Cultural forces represent another important concern affecting international HR
management. The culture of organizations was discussed earlier in the text, and of course, national cultures also exist. Culture is composed of the societal forces affecting the values, beliefs, and actions of a distinct group of people. Cultural differences certainly exist between nations, but significant cultural differences exist within countries also. One only has to look at the conflicts caused by religion or ethnicity in
Central Europe and other parts of the world to see the importance of culture on international organizations. Getting individuals from different ethnic or tribal backgrounds working together may be difficult in some parts of the world. Culture can lead to ethical differences among countries. The HR Perspective on the next page gives several examples.
One widely used way to classify and compare cultures has been developed by
Geert Hofstede, a Dutch scholar and researcher. Hofstede conducted research on over 100,000 IBM employees in 53 countries, and he identified five dimensions useful in identifying and comparing culture. A review of each of those dimensions follows.
POWER DISTANCE The dimension of power distance refers to the inequality among the people of a nation. In countries such as
Germany, the , Netherlands
and the United States, there is a smaller power distance—which means there is
less inequality—than in such countries as
France, Indonesia, Russia, and . China
As power distance increases, there are greater status and authority differences between superiors and subordinates.
One way in which differences on this dimension affect HR activities is that the
reactions to management authority differ among cultures. A more autocratic
approach to managing is more common in most other countries, while in the
INDIVIDUALISM Another dimension of culture identified by Hofstede is individualism, which is the extent to which people in a country prefer to act as individuals instead of members of groups. On this dimension, people in Asian
countries tend to be less individualistic and more group-oriented, whereas those in the
score the highest in individualism. An implication of these differences is that more collective action and less individual competition is likely in those countries that deemphasize individualism. United States
MASCULINITY/FEMININITY The cultural dimension masculinity/femininity refers to the degree to which “masculine” values prevail over “feminine” values. Masculine values identified by Hofstede were assertiveness, performance orientation, success, and competitiveness, whereas feminine values included
quality of life, close personal relationships, and caring. Respondents from Japan had the highest masculinity scores, while those from the
had more femininity-oriented values. Differences on this dimension may be tied to the role of women in the culture. Considering the different roles of women and what is “acceptable” for women in the Netherlands United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Mexico suggests how this dimension might affect the assignment of women expatriates to managerial jobs in the various countries.
UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE The dimension of uncertainty avoidance refers to the preference of people in a country for structured rather than unstructured situations.
A structured situation is one in which rules can be established and there are clear guides on how people are expected to act. Nations high on this factor, such as
Japan, France, and , tend to be more resistant to change and more rigid. In contrast, people in places such as Hong Kong, the Russia United States, and Indonesia tend to have more “business energy” and to be more flexible. A logical use of differences on this factor is to anticipate how people in different
countries will react to changes instituted in organizations. In more flexible cultures, what is less certain may be more intriguing and challenging, which may lead to greater entrepreneurship and risk taking than in the more “rigid” countries.
LONG-TERM ORIENTATION The dimension of long-term orientation refers to values people hold that emphasize the future, as opposed to short-term values,
which focus on the present and the past. Long-term values include thrift and persistence, while short-term values include respecting tradition and fulfilling social obligations. People scoring the highest on long-term orientation were
and Hong Kong, while people in China Russia, the United States, and tended to have more short-term orientation. France
Differences in many other facets of culture could be discussed. But it is enough
to recognize that international HR managers and professionals must recognize
that cultural dimensions differ from country to country and even within coun tries. Therefore, the HR activities appropriate in one culture or country may have to be altered to fit appropriately into another culture or country.