Subtle differences in human resource practices globally- how culture differ

Recruitment/ Hiring practices

Individualist cultures – individual is hired based on his/her competencies (skills). Trust is based on one’s skills.

Collectivist cultures – loyalty to one’s in-group/ company is valued, hence there is a preference towards hiring those with similar social ties, value and social norms. Trust is based on not letting down one’s in-group

Different Attitudes Toward Conflict

In individualistic cultures, people tend to be verbally direct: they value communication openness, differences in views are aired openly

Collectivist group, indirect communication is preferred. Disagreement or Conflict is seen as embarrassing or demeaning. Differences are best worked out quietly and indirectly. Managers who work in cross-cultural environments must learn how to adapt their communication/ leadership styles accordingly.

This view towards conflict and communication hence affect the HR performance appraisal process

Individualist – direct feedback especially on areas to improve is accepted.

Collectivist – indirect feedback is preferred. Receiving negative feedback is received badly as shame, a loss of face and weakness.

Rewards and promotion

Individualist cultures – rewards and promotion is based on individual’s achievement, self interests.

Collectivist cultures – rewards is based on loyalty to team and company. Promotion may even be based on loyalty to company, e.g. years working in company, and seniority is respected.

  1. Examine how your company structures its compensation and rewards.

When I switched careers from the foreign service to the private sector, I was very impressed when the senior leadership went for a 2-day team bonding exercise. With high expectations, I asked my boss, “Are we going to have more cooperation from Dept A after this?”

Today, I’m much wiser. As much as a company wants to promote team work, there is a need to go beyond socialisation and games we play. The type of people you hire. Driven by win-lose or win-win. The way rewards and status are structured. To promote company loyalty, organisations give out company shares or team bonus.

2. How is status ascribed?

Do employees come from a certain school, e.g. Havard/ Ivy League graduates? Children of a certain social class? If so, you are more collectivist than you think.

3. What stories are told of your heroes?

Examine the stories people tell about heroes in the company. Is it about the risk they take, and the money they make? Or whether they live out company values of trust and teamwork?

4. How are differences resolved?

Is there a blame culture or pointing fingers? When your back is turned, people say nasty things.

5. What values are you bringing into the company?

Beyond the color of your skin, the accent and the gender, do you bring in people who embrace your values? Who are you attempting to change ?

Beyond Herman Miller Chairs or free lunches and corporate values emblazoned on company walls, what is unspoken and hidden may say more of your culture (National, organisational or even profession).

Have a coffee chat with a friend, instead of visiting company website or attending corporate presentations to understand what the real corporate culture is.

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