The Coca-Cola Company’s Cross-Cultural Management

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Introduction

Developing and maintaining a supportive work environment are responsible managerial tasks that should be implemented through appropriate practices. One of the modern concepts promoted in both small organizations and large enterprises is the cross-cultural management system, which is particularly important in diverse teams. Bird and Mendenhall (2016) describe this leadership principle as a control method that promotes the assessment and adherence of the different cultural dimensions of those involved in the work process. In other words, the practice of cross-cultural management is based on respect for the unique background of each employee, which makes this concept useful as a method of maintaining a high level of interaction between leaders and subordinates. Bird and Mendenhall (2016) note that the significance of this managerial approach stems from positive implications both from the perspective of inter-professional interaction and from the standpoint of stimulating performance and, therefore, achieving high production results. As an example, the globally recognized Coca-Cola corporation will be reviewed, and a plan for the company will be drawn up, which follows the terms of cross-cultural management to enhance the business potential of the organization.

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Due to the unique features of cross-cultural management, valuable benefits can be achieved. In particular, Rahiman and Kodikal (2017) argue that building relationships among employees, respecting workers’ personal dignity, and facilitating negotiation are positive implications. Nevertheless, in terms of shortcomings, the authors mention the challenges of conflict management, the underestimation of individual achievement, as well as difficult communication in a diverse team (Rahiman & Kodikal, 2017). To present a plan for introducing and strengthening the cross-cultural management environment in Coca-Cola, specific aspects of this leadership practice will be analyzed in the context of the organization and its activities. They are specific staff training principles, promoting diversity in the workplace, and introducing special motivational tools. In addition, barriers to productive work in this direction will be reviewed and assessed. Coca-Cola’s structural and cultural characteristics will be analyzed to propose suitable optimization methods. Cross-cultural management is not only a concept that forms the system of global leadership but also an approach that allows moving from outdated practices of control over employees to more advanced and ethically favorable mechanisms of interaction with personnel.

Coca-Cola’s Structure and Culture

Coca-Cola is one of the most sustainable and recognized global brands. Baah and Bohaker (2015) describe the history of the corporation and state that it was founded in 1886. Since then, the company has been actively developing, and, according to the authors, its products may be found in more than 200 countries (Baah & Bohaker, 2015, p. 3). In addition to global recognition, Coca-Cola has shown strong profit margins: in 2013, the corporation’s market share in non-alcoholic beverages was 42.2%, which is a high parameter and proves the success of the brand promotion. This outcome is based not only on strong marketing practices but also on effective leadership principles. The need to maintain the operation of numerous subsidiaries in different countries explains the importance of following modern and sustainable control principles, and personnel management is an essential aspect of the organization’s operations.

Coca-Cola’s Structure

To maintain a successful global business, Coca-Cola’s management promotes individual corporate governance principles. According to Baah and Bohaker (2015), organizational leaders adhere to a divisional structure that involves control over different units and departments to simplify the governing mode. In addition, the authors note that due to its global activities, Coca-Cola promotes a geographic structural principle that provides the regional oversight of affiliates (Baah & Bohaker, 2015). In relation to the considered concept of cross-cultural management, this approach is a convenient mechanism for regulating business operations. Dietz et al. (2017) argue that due to divisional separation, top leadership can address pressing issues and challenges at different levels to meet the needs of stakeholders, including both consumers and employees. A sophisticated management system is designed to monitor the activities of departments and analyze reports on specific difficulties or performance outcomes. As a result, the structure of Coca-Cola allows maintaining constant control over all the branches of the corporation and evaluating the results of the work of affiliates in different world regions.

Coca-Cola’s Culture

Personnel-centric management is one of the values ​​of Coca-Cola’s corporate culture. Baah and Bohaker (2015) note that leaders’ attitude towards subordinates is based on maintaining workplace equality, which is part of the practice of cross-cultural management. In addition to the legal rights granted to employees, the governing board of Coca-Cola stimulates employee career opportunities that are in line with modern free and progressive labor market. In particular, the promotion of diversity is one of the mandatory components of the HR program, which is largely due to the global activities of the corporation and the need to maintain interaction among employees with different cultural backgrounds. However, in addition to diversity, other elements of the cross-cultural leadership concept also deserve attention as crucial approaches to maintaining a highly productive work environment.

