The differences between global and American human resource management practices can be owed partly to the underlying differences in values between frontiers.
Power Distance: the degree to which unequal distribution of power between managers and workers is accepted.
Individualism: the degree to which one’s individual decision making is valued by others.
Uncertainty Avoidance: the degree to which uncertainty behaviors are tolerated.
Masculinity: the degree to which society values assertiveness, ambition, and material possessions.
In comparison with the U.S., countries with a high power distance culture, places more importance on well-defined power and authority structures in organizations, and value – predictability. An analysis of managerial practices in the U.S. and other cultures implies substantial differences. Applying these differences to managing human resources can be instrumental for U.S. firms desiring to operate globally as effectively as possible. Specific practices such as, career planning, and decision-making, relate which practices would be most applicable and important for a company to be competitive as it moves forward.
In high power distance cultures, employees appreciate managers who show a true personal interest and communicate respect for them. They do as they are told, power is based on trust between worker and supervisor that flows from the top down. Formal rules and regulations are only adhered to when someone of authority is present. Managers are more likely to be obeyed, because of who they are and the authority they represent. Strategies promoting equality, employee involvement in decision making, open communication channels, and employee ownership are generally not regarded as desirable for gaining a competitive advantage in managing human resources in other cultures. Especially those of high power distance, it’s imperative that U.S. firms modify their practices in working within those cultures.
Success in managing a global workforce is a matter of being able to translate an understanding of relevant cultural differences into action. Organizational leaders and human resource manager should not only understand these differences, but further adjust the relationship between the organization and its workers to be in line with the cultural values and the beliefs of that workforce.
As companies continue to expand globally, doing business effectively involves using all resources wisely; especially, the human assets. In managing human assets effectively, it pays to think globally. U.S. firms operating abroad or managing a highly diverse workforce should extend their focus to include aspects of culture and its effect on managing human resources.
By Sophia Sanchez, SPHRFounder and Principal Consultant Develop For Results International – A minority and woman-owned consulting firm based in Norfolk, Va., advising clients in the workplace development, employee engagement, and change management strategies. Author of “The Development Alternative: Powerful Strategies for unparalleled Business Results” DevelopForResults.com