This paper analyzes the case – spanning the globe, which helps understand the various HR issues faced by Mr. Eric Christopher who is the Associate Director for Global HR Development at Tex-Mark. Tex-Mark is a computer input and output manufacturing firm with its head office in San Antonio. After its establishment in the 1970s, they have over 5 production facilities, 3 research and new product development facilities over the world. Additionally, they have 7 international sales, distribution and customer service centers universally but mainly concentrated in Asia. Below is a brief company and employee history to aid with the case study analysis.
The first step in identifying the various challenges faced by Tex-Mark included listing the various problems, both explicit (short term) and implicit (long term). Some factors like language barriers have maintained a trend in that there have been more than one occasions of it arising. Other factors included cultural insensitivity and internal factors like Training and Development failure.
The second step involved using different methods of analysis like the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats), Human Resource Policies and also a Risk analysis that can affect expatriates on the assignment as well as internally impact the company and its foreign structure alignment. The SWOT helped understand the various aspects of staffing international operations and also understanding the different opportunities Tex-Mark has in relation to its competitors. Risk analysis helps us understand the different personal factors that could affect individual performance.
Lastly, the solution phase gives key clues and solution sets based on my personal recommendation and understanding of the case study. These include increasing spending on R&D to better understand host country culture and different ways for expatriates to adjust to them.
1.1 Company History
Tex Mark is a computer input and output manufacturer and supplier. It initially started out as an extension from Dell Computers. What has made them a successful firm is their ability to offer lower prices, exceptionally good and competent sales staff and a cost sensitive production. These factors have made Tex-Mark a successful company in the printer and optical scanner industry.
1.2 Employee History
Eric Christopher joined Tex- Mark after working for SouthWest Airlines for four years. He is originally from the Hill Country Village district of San Antonio. He later went on to gain his bachelors degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas with a Major in History and Minor in Spanish. Eric has much experience with languages, as he is proficient in Spanish, French, Italian, German and a little bit of Cantonese as well. After graduating from Baylor University, he embarked on a Europe and South America trip. This would have definitely helped him understand the culture and ethnics of the countries he had visited.
2. Comprehensive Case Analysis
This in-depth analysis of Tex-Mark helps understand the various internal and external circumstances that affect the human resource function faced by the company. This will give us an insight into how to tackle the current HR dilemma faced by Eric and also address the various miscommunications eg: budgetary concern.
2.1 Problem Identification Stage
Tex-Mark has expanded dramatically since the 1970s. After having opened 4 additional production facilities in Mexico, Scotland, India and China respectively, there arises a strong need for coordination in terms of their human resource aspect for international employees. Tex-Mark is currently facing a string of problems that has been affecting the deployment of expatriates and also in most cases of repatriation. Some of their issues are:
2.1.1 Culture Insensitivity
Fred Banks who is the Plant Engineer for Tex-Mark had been sent to the 3 different production facilities of the company to start off the initiation process. Although Fred had been incredibly successful at setting up the facility in Scotland within eleven months, he was rather unsuccessful at his attempt with the Mexico plant and eventually, the Indian plant as well. Due to the economic uncertainty in the period, the set up time was exceptionally long. Also, Fred and his team had not been able to successfully adjust to their Mexican counterparts. They had not treated the local and national agencies with respect and that affected the business component of the whole structure. This is an implicit problem has been identified as it occurs in more than one scenario.
2.1.2 Expatriation failure
The Jaipur, India plant needed a sudden change in its lead engineer due to a personal problem of one of the chosen expatriates. This caused Eric to choose Fred on an almost instinctive basis due to his previous experiences and technical abilities. Although Eric had designed a Training and Development pre-departure program, it was designed for the original candidate without taking into consideration the needs and requirements of Fred. As one scenario may not be applicable for all, this may have posed as a problem for Fred.
2.1.3 Training and Development Failure
Tex-Mark had no particular emphasis or compulsions for expatriates to go through the pre-departure activities that included country briefings, reading assignments etc. Fred being one of them was unwilling to adjust to the local engineers and the government of India causing the 18 months assignment to turn into a 3-year assignment.