Coca-Cola needs to maintain a high level of interaction among all its branches to avoid losses in individual regions. In this regard, the development and implementation of a program to strengthen cross-cultural management in the corporation include three key strategies – training, promoting diversity, and using appropriate motivational tools. The project that includes these interventions can help strengthen the corporate norms of communication between leaders and subordinates and address the aspects of cross-cultural governance policies.

Cross-Cultural Training

The start of the cross-cultural management program in Coca-Cola should begin with training that may help convey to all stakeholders the importance of following specific workplace principles. Hou et al. (2018) assess the manifestations of this intervention in a multicultural work environment and note that delivering relevant norms and principles should take place at all corporate levels to achieve the most effective outcomes. In this regard, both leaders and subordinates should be aware of the importance of addressing cultural challenges in a diverse environment and take into account the specifics of inter-professional communication. Language barriers, conflict situations, and other difficulties can be frequent factors that complicate the implementation of a specific training program. Therefore, to avoid the poor results of the intervention, all stakeholders should be aware of what the training process is and what measures can help eliminate potential barriers.

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Global Context of Training

The Coca-Cola corporation that operates in over 200 countries should adhere to the global training context due to a large number of branches in different regions. At the same time, based on the geographical structural principle of management, the content of training programs should be distinctive. Employees from different parts of the world have unique ideas about such factors as interaction with colleagues, cultural communication, conflict resolution, and other aspects of joint activities. In this regard, individual responsible persons can monitor compliance with the rules of interaction in certain regions. For this purpose, training programs should assume specific religious, gender, and other characteristics of a particular work environment. According to Hou et al. (2018), such demographic variables are significant components that make it possible to compile optimal training strategies based on the cultural characteristics of specific groups of employees. All persons involved should be aware of Coca-Cola’s global activities and accept their colleagues’ distinctive background. In this case, the implementation and maintenance of the cross-cultural management policy will be as effective as possible.

Training Delivery

For the training program to be productive and address the provisions of cross-cultural management, correct delivery is to be promoted. In addition to the designation of controllers, the principles of communication interventions need to be adapted to specific work environments. Firstly, the timing of this delivery is a crucial indicator to consider. Hou et al. (2018) mention the cross-cultural absorptive capacity theory that consists in assessing the potential of the target audience to perceive specific knowledge in a given period. This academic concept is useful for analyzing optimal intervention timeframes. Secondly, the content of the training program is a significant aspect. As Hou et al. (2018) remark, different employees may perceive the proposed learning environment differently. In this regard, the specifics of the work should assume appropriate demographic and cultural conditions, which is the background of the cross-cultural management program and, at the same time, allows delivering the necessary tasks productively. The proposed nuances of training activities are valuable components of the effective promotion of the project under consideration in Coca-Cola.

Promoting Diversity

The next step in a program aimed at strengthening cross-cultural management in Coca-Cola is promoting diversity. This aspect is one of the basic in this leadership concept and is utilized in the corporation in question, but an opportunity to expand the competence of individual branches and convey the importance of diversity to employees are valuable implications. Mateescu (2017) views promoting diversity as a set of measures designed to address “demographic, social and cultural differences on a societal level” (p. 23). In the workplace, these characteristics are crucial due to constant interaction among employees, and the task of a competent leader is to coordinate this communication through the support of individuality rather than equalization. For Coca-Cola, the global corporation with operations in most of the world’s regions, promoting cultural diversity is essential as a way of avoiding conflict and maintaining high productivity. As part of the intervention program under consideration, such measures as hiring a diverse workforce and promoting open communication among employees will be introduced and maintained.

