Series about the impact of national/ethnic culture carried the message that organizations must understand the impact of the values and beliefs held by employees in order to manage them effectively.

While recently teaching my Global Workforce Management course at DePaul University I found it necessary to stress that an organization does not have to employ people outside the headquarters country in order to have a culturally diverse workforce. The students in the class came from several countries and readily admitted they faced cultural adjustment working for a U.S. entity, especially when the employer adopted an ethnocentric view resulting in standardized workforce management policies and systems.

It is true that setting up operations in other countries where locals might have very different cultural orientations raises cross-cultural issues in a more pronounced manner. And the U.S. has been called a “melting pot,” due to the diversity in those settling the country. But increasingly the homogeneity that would result from complete melting has not been realized and there is considerable cultural diversity in the country’s working population.

Fons Trompenaars has suggested success comes from recognizing the three Rs of cross cultural management:

  • Recognizing differences when they exist.
  • Respecting people’s rights to hold different beliefs.
  • Reconciling the issues related to those differences.

The third is the most challenging. Some organizations have strong cultures that result in treating everyone in a manner consistent with their established policies. Accommodating cultural differences is something they struggle to do. Work schedules may result in the need to work on the Sabbath recognized by employees, which might be Friday, Saturday or Sunday. A strong “pay for individual performance” policy may be viewed as inappropriate by employees whose beliefs about just distribution of budgets might call for similar rewards for all. Many more challenges occur, as cited in prior posts and in the book “Rewarding Performance Globally.”