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International and Comparative HRM

Week 5: International HRM and Culture

Alhajie Saidy Khan (

Lord Ashcroft International Business School

Lecture objectives

Define culture and examine the factors that underlie

cultural differences.

Explore the significance of cultural differences to

successful international HRM.

Discuss some of the key theoretical frameworks that

help to identify differences in culture.

Examine how firms can anticipate and cope with cultural


Discussions: Are cultural distinct from institutional


What is culture

sum total of the beliefs, rules, techniques, institutions, and artifacts that
characterize human populations (Rugman and Collinson, 2006, p. 153)


collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one

group from another (Hofstede, 1980, p. 21-22).


prevailing pattern of values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, norms and

sentiments (Beardwell & Claydon, 2010. p. 683)


collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one

group from another (Hall, 1976, p. 16).

Thus, Tiandis framework of culture as a set of human-made objective and subjective

elements that have increased the probability of survival and resulted in
satisfactions for the participants in an ecological niche... (Triandis, 1972, p.22)


Rugman and Collinsons psychic or psychological levels and Institutional

elements theory of culture

Elements of culture

Under lying values, social organisation and how we
think and act

Religion and authority relationships

Customs and norms

Organisation or Corporate Culture


Language is critical to culture because it is the

primary means used to transmit information and ideas.

Knowledge of local language can:

permit a clearer understanding of a situation

provide access to local people

allows the person to pick up nuances, implied meanings,

and other information that is not obviously stated.

Values, attitudes, customs and norms

Values: basic convictions about what is right and

wrong, good and bad, important and unimportant

Attitude: a persistent tendency to think and act in a

particular way in certain context and toward some object.

Customs: common or established ways of doing things

Norms: behavior regarded as appropriate in a particular



Religions influence lifestyles, beliefs, values, and attitudes,

and the way people in a society act toward each other and
towards those in other societies.

These includes attitudes to authority and authority


Religion also influences:

the work habits of people

the work and social customs (from the days of the week on which
people work to their dietary habits)
politics and business.

or Corporate culture
Organisational culture: naturally occurring phenomena that all
organisations posses (Brown, 1998)



management attempts to manipulate and mobilise

values, language, ritual and symbols in an effort to unlock the
commitment and enthusiasm of employees (Thompson &
McHugh in Storey, 2001, p. 192-3)

or Corporate culture
Organisations are considered to be home to and carriers of several cultures
at levels that include function, organisation and business unit, profession
and occupational group, ethnic group, project-based network, regional
institution, geographical and economic region, ideology and religion.


culture is a term used to characterize organisational behaviour

(how the managers and employees of particular companies tend to behave).

Therefore, often attributed to how HR and senior management might try to

proactively shape behaviour of organisational members
open, dynamic, etc.)



a distinctive corporate culture is associated with enhanced

organisational commitment to shared identity that underpins effective

Scheins 3 levels theory of organisational


Schein, 1985, p.14 in Brewster et al, 2011

Scheins three level framework of

Corporate/organisational culture
Surface level (manifestations): visible, observable artefacts, rituals and behaviour

At wider cultural level these could be manifest in objects, language, customs,

buildings, etc
At Corporate level: office set up (open v. close), dress code, etc.


level Values and beliefs: invisible underlying values that underpin

surfaced, manifested cultures (this is the level of analysis for most, if not all,
theoretical frameworks of national cultures

The third level: basic, taken for granted assumptions that individuals hold about
societies and organisations and how they function. Thus, concern human
behaviour, notions of reality and relationship between a people and their

The idea is that across these levels, cultural differences dictate contrasting ideas
and practices about what is good management in general and HRM in particular

The influence of Culture on

International HRM
Culture influences strategic management in a number
of ways:

Work attitudes
for example: work ethics, organization commitment, etc.

Achievement motivation
the desire to accomplish objectives and achieve success

Time and future

for example: punctuality, decision-making time constraints, time
on implementation of plans, etc.

standards of conduct and morality.

Cultural issues
in strategic management

Cross-cultural (cross-national) management issues arise

with strategic implications in any of the following
business situations:

within individual firms

Mergers and acquisitions
joint ventures, alliances
buyer-suppliers relationships
dealing with customers
dealing with national institutions.

Theoretical framework about elements of and

differences in national culture (1)
According to Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck basic elements of
national culture lies in responses to the following 6 questions:
1. What is conceptions of locus of human value (who are we), which
relates to McGregors Theory X, Theory Y
2. Views about NATURE and especially, how we relate to it (fit in or force
3. What do we do? Emphasis on ascription (what one is) or
achievement (what someone does).
4. Degree of gregariousness (do we think of ourselves as individuals or
as members of a group)
5. Perceptions about TIME: whether locus of time is future oriented or,
views all parts of time (past, present and future) as connected and the
future is relatively less important than the past and present.
6. Thinking about SPACE: the proposition that physical space between
people is culturally determined
Most dominant contemporary theoretical frameworks about
differences in national cultures present development on this theory

Theoretical frameworks of culture (2)

Hofstedes of dimensions of culture
Power distance: the degree to which less powerful members of accept the
fact that power is not distributed equally

Uncertainty avoidance: the extent to which people feel threatened by

ambiguity & establish institutions and beliefs to minimize or avoid uncertainty.

Individualism vs. collectivism: the degree of gregariousness


vs. femininity: the degree to which the dominant values of a

society are success based on material goods OR are caring for others and the
quality of life

Pragmatism v. normative: This dimension describes how people in the past, as

well as today, relate to the fact that so much of what happens around us cannot
be explained.

Indulgence: the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses.
(Hofstede, 1980, 1991, 2001)

Theoretical framework of culture (3)

Trompenaars & Hamden-Turners 7 dilemas
1. Universalism vs. particularism: the belief that ideas and practices can be
universally applicable v. the belief that circumstances dictate the application
of ideas and practices.
2. Individualism vs. collectivism: whether individual rights and values are
dominant or subordinate to those of the collective society.
3. Neutral culture vs. emotional culture: the extend to which emotions are
held in check or naturally openly expressed.
4. Specific vs. Diffuse culture: whether work relationships (eg. manager &
subordinate) are workplace specific, or diffuse) into the social context.
5. Achievement vs. Ascription measures whether ones status within
organizations is based on merit (achieved) or on class, gender, education
or age (ascribed).
6. Sequential vs. Synchronic attitudes toward time: cultures that have a
linear view of time (i.e., order comes from separating activities and
commitments) vs. cultures that view events in parallel over time (order
comes from coordinating
multiple activities and commitments
7. Attitudes toward the environment: degree of emphasis a particular culture
places on peoples relationship with nature and the natural environment.

Theoretical framework of culture (3)

GLOBE Projects 9 dimensions of culture
Indication of connection between culture and leadership style and, generally
concludes that charismatic, team-oriented and participative leadership styles are
most effective
1. Assertiveness.
2. Future orientation. A propensity for planning, investing, and delayed gratification.
3. Gender differentiation. The degree to which gender role differences are maximized.
4. Uncertainty avoidance.
5. Power distance.
6. Institutional collectivism (individualism vs. collectivism).
6. In-group/family collectivism. A pride in small-group membership, family, close friends
8. Performance orientation (much like achievement orientation).

9. Humane orientation . An emphasis on fairness, altruism, and generosity.

House et al.; 2002 in Brewster et al. 2011)

Some critical perspectives on dominant crosscultural paradigms of international HRM


circumstances are generally treated as mere contingency, rather than

as part of complex context where their effects are mutual and often difficult to
unravel (Sparrow et al., 2004)


for fallacy of surrogacy no clear distinction between nation and

culture (Saidy Khan & Ackers, 2004)


relativity and the propensity to invoke idealist Western views of HRM

(so-called HPWS) as basis of comparison and ignoring the sometimes subtle
influences of national/cultural contexts on the realities of HRM (Earley and Singh,

Lack of dynamic discourse of change unrealistic notion of stable national and

cultural contexts


assumption of wholesale convergence or divergence as opposed to the

possibility of convergence at some levels, whilst other levels diverge (Child, 1981)

Useful strategies for managing

cultural diversity
Recognize and build diversity issues into recruitment, HRM planning,
strategy, location decisions, alliances, and partnerships.

Identify where and to what degree local divisions should be

encouraged or empowered to take the lead in expressing and
managing diversity.

Encourage cross-border discussion and interaction as well as

focused training.

Aim for a cultural balance in particular areas of strategic and tactical



note that Although the impact of cultural differences is

important at an individual level, it is more important to understand
what effect they can have at the team and organisational level.
Brewster et al, 2011, Rugman and Collinson, 2006

Critical questions/issue to consider in

management of cultural differences
What is culture and how does it affect international business? I

Why is language so critical in understanding international culture? How

can this be dealt with effectively?

Why are work attitudes of importance to MNCs?


can you as manager in a MNC improve your employees

awareness of the important differences among cultures?


is an understanding of the institutional norms, regulations and

practices of other countries important for international firms?


over-generalization or stereotype on the basis of these

descriptions of generalised characteristics of cultural values. Beware of
existence of subtractive cultures in all nations.

Some key reading

Brewster, C, Sparrow, P, and Vernon, G (2011) International Human Resource Management 2nd edition. London,
CIPD Publishing (chapters 2 & 3)

Child, J. (2005), Theorizing about organisation cross-nationally, in Scullion, H. and Lineham, M., International
Human resource management, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 26 - 54

Earley, P.C., & Singh, H. 2000. Innovations in international and cross-cultural management. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Hampden-Turner, C and Trompenaars, F. (1997), Ridding the waves of culture: Understanding Diversity in Global
Business, London: McGraw Hill

Hofstede, G. (1980) Cultures Consequences: International differences in work-related values, London, Sage

Hofstede, G. (1991) Cultures and Organisations: Software of the mind, London, McGraw-Hill

Hofstede, G. (2001) Cultures Consequences, 2nd edition, London/Thousand Oaks, Sage

Rugman and Collinson, International Business, 4th Edition, Pearson Education, 2006, (Chapter five).

Schein, E. H. (1985) Organizational culture and leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Saidy Khan, A. and Ackers, P. (2004) Neo-pluralism as a Theoretical Framework for Understanding HRM in SubSaharan Africa Internal Journal of HRM, 15(7) (pp. 1330-1353).

Sparrow, P., Harris, H. and Brewster, C. (2004) Globalising Human Resource Management, London: Routledge.

Trindis, H. C. The many Dimensions of Culture, Academy of Management Executive, vol. 18, no. 1 (2004), pp. 88-94.

Triandis, H. C. (1972). The analysis of subjective culture. New York: Wiley.