Hiring a Diverse Workforce

There is no way for Coca-Cola’s management to avoid hiring a diverse workforce due to the company’s global operations. In this regard, to make the recruiting process as unbiased and productive as possible, responsible HR professionals should be familiar with the provisions of cross-cultural management and utilized relevant principles of communication with employees. Mateescu (2017) argues that this practice is usually expressed in such approaches as recruiting representatives from different gender, age, racial, and other groups. In Coca-Cola, there are hundreds of positions, and the size of individual departments or the degree of responsibility should not be factors influencing the selection of employees. HRs are to promote objective and unbiased recruiting programs and use the same approach for all applicants. Moreover, promoting diversity should be part of this plan since a distinctive cultural background can be a driver to broaden the company’s intellectual base and enhance creativity. Therefore, targeted recruiting projects are convenient and potentially effective mechanisms for enhancing cross-cultural management.

Tips for Managing Diversity

As a guideline for Coca-Cola’s leaders to promote diversity, one should note some impermissible practices to avoid to eliminate bias. Mateescu (2017) provides examples of individual exclusion approaches that affect cross-cultural management negatively – the deprivation of career opportunities, a ban on participation in the decision-making process, and some other unacceptable restrictions. To avoid cultural conflicts and discord, open communication among employees should be encouraged as an integral component of a productive environment. Employee relationships are an essential part of the workflow, and assistance in maintaining positive interactions can be provided through team incentives, joint projects, workshops, and other activities aimed at bringing team members closer together. These recommendations are common for most companies, and for Coca-Cola, creative interventions are optimal due to the large role of marketing for this corporation. Therefore, organizing teams of employees through individual interests can help bring the collective together and, at the same time, have a positive impact on productivity.

Motivational Tools

The application of motivational tools is the final step in the cross-cultural management strengthening program in Coca-Cola. In addition to influencing the professionalism of subordinates, leaders can put in place appropriate mechanisms to enhance employee performance through specific incentives. As an example of tools utilized for this purpose, the experience of Kenyan bottlers in Coca-Cola will be reviewed, which Odukah (2016) analyzes. The researcher evaluates the performance of a large sample and compares productivity parameters and employee satisfaction with the current working conditions by using individual incentives (Odukah, 2016). The framework of this study can be applied across Coca-Cola branches to find out which motivational tools are the most effective. At the same time, the common methods of influencing the performance of subordinates are universal, and the correct design and implementation of an employee engagement program can help increase productivity and, therefore, prove the relevance of these incentives in the framework of a project to strengthen cross-cultural management in the corporation.

Motivational Programs

Performance recognition is one of the motivational initiatives that drive the strengthening of cross-cultural management in Coca-Cola. Odukah (2016) calls this practice a necessary leadership approach that can not only engage employees in a productive workflow but also create effective and open communication. If the company’s management pays attention to the individual subordinates’ efforts, this will stimulate a favorable environment for the realization of professional potential and influence the initiative positively. Another program within the proposed project is creating a convenient working environment. As Odukah (2016) notes, if employees with distinctive cultural backgrounds do not feel the need to optimize the environment, this increases their loyalty and brings the team together through the confidence of subordinates in leaders’ competence. Finally, an accessible education program is a significant motivational tool. According to Odukah (2016), many employees with civilian restrictions, such as immigrants or expatriates, perform well if they receive the same training opportunities as their colleagues. Providing opportunities to improve skills strengthens the interaction between leaders and employees and serves as a valuable driver for strengthening cross-cultural management.

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Additional Creative Techniques

As additional motivational tools to stimulate the strengthening of cross-cultural management in Coca-Cola as part of the proposed intervention program, networking among selected global affiliates is a creative practice. The exchange of experience and an opportunity to get to know colleagues’ professional and cultural characteristics better serves as a team-building mechanism and expands possibilities for the growth of the company’s intellectual base. Odukah (2016) states that this approach is one way to reduce stress in the workplace. Hence, as a potentially effective leadership technique, maintaining contact among employees from different branches is a beneficial practice.

