Q2. ‘An understanding of the international context, including national ‘cultures’, is increasingly important in HRM.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Knowledge of the international context and culture is imperative for the survival of organizations whether based locally or internationally, since countries around the world are fast becoming a melting pot of people from different nations or as Multinational corporations (MNC’s) operating and competing across the globe. Culture influences every stage of the HR cycle from recruitment to termination and if properly managed it can be a resource and a pool of talent to ensure that the organization is dynamic and productive. Culture, in essence, is the values and beliefs shared by and unique to a society which creates its identity. It consists of things such as language, dress, mannerisms, symbols, stories, norms, values and practices. While it may be easier to transfer best practices in technology and processes, which is more impersonal, there are greater challenges in applying HRM best practices to a culturally diverse labour force that is not comprised of passive recipients devoid of thoughts and experiences. The International context is also governed by how the different types of economies that exist in nation states- whether state controlled or market impacts on organizational structure, HR practices and technology use. The decision to start up an overseas location will not only be determined by the attractiveness of its natural resources, but also the government policies especially as it relates to issues of international significance such as religious tolerance, relationships with other governments, the stability of its financial structures, infrastructure, location, accessibility to a cheap or a skilled labour force depending on what is to be produced, availability of technology, tax incentives and the general economic and social stability of the host country. In this context what International Human Resource Management practices is more suited. The hall mark of the 21st century is globalization, which is characterized by a borderless world, a rapid increase in technology and diffusion of knowledge, global markets, global competitors international organizations, increased travel and a culturally diverse labour force which requires managers who can think, act and lead on a global stage. Global HRM is in its embryonic stage and there is need for a paradigm shift in management practices, particularly since the majority of management literature originated in the West and reflects the culture of its origin and is found to be inadequate to meet the needs of different cultures. HRM does not exist in a vacuum; its success is impacted on by the national culture and the organizational culture which is shaped by the national culture. Some of the cultural challenges facing management include; communication barriers, foreign labour practices, foreign management and leadership styles, how time is interpreted and used, methods of negotiation and conflict resolutions, the importance of relationships within the organization and family, customs and religious practices versus work commitment. Globalization has led to improved education and increased knowledge and understanding which lays the foundation for the fusion of cultures and acceptance of foreign management practices. This would underscore the claims by Kerr et al (1960:45) that the language of technology is eroding the traditional customs and beliefs of some societies, for example the Vietnamese work force is becoming very individual focused and is slowly embracing opportunities to provide feedback. However, research has shown that HRM is a long way from supporting a common set of values and practices as defined in the convergence theory. McDonalds can be used as an example of a MNC that used an ethnocentric approach to HRM, where American methods and managers were exported around the world in order to maintain...
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