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Title: Changing Paradigms – An Essential Ingredient in Human Resource

Management for the Next Millenium

Author: John M. Read

Affiliations: MRIMAS, MSII, ASHRI

Address: Robinson Road Post Office

PO Box 1040

Singapore 902040

Telephone: (65) 354 3551

E-mail: career@magix.com.sg
Word Count: 6,716

Title: Changing Paradigms – An Essential Ingredient in HRM for the Next Millenium


In an increasingly globalised marketplace, organisations are having to learn to manage

cross-cultural work. What does this mean for the HR Agenda in the new millenium?

This article maps external and internal forces acting on work and companies. Models
are proposed for dealing with the effects on work these changes bring. Notably, cross-
cultural management requires more flexible HR systems to achieve outcomes required
by the corporate mission.

Key forces acting in the global business environment together with strategies for
managing in this new environment are proposed. Outcomes for HR management in
the new millenium are identified and explored.

1. Changing Definitions & Patterns of Work

Let us consider the forces acting from the external environment that effect the

transactions between people and their work.

There are six major groups of pressures arising from the external business

environment independently of the industry concerned. This means that there are many

more if one proceeds to industry – level analysis. (And, of course this is exactly what

any professional HR Manager must do to ensure that he is in touch with the full range

of significant impacts for her business).

The six pressure points are:

1. competitive globalisation

2. increasing international business & intermingling of staff from different cultures

3. IT and its impact on work

4. changing business strategies

5. new relationships arising from internet and other electronic communications

6. rates of change and types of change, especially those that are market driven

The relationship of these six pressure points, to work is depicted diagrammatically in

Figure 1. below. This diagram shows the external and internal pressures having a

significant effect on work and its management. Especially, the observed outcomes for

human resource management can be defined by considering these forces.

Insert figure 1 here.

Figure 1. Changing Definitions and Patterns of Work

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The first pressure point of globalisation and its effects on companies is made clear by

O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994. They identify trends toward a core – periphery

model of companies where corporate reduction to core functions is the new order of


Through implementing strategic alliances and other forms of restructuring there are

created greater opportunities available to do business either with or in other cultures.

They will present your staff with challenges to adapt their ideals about work settings,

relationship building and functionality in this new work paradigm created by

international mobility.

The competencies identified by O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen for global workers are:

• “The ability to understand and communicate across multiple cultures, an ability

that begins with knowledge about our own culture

• Technological competence in a time of rapidly proliferating information and

communication technologies, with a special appreciation of how they apply to

teamwork in cross-cultural, decentralised settings

• The unique leadership skills associated with creating and sustaining business

teams in a global setting

• And the elusive, ever-evolving art of “facilitating” or easing the sometimes

painful and always complex processes by which organisations and teams

accomplish work” p.31.

It would be prudent to identify all cross-cultural contacts up stream of your business

(suppliers, contractors for raw materials or sub contractors in your process). Also

within your business, say between different divisions located in different countries but

within the same value chain between the customer and your company. Or with

maintenance contractors or other service providers to your company, and downstream

of your business in delivery, accounting or other areas of significance between you

and your customers.

The success of these interactions will depend on cultural awareness, competence and

adaptability of your staff and the other parties staff also. Smith 1992 discusses various

types of cultural sensitivity training from simple awareness briefings to language and

other skill development programs. He concluded that many organisations provide very

little, especially US companies. Importantly though he shows that success of joint

ventures and overseas postings are directly linked to such training, with the Japanese

and European companies amongst the most successful at this due to their high

commitment to preparing their staff in this way. Funakawa 1997 supports Smith’s

findings that rigorous cultural training has a significant impact on cross-cultural

business success.

The scope of the new cross-cultural boundaries and success with these new

interactions cannot be over-rated. As developing nations call for technology transfer

there is a need to translate the learning of one culture to another. Joint ventures,

project work and increasing fragmentation of work to different divisions spread across

the globe are all creating new opportunities for misunderstandings and losses to arise.

Team-work has new meaning in this context with some staff involved in multi-cultural

teams who may never get to meet one another face to face ( See for example O’Hara-

Deveraux & Johansen 1994).

Smith strongly advocates basic and advanced language training, awareness training

regarding the new cultural mores and practices, and general sensitivity training to

improve the candidates’ cross-cultural versatility.

Funakawa has identified five core competencies of cross-cultural management (refer

to model in appendix 2), as follows:

1. Geocentric mindset – global mindset plus focus on competencies rather than

cultures, and whole-earth (geo) focus rather than a corporate focus; depends

on the next four competencies for it’s development

2. Strategic focus – six C’s model: corporation, customer, competitor,

community, communication, and culture, as the key dimensions of success in

the new global environment (refer to model in appendix 3)

3. Cross-cultural communication skills, verbal, written, non-verbal – all forms of

communication, their cultural coding and interpretation (decoding)

4. Culturally-sensitive management processes – eliminating faulty processes due

to misunderstanding and other negative or unwanted outcomes from cross-

cultural management

5. Synergy learning systems – institutionalised opportunities that promote mutual

cross- cultural learning and that provide a feedback function that reflects the

learning process. Begin by learning the perspective of others.

Fukanawa argues that it is vital for companies to learn how to transform each cross-

cultural work situation into a real-life cross-cultural action learning opportunity.

Creating and building these competencies is the responsibility of management and

HRM has a key role to play as a provider of services in this area as well as a

champion for development of these in their company.

Fukanawa identifies two distinct patterns possible, one negative and one positive in

the development of these competencies: the vicious blame cycle and the virtuous

learning cycle.

The elements of the vicious cycle of blame are: Reluctant Intention + Information

which is limited + Interaction focused on problems will feed on itself and can lead to

a major crisis of cross-cultural conflict.