Another creative solution is the organization of joint informal meetings with employees of the team outside the work environment. If colleagues know one another well, this increases their mutual understanding and, in turn, helps avoid conflict situations caused by disagreements on demographic or cultural grounds. Therefore, department leaders can invite subordinates to take part in joint events dedicated to rapprochement in the collective and the establishment of friendships. The involvement of managers in these events adds value to such work and serves as a driver for strengthening mutual understanding in the team from a cross-cultural perspective.

Overcoming Barriers

Despite potentially useful practices to strengthen cross-cultural management in Coca-Cola, some barriers can impede productive work, which is not only due to the large size of the corporation. In terms of communication, Jenifer and Raman (2015) cite the language barrier as one of the obstacles. To overcome it, employees with distinctive cultural backgrounds can obtain an opportunity to learn specific languages, which is one of the aforementioned motivational incentives. Regarding the knowledge-sharing aspect, specialists with a lower level of training may not have sufficient qualifications compared to that of their senior colleagues. To address this issue, programs for training and promoting diversity should be employed. The organization of teamwork eliminates stereotyping and, as Jenifer and Raman (2015) note, presupposes mutual assistance. Therefore, to overcome the barrier of professional training, productive interaction among employees of different ranks should be encouraged as a mechanism for knowledge sharing.

Effective cross-cultural management implies advantages not only for an enterprise but also for employees themselves. Therefore, within the framework of the intervention program under consideration, in Coca-Cola, different types of bonuses can help overcome potential barriers. Jenifer and Raman (2015) emphasize the importance of mutual benefits and argue that when maintaining culture in the workplace, the differentiation of subordinates in accordance with individual criteria is unacceptable. Thus, as a logical but obligatory aspect of the intervention, any material and non-material incentives should be distributed regardless of employees’ background. In this case, dissatisfaction or conflicts caused by bias will not arise, and each employee will feel protected.

Conclusion

Cross-cultural management is a concept that can be addressed not only within the framework of global leadership but also as a valuable practice within an individual enterprise for strengthening interaction among employees and maintaining productive activities. The discussed intervention to promote this approach in the Coca-Cola corporation involves following several significant steps, including training, promoting diversity, and using appropriate motivational tools. A large number of branches of the company in different world regions enhances the importance of work in this direction. The mechanisms of influence presented are designed to prevent cultural discord between leaders and subordinates and create a highly productive and unbiased work environment. Overcoming the barriers that may arise during the implementation of this program is an essential part of the work, and relevant solutions can help prevent disagreement in the team. The practical value of this research lies in an opportunity to strengthen cross-cultural management in a single corporation and convey the importance of this concept to all interested parties.

References

Baah, S., & Bohaker, L. (2015). The Coca-Cola Company. Culture, 16, 1-20.

Bird, A., & Mendenhall, M. E. (2016). From cross-cultural management to global leadership: Evolution and adaptation. Journal of World Business, 51(1), 115-126. Web.

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Dietz, J., Fitzsimmons, S. R., Aycan, Z., Francesco, A. M., Jonsen, K., Osland, J., Sackmann, S. A., Lee, H.-J., & Boyacigiller, N. A. (2017). Cross-cultural management education rebooted. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 24(1), 125-151. Web.

Hou, N., Fan, J., Tan, J. A., Hua, J., & Valdez, G. (2018). Cross-cultural training effectiveness: Does when the training is delivered matter? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 65, 17-29. Web.

Jenifer, R. D., & Raman, G. P. (2015). Cross-cultural communication barriers in the workplace. International Journal of Management, 6(1), 348-351.

Mateescu, M. V. (2017). Cultural diversity in the workplace-discourse and perspectives. Modelling the New Europe. An On-Line Journal, (24), 23-35. Web.

Odukah, M. E. (2016). Factors influencing staff motivation among employees: A case study of equator bottlers (Coca Cola) Kenya. Journal of Human Resource and Sustainability Studies, 4(02), 68-79. Web.

Rahiman, H. R., & Kodikal, R. (2017). Cross cultural issues and human resource management of expats. Indian Journal of Scientific Research, 8(6), 17834-17840. Web.

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