2.1.4 Language Barriers
Since Tex-Mark didn’t emphasize on strict schedules for expatriates to learn languages, many expatriates faced difficulty on the communication front. Additionally, a lot of expatriates didn’t have enough time to fully dedicate to learning the languages and often left half way through the course. This issue can be rather implicit as some employees may underestimate the importance of learning languages and make an assumption that they can get by.
3.1 Analysis Phase
This phase helps us analyze the specific aspects of various problems faced by Tex-Mark and how they can understand these issues and gain an advantage from the.
3.1.1 Human Resource Policy
Tex-Mark’s human resource policy for expatriates has to extend to more than just finding job support for spouses and schools for the children. Their current human resource policies are not attractive for expatriates to travel on these assignments. The pre-departure activities are not conducive or made convenient for them. Most employees would be focusing on getting the plant started or initiating the process rather than read national/regional books based on culture. Additionally, upon repatriation, Tex-Mark gives employees a period of two months to go through debriefing and career counseling. This period should be within a shorter span of time especially for employees who are on longer assignments (3 years & more) and at higher positions.
3.1.2 SWOT Analysis
Strengths * Different production facilities across various continents can increase their holdings over regions. * Resource advantages and strong financial position. * Qualified institutional sales staff * Cost sensitive production and pricing along with excellent engineering. * Tex-Mark can build its brand image by stating its spin-off from Dell computers.
* Improper pre-departure planning activities and language and cultural background for outgoing expatriates. * Expatriates are not motivated and have a bad customer and government relationship with host country nationals. * No proper HR policies. * Misunderstandings in terms of the financial budget allocated to Training and Development. * Lack of direction and strong leadership on the HR front.
* Eric’s background with different cultures can be used to the company’s advantage if implemented properly. * Eric could look out for other plant engineers who have also had diverse experiences to reduce cultural differences and finish the job on time. * Look out for skilled labor in Host country to see if the same job can be done without employees having to travel thus cutting costs as well.| Threats * Competitors who have a better understanding of human resource practices in different cultural environments. * Companies that can leverage on that aspect will easily outdo Tex-Mark irrespective of whether they have sufficient resources or not. * Longer than planned stay can cause financial loss for Tex-Mark if the project doesn’t move forward. This loss could be in terms of production as well as expatriate’s benefits. |
3.1.3 Risk Analysis
Analyzing an expatriates’ Performance Influencing Factors (PIF) can indicate some strong results on assignments that take longer than usual. Citing from this case for example would be Fred Banks’ position in Jaipur. These factors include inability to adjust to a foreign culture, length of assignment, willingness to move and psychological factors that in-turn affect individual performances. The most ideal scenario would be for Tex-Mark to create hypothetical situations and test them to see the extent of correlation on each factor relating to individual performance.
4.1 Solution Phase
1. Some of the solutions to the various problems faced by Tex-Mark include some quantifiable and non-quantifiable objectives. Eric should evaluate different candidates that would be most suitable for the job.
2. As mentioned in some of Tex-Marks’ opportunities, Eric should ensure that the candidate chosen for these assignments satisfy most, if not all the choices for country specific international assignments. For assignments like Mexico and India, Tex-Mark needs to adopt a more polycentric view on the staff assisting these operations.
3. Tex-Mark needs to ensure that the strategies between the two countries of the different processes are aligned and that these expatriates have a global view and understanding of the situation.
4. As training and development improves at the production facilities in India, Tex-Mark can reduce the number of expatriates it sends on various assignments and chose host country nationals to carry on the job.
5. Since Fred has already been trying to establish a relationship with the officials in India, although to no avail, Tex-Mark could consider having a Joint Venture with a local company to fasten the legal procedures and authorizations in the country.
6. Establish strong HR policies that would ensure maximum benefits to expatriates and have more routinized language and cultural sessions. Additionally, Tex-Mark should have a neutralizing repatriation session that will allow employees to get back into the usual daily life. It is especially difficult for them to immediately adjust to their home country atmosphere because of the impact of the host country atmosphere on them. This is highly necessary for long term assignments that last longer than three years.