The elements of the virtuous cycle of learning are: Curiosity Intention + Information

wide-open + Interaction as a learning opportunity.

Fukanawa suggests that a focus on the three elements (intention, information &

interaction) can break the vicious cycle and convert it to a positive learning cycle.

Joint goal-setting, common meeting places with mixed seating arrangements that

allow for formal and informal interaction are practical examples that can assist

companies to achieve a positive intercultural learning condition in their company.

Leadership must also commit to the same processes with HR’s support so that it is

considered essential at every level of the company. Creating success stories and

informal talk about it can lead to strengthening of the ties between cultures, despite

their differences.

Funakawa further elaborates seven mental disciplines that global employees will need

to acquire and practice to encourage their versatility in cross-cultural communication:

1. Observe the situation without judgements

2. Tolerate ambiguity

3. Practice style shifting

4. Put your self in the other person’s shoes

5. Reprogram your questions

6. Work interdependently

7. Keep mental stability and growth

He uses these as guidelines for better communications skills - a vital component in all

cross-cultural business. HRM needs to acquaint itself with this new body of practice

and integrate it into their company up and down their structure to empower a better

global functioning where it is needed most.

Arguably, IT has had the single most significant impact on the nature of work in the

last decade (Martin 1995).

IT has enabled the exponential growth in flexible working (Simm 1996) with the UK ,

USA and much of Europe embarking on action plans to introduce these new forms of

work into their corporations to meet the changing needs for productivity demanded by

the market. Flexible working reflects a Western notion that work was somehow fixed,

and only now is becoming more ‘flexible’. This notion seems peculiarly Western

when put against the dependency of the Japanese workers to their company or the

interdependency of the Chinese to their family business. Simm offers a complete

guide to this growing phenomena in the West.

Mobility has been increased one thousand fold through better communications, better

travel facilities and better computing facilities in the last decade. Consequently, new

platforms of work have emerged. Microsoft has been successful just because of the

exploding growth in need for flexibility and standardisation of basic office technology

and clerical work requirements.

Now it is possible to work from virtually anywhere at anytime and still have your

report on your managers desk by the morning. This facilitation of information sharing

has and still is having such significant impact on the culture, structure and social

aspects of work that it is now a permanently changing landscape.

Some (e.g. Cappelli 1999 and Bridges 1996) argue that the company has become

leaner and flatter because of IT, since middle managers are no longer needed to collect

collate and interpret data for senior management consumption.

Now the data is kept in a corporate database and increasingly accessible to all. There

are many examples of this working very well such as Frito-Lay in the US who use

daily sales reports to direct their suppliers, as well as their sales and marketing efforts

to the hot spots of demand (Cappelli 1999).

Tan 1994 reports that for HR to succeed it must get closer to the senior management

and strategic direction of the company where such IT infusion begins in the company.

This way HR can participate in minimising the sources of disruption to the company

inevitable from such fundamental changes as well as seek to lay out a plan for the

restructuring, up-skilling and maybe even downsizing that may follow.

Proactive behaviors by HR Managers at these points of IT infusion are critical for

their credibility. IT is taken on by managers to improve the strategic functioning of the

company (Martin 1996) and HR must be seen to be usefully supporting and even

enabling this infusion to be successful.

Some staff will take up the new frontier rapidly leaving behind their non-IT ready

staff in a blur of HTML, Java script and other apparently nonsensical language.

Relationships built on years of success in one paradigm have just seen the sight of

extinction; beliefs, reputations and success may all be potentially put at risk.

Uncertainty, mistakes and relationship mishaps may arise as this new paradigm takes

hold. HR should be playing a pre-emptive role in securing adaptation to this new

environment by all those affected. This is identified as transformational change by

Van Eyne Et Al. 1997, and is potentially the most stressful type of change since the

future is not mapped out, but perhaps only an incomplete vision.

IT changes can take the form of any of the three types of changes identified by Van

Eyne Et Al. (1996): developmental (continuous improvement in incremental steps),

transitional (from one known state to another) and transformational (from the known,

current state to a new unknown or incompletely mapped state). One can readily

imagine the vital role of HRM in enabling and facilitating any of these changes to the

nature of work and the social and organisational context involved to reduce losses and

secure success from all of them with a minimum of fuss.

HRM must engage with senior management and line management, gain their respect

and become involved in solving these challenges with them. HRM can begin by

focusing executives on the need to create a learning mind-set amongst all staff. There

are different models, styles and opportunities for learning. Much is already available

about knowledge capital and knowledge management in companies (See for example

Savage 1996, Senge 1990 and Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995). Adapting is learning for

survival as well as growth. Companies need to create this atmosphere of learning as

essential and ingrained into their company. And across cultural lines. Leveraging

cross-cultural learning can be a source of competitive advantage, as Funakawa says, it

can be leveraged for a new perspective on work and the ways it is done for profit and


HRM has an immensely important role in helping people to anticipate, adapt to and

even become excited about the changes happening. Even outsourcing of some

functions because of the introduction of IT into some areas has its positive side for the

survival and ongoing success of the company. Selling these ideas carefully and

effectively are some of the key competencies required for HRM in the next century.

This means a constant need for skill development at all levels of mastery with IT. And

now this must be self-driven development as companies expend less and less for

training of their staff because of their fear of having them poached by other

companies (Cappelli 1999, Bridges 1996).

IT enables as well as limits the flow of human interactions since face to face contact

has far greater contextual and body language cues that cannot be reproduced by

computing means, not even video/audio is a satisfactory substitute for direct contact.

This results in such contact now changing its value as a rarer and more special form of

contact. It can now be used selectively and is especially recommended for cross-

cultural contact as the case studies by O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994 and in

Joynt and Warner 1996. These