In the current era of globalization, national boundaries are losing meaning and more and more companies now have their operations spread across various countries of the globe. Multi national companies now operate across different continents and it is typical of a company to have head quarters in one country but be present in multiple counties at the same time. This means that these multi national companies have to adapt to the culture of the company they are operating in.
Also, the work force of such companies is an amalgamation of the local people along with some foreign workers and managers so effective communication and smooth operations are only possible if culture is well understood. However, this is not as simple as it seems and cross cultural miscommunications are harmful. Cross cultural miscommunication is not only detrimental to the working environment of the organization but it can also lead to a failure of the company as a whole in the society. To avoid any miscommunication, we first need to examine what culture is made up of.
Artifacts, rituals, Stories, histories, myths, legends, jokes, and ceremonies are cultural symbols. By noticing these things and people’s reactions to them we can figure out the cultural norms and values and can avoid transgressing any boundaries. Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own race, culture or ethnic group is superior to the rest and the tendency to think like this is greater in MNCs. Many foreign managers or workers think in this manner and antagonize their co workers. This can be over come by encouraging inter cultural communication so that any misunderstandings or predetermined notions or stereo types may be removed.
Also, if a cooperative culture is promoted at work and people taught to appreciate/criticize ideas rather than people, this problem may be solved. We also need to examine the interrelationship between attitudes, values, customs and beliefs and culture. A culture shapes the attitudes, values and beliefs of a person and the actions and preferences of the society (that are directly dependant upon the belief) make up the culture. Hence, this shows that there is a two relationship. For instance, the Japanese have a very serious attitude about work and they believe in hard work so working meticulously is a part of their culture.
Similarly, the Muslim culture is conservative so they have a negative attitude towards men and women shaking hands and the believe it to be immoral. Global companies need to adopt a ‘glocal strategy’ meaning that they need to amend their global strategy according to the local culture and norms. Before a company enters a new country, formal market research should be conducted in order to make a customer profile according to which the product and promotion strategies will then be designed. International companies should be flexible to minor changes in the product so as to meet the local demands.
Pizza hut has been successful all over the world for they have catered to the local taste in every country. For instance, it is spicier in the subcontinent and in countries such as India where people avoid meat; there is large vegetarian and cheese variety. The promotion strategies should also be according to the native culture. Companies should keep in mind that International brand cannot have the same advertising everywhere due to different cultures. When companies are entering a foreign culture, they should be aware of customs, traditions in general and in particular they should know about the psychology of the people.
Companies should be aware of the attitude of the people towards work and the products/service the company has to offer. Understanding the local workforce is important for a company because an effective workforce is integral for success and it is crucial to design jobs, compensation packages and motivators that appeal to them. Attitudes toward work, leisure, time, change, family, social mobility and religion play a vital role in shaping the culture. In a collectivist culture, family is the top priority and the much of the leisure time is spent with family.
In a society where family ties are weak, work and friends have a greater importance so the culture is an individualist one. In some cultures, there is greater emphasis on work and such people are hard workers by nature and their work is meticulous. The Chinese culture is a classical example of how hard work is an element of the national culture. The physical environment of a place influences the culture of that place as physical conditions such as the weather affect the life style of the people. The architecture of a place also reflects the culture. Moreover, it is important to understand the verbal and non verbal elements of a culture.
For instance, the Arabs like to kiss on the cheeks when they meet even during formal meetings but in a British culture, this would be highly inappropriate. Similarly, maintaining eye contact is a non verbal cue, in some cultures it would be a symbol of courage while in others it will be considered insolent. Moreover education and technology are linked to the culture and this is evident by the fact that some cultures such as the Japanese lay stress on innovating and developing technology where as some have a laid back attitude. Some cultures lay stress on education and that is evident by the high literacy levels there.
Lastly, media has a two way relationship with culture: mass media not only depicts the culture but it also leads to cultural change in the society. The success of any company also depends on the political and legal system of that country. In countries where there is political turbulence or the policies do not support foreign investment, survival becomes tough for the company as is the case in third world countries like Bangladesh where there is a frequent change in governments that leads to changes in policies too. References Brown, A. (1995). Organizational Culture. Pitman, London.
Charles M. and Yongsun, P. (2006). Managing a Global Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in International Human Resource Management. M. E . Sharpe Dong, Q. , Day, K. D. (2001). Overcoming Ethnocentrism through Developing Intercultural communication sensitivity and Multi culturism. Retrieved on January 16,2009 from http://www. allacademic. com David Straker. Elements of Culture. Retrieved on January 15, 2009 From www. changingminds. org Kwintessential Cross Cultural Solutions. Cross Cultural Communications. Retrieved on January 15, 2009 from http://www. kwintessential. co. uk
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