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Why Performance Management Differs across Cultures

Performance management, as an integral part of any organization, is uniquely influenced by cultural elements. These cultural elements often differ from one company to another signifying the unique make-up of a company’s workforce. Understanding the role that cultural background plays, however, can help executives and HR departments develop a system that works for all employees. While cultural impact on performance management processes is inevitable, it can be managed effectively.

What Is the Nature of Cultural Impact on Performance Management?
People often mistakenly think that culture only impacts global organizations and businesses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each employee brings their own cultural sensibilities with them to the work place. Employees who hail from developing nation tend to bring an unwillingness to engage in performance-related discussions with their managers as it may be construed as a sign of disrespect. However, many western executives and HR departments rely on feedback as an integral part of performance reviews. Performance management can become one-sided without the feedback portion of the model.

What Are Some Other Cultural Impacts that Affect Performance Management?
In some cultures, the hierarchy of a company is based on employee relations and is not directly tied to performance. In such cultures, nepotism is the rule and not the exception. Other cultural impacts relate to male-female work relations. In developing nations, women often play inferior roles in the work force. Subscribing to the notion that women should play subordinate roles to men in the work place can have a dramatic impact on performance management as one may expect whether women and men are placed in subordinate or dominant positions.

Generating an Awareness of Cultural Impact on Performance Management
Most organizations become aware of cultural influences on their performance management model fairly quickly. The real trick is finding solutions for managing that impact. One of the ways HR can help companies manage cultural impact is to provide training that directly addresses cultural issues. In some cases, it’s essential merely to discuss labor laws with employees as well as the company’s values concerning its own developing culture.

Having a strong and well-defined work-place culture is one way organizations can minimize outside cultural influences on their business. Keeping in mind that some outside influences are good (i.e. strong work ethic, work-place camaraderie), there needs to be continued dialogue about the nature of these cultural influences so that the company can address them with an optimum response.

By Sophia Sanchez, PhD(c), SPHR





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