the findings obtained from the implementation of the strategies highlighted in the methodology chapter. The last chapter of this dissertation is the conclusion and recommendations section, which will summarise the main findings and suggest recommendations for consideration.
Specialised Terms and Concepts
- Synergy – When there is an attempt to bring two or more cultures together to create an environment where efficiency can be improved through combined strengths or skills
- Culture – A set of beliefs, norms and values followed by a distinct group of people
- Parochialism – An individualistic view of the world
- Simplification – The equality of employees, regardless of their experiences when interacting with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds
This section of the study highlights what other researchers have written about the study topic. The analysis is informed by the research aim, which is to understand how to promote intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel. The materials reviewed in this chapter are mostly books, journals and credible websites because of their high level of credibility. The researcher got the articles from reputable online databases, including Sage Journals, Google Books and Emerald Insight. This literature review also reviews the theoretical contributions of notable scholars in the field of intercultural management, such as Hofstede. The key words used to obtain relevant materials were intercultural synergy, Marriott Hotel, cross-cultural management and theories.
For many decades, researchers have investigated the role of culture in the development of a sound business environment. Cross-cultural management research studies have also taken different shapes and forms in recent decades (Mihaela 2014). Initially, they used to be characterised by parochial research studies that focused on one culture when evaluating synergies in organisational development; today, they encapsulate the intrigues characterising two or more cultural groups working in the same organisation (Mihaela 2014). In addition, they have used different metrics to evaluate cultural differences and similarities (Stamenova 2018).
Hofstede is among the most recognisable scholars in the field of intercultural studies because he identified different cultural dynamics characterising nations (Maria 2019). In other words, he reviewed the concept of intercultural synergy through an understanding of cultural differences among countries. Relative to this assertion, the scholar said that national and regional cultural differences manifest when businesses acquire an international stature (Mihaela 2014). He also emphasised the need to manage cultural differences in organisations because they are among the most challenging issues to address in a global business environment (Mihaela 2014).
Hofstede highlights six key categories for understanding cultural differences among nations. They include power distance, long-term/short-term orientation, pragmatism/”normatism,” masculinity/feminity, uncertainty avoidance, indulgence/restraint and individualism/collectivism (Mihaela 2014). Table 1 below summarises these six dimensions of intercultural exchange.
Table 1. Hofstede’s six key dimensions of cultural exchange (Adapted from Mihaela 2014).
|Power Distance |
The extent that lower level employees agree that there is an unequal distribution of power in an organisation
|Individualism vs. Collectivism |
The degree that employees pursue personal goals at the expense of group goals
|Masculinity vs. Feminism |
The degree that an organisation celebrate aggressive values at the expense of softer skills, such as compassion and care
|Uncertainty Avoidance |
The degree that employees feel uncomfortable with their inability to control future outcomes
|Pragmatism vs. Normatism |
The degree that employees acknowledge their inability to explain much of what goes on around them
|Indulgence vs. Restraint |
The ability of employees to control their impulses and emotions
Stamenova (2018) provides a practical example of the implementation of the above-mentioned cultural dynamics through a review of two countries – China and Ireland. A comparison of the two nations, according to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, suggests that China scores highly on the power-distance scale compared to Ireland. Relative to the definition of power distance highlighted in this chapter, China’s high ranking on power-distance means that many of its managers accept the existence of unequal relationships in the workplace.
This analysis means that Chinese employees may have no defence against their supervisors when they abuse authority because of the presence of a formal management structure that always has to be observed (Stamenova 2018). The biggest disadvantage associated with this cultural dimension (in China) is that workers are not encouraged to aspire above their ranks.
Comparatively, Irelands’ low score on power distance means that most of its employees believe that inequalities should be minimised. Therefore, most Irish organisations establish hierarchical structures to accomplish administrative objectives but not to stifle employee input (Stamenova 2018). However. the Chinese are more long-term oriented compared to Ireland because Ireland’s culture is normative (Stamenova 2018). Although they respect their traditions, employees from China who subscribe to this culture have a strong focus on achieving results.
Ireland also scores highly in individualism and indulgence relative to China. However, both countries score almost equally when assessed based on the masculinity index (Stamenova 2018). The lowest score on Hofstede’s cultural dimension scale for China is individualism. The communist nature of the Chinese culture explains this outcome. Comparatively, Ireland’s culture is similar to many western countries, which rank highly on individualism because Irish bosses are often encouraged to be self-reliant and initiative (Stamenova 2018). The influential role played by managers in cross-cultural management has underscored the need to understand the role of leadership in promoting intercultural synergy.
Role of Leaders in Promoting Intercultural Synergy
As highlighted in other parts of this study, new intercultural dynamics have influenced business strategies for multinationals in the global corporate environment. Therefore, researchers argue that it is not enough for managers to recognise that cultural differences exist in their business environments because they have a responsibility to transform these cultural dynamics into business opportunities (Mihaela 2014). In addition, there is a need to reshape the mindset of many managers who work with multinational companies, at least through cultural adaptation and bridging the gap between different sets of employees. Therefore, to build a global mentality in organisational management, it is essential to understand the role of managers in promoting intercultural synergy.
It is important to evaluate the similarities and differences between cultural cohorts when managing a multicultural workforce. Stated differently, management views employees as similar in their basic nature and relationships. This management view highlights the need for managers to integrate different cultural backgrounds in their administrative practices (Mihaela 2014). This need is linked to proper succession planning outlined in an ethnographic study authored by Ryan (2015). It also emphasises the need to be open to cultural diversity. Managers who value integration and openness are likely to score highly in promoting intercultural synergy, while those who do not embrace these values score poorly on the same index (Mihaela 2014).
Some researchers view cross-cultural management as a systemic leadership strategy because it strives to maintain equivalence across cultures and promote knowledge sharing (Mihaela 2014). In line with this view, researchers have also formulated models that show the influence of social cultures on organisations through the Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness Research (GLOBE) model described in figure 1 below.
Figure 1 above shows that cross-cultural leadership is a product of societal culture (norms and practices) organisational contingencies and leadership attributes. Different researchers whose works have mainly pivoted in the areas of systems theory and complexity sciences have also investigated the role of these leadership factors in cross-cultural management (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016).
For example, Professor Norbert Wiener addresses the concept of synergies in the workplace by referring to the field of cybernetics, which is applicable in artificial intelligence, to implement leadership strategies in cross-cultural management (Kimppa et al. 2014). He says that managers can introduce the concept of organisational synergies by understanding information processing systems, feedback and communication systems (Kimppa et al. 2014).
Based on the above views, Professor Norbert Wiener applies information systems theory to organisational systems by arguing that organisations are only able to survive in harsh environments if they minimise uncertainty through retrospective decision-making (Kimppa et al. 2014). Furthermore, the professor argues that leaders should disregard what they think they know about management, question traditional practices about workplace dynamics, and instead think about new ways of improving performance in a globalised society (Kimppa et al. 2014).
Pundits in the field of complexity science also share this view by advancing the complex systems theory beyond causal constraints of dynamic engagements (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016). Therefore, to understand how organisations should achieve synergies, it is important to discuss vital issues relating to systems theory and complexity science.
One issue that warrants mentioning is the principle of interdependence, which suggests that the viability of organisational systems (especially for multinational companies) depends on a network of relationships, which link different interacting parts (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016). Stated differently, for one part of the system to function properly, another one has to be supported. Most synergistic groups understand this principle and comprehend the need to work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
The principle of permeability is another concept that warrants mentioning in this context because it refers to how materials and information flow in an organisation (Kimppa et al. 2014). This principle connotes the need to have quality systems within organisations to allow for a higher sharing order system (Kimppa et al. 2014). Through such a framework, there should be a distribution of human assets, data and capital. However, researchers have pointed out that trust is the single most important factor that allows permeability to work (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016). Nonetheless, synergistic groups require adequate time to assess all available information and act on them before such outcomes can suffice.
Cultural Synergy and Organisational Change
The importance of understanding organisational change in the development of intercultural synergy stems from the expansion of globalisation in the international business space. Indeed, many countries are starting to experience the effects of internationalisation based on the consistent breakdown of national borders in different parts of the world. In light of this progress, different organisations are not only reporting an influx of foreign workers but also experiencing the need to undertake organisational change to accommodate these trends (Stephan 2016).
Therefore, globalisation influences the changing business landscape that validates the need to understand the link between organisational change and cultural competence. From these findings, there is an emerging field of cross-cultural studies, which pair the concept of cultural exchange with organisational change. Integrating organisational theory and the comparative management field has partly influenced this development.
One of the main themes that have emerged from previous works of literature that have explored the concept of cultural synergy in organisations is change (Sardana 2015). Several researchers have mentioned the concept of organisational change in intercultural synergy development because when two or more cultures merge in an organisation, change is likely to occur (Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). Organisation change also affects employee performance by causing disruptions in everyday processes (Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). Therefore, it is not always associated with positive organisational growth.
In most cases where organisational change occurs, organisations either adopt high synergy or slow synergy levels. High synergy levels are achieved when companies choose to view organisational problems through a cultural lens, thereby increasing their cultural sensitivity to workplace issues (Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). Comparatively, low synergy organisations are characterised by an authoritarian leadership style where managers believe that they are the only ones who can understand its problems or solve them (Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016).
A review of most research studies, which have explored the concepts of cultural synergies and organisational change, suggest that cultural synergies improve employee wellbeing (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016; Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). The same pieces of literature emphasise the need to promote cultural synergies during change processes (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016; Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). Nonetheless, it is important to point out that employees often resist organisational change because it is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It is possible to lose synergies in such contexts.
Some researchers admit that the few studies have explored the impact of organisational change on intercultural synergies (Affolderbach & Schulz 2016; Sardana 2015; Stephan 2016). Therefore, the relationship between the two concepts is often loosely described. In instances where mergers or acquisitions have occurred, the need for negotiation is paramount because managers have to figure out how to mix and match two or more cultures.
Power relations and interaction logics are often renegotiated in such contexts. When such change occurs, social rhythms within the organisation may be desynchronised, thereby having a negative impact on employee wellbeing (Sardana 2015). Relative to this assertion, it is important to understand that most of the works of literature, which have attempted to understand the link between organisational change and cultural synergy, only provide exploratory findings because their main goal is to inspire the process and draw a link between organisational change and cultural synergies.
Cultural Competence and Cross-Cultural Communication
According to Barmeyer and Franklin (2016), it is important for managers who operate in multicultural work environments to be conversant with cross-cultural communication. According to Miroshnik and Basu (2014), cross-cultural communication refers to an understanding of how well people from different cultural backgrounds talk to one another. Research studies that have focused on cross-cultural communication have borrowed extensively from the fields of cultural anthropology with a special emphasis on areas, which have established communication channels (Barmeyer & Franklin 2016).
Extensive research has also shown that cross-cultural competence is essential in improving organisational performance (Miroshnik & Basu 2014). This competence stems from the fact that cross-cultural organisations attract an array of skills and competencies, which (if correctly harnessed) can influence the effectiveness of global operations (Chawinga & Chipeta 2017).
Researchers have also shown that a culturally diverse workforce could easily outperform an organisation that has homogenous groups, especially in problem solving and creativity (Barmeyer & Franklin 2016). A study conducted in Russia and America reported that cross-cultural communication accounts for most of the variance in organisational performance (Mihaela 2014). These influences also manifest through high levels of productivity.
The same studies have shown that most organisations, which understand how to accommodate employee teams from varied cultural backgrounds, can maximise their strengths and minimise the associated costs (Mihaela 2014).
The contemporary global business environment is encouraging managers to develop high synergies by fostering win-win relationships with partners (Barmeyer & Franklin 2016). This system encourages cooperation for the realisation of mutual problems. A research study authored by Mihaela (2014) suggests that cross-cultural communication is an interdisciplinary process because it involves the infusion of interdisciplinary concepts through anthropology, psychology and cultural studies. This field of study has also encompassed aspects of interethnic communications and the communication strategies used by a majority of workers (Chawinga & Chipeta 2017).
Broadly, the global rise of international trade has necessitated the importance of managers to understand intercultural communication because it is unavoidable for different cultures to meet or for people from different cultural backgrounds to interact with one another. People from varied cultural groups often find it difficult to achieve this level of integration because of language barriers and differences in communication styles (Chawinga & Chipeta 2017).
The conceptual framework for this study will be based on the most developed conceptual framework for understanding intercultural synergy Hofstede’s six dimensions of cultural exchange. They include power distance, long-term/short-term orientation, pragmatism/”normatism,” masculinity/feminity, uncertainty avoidance, indulgence/restraint and individualism/collectivism. These six dimensions of intercultural exchange are discussed below.
Hofstede says that the concept of power distance refers to the extent that one person can exert their power or influence over another (Dahlen 2018). For example, in many organisations, experts analyse power distance based on the extent to which leaders influence employees’ behaviours (Dahlen 2018). The idea behind power distance is predicated on inequality among individuals in society. Experts have also analysed the concept in reverse where power distance becomes the extent to which employees accept unequal power relationships in an organisation (Mihaela 2014). Therefore, the concept stems from the fact that employees accept inequalities in power relationships, as much as leaders try to impose it on them.
The concept of individualism stems from the degree that people are independent even when in groups. Hofstede Insights (2019) argues that this concept is broadly defined by whether people attribute their self-image to their individual or collective identities. Therefore, in individualistic societies, people have a tendency to look after their own welfare at the expense of other people. Comparatively, cultures that promote collectivism look up to communities (or groups) to cater for their welfare in exchange for unquestionable loyalty (Dahlen 2018).
A masculine culture thrives on the principles of competition and achievement. For example, some researchers attribute the British society as largely masculine because success is based on competition and achievement (Stamenova 2018). This type of culture is also premised on the philosophy of the “winner-take-all” approach. Many western countries subscribe to this culture.
The concept of uncertainty refers to how well organisations manage future uncertainty (Fonseca 2014). Therefore, in this context, managers often have a problem determining whether they should try to control future organisational outcomes or refrain from doing so and be subject to natural forces of trade (Fonseca 2014). Therefore, the extent to which an organisation would feel threatened by the inability to control future outcomes dictates the type of score they would get in managing uncertainty (Maria 2019). Organisations that have high uncertainty avoidance are often more open to new ideas and innovation compared to those that score low on this index (Hofstede Insights 2019).
Long-term orientation refers to how well an organisation aligns its culture with the future, relative to the challenges it experienced in the past and the present (Fonseca 2014). People who have a normative culture are always suspicious of the need to change. However, to prepare for the future, companies that have a high score in long-term orientation tend to adopt a pragmatic approach when managing their operations (Maria 2019).
Hofstede says that the concept of indulgence refers to how well people are able to control their impulses or urges (Maria 2019). A tendency towards the weak control of impulses is associated with a high score of indulgence, while the advanced ability to control human desires is attributed to a low level of indulgence. In some quarters, this type of behaviour is associated with restraint (Hofstede Insights 2019).
The extent that people subscribe to this value is largely influenced by their childhood socialisation (Fonseca 2014). For example, Americans believe in the principle of “work hard and play hard,” which highlights their tendency to indulge. The indulgence culture in the US also explains why its drug addiction numbers are higher than in many other western countries. Collectively, the above-mentioned categories of cultural exchange will form the overriding conceptual framework for understanding how to promote intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel.
This literature review was an investigation of different aspects of intercultural synergy that organisations undertake to improve their productivity in a global business environment. Key sections of this chapter have shown that globalisation has not only forced managers to understand intercultural communication but also prompted them to accept organisational change because it helps them to better develop the capacity to manage a multicultural workforce.
Hofstede’s works have formed a key part of existing theories and concepts involving cultural exchange among different groups of employees. Consequently, it forms the basis for the conceptual framework, which the researcher will use to guide other parts of this thesis. Most of the findings represented in the works of literature sampled in this review have only generally explored the research topic.
Therefore, there is a lack of specificity needed in making intercultural synergies actionable. Particularly, few works of literature have focused on understanding organisation-specific dynamics for promoting intercultural synergy in the workplace. Concisely, few researchers have investigated how to promote intercultural synergy in the hospitality industry. Furthermore, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, no study has investigated how to promote intercultural synergy at the Marriott Hotel.
The current study aims to fill this research gap by providing a case study example of how to promote intercultural synergy in the giant multinational. Based on this framework, the current study will investigate whether intercultural communication can promote intercultural synergy, describe the role of organisational change in promoting intercultural synergy and establish how to involve leaders in generating intercultural synergy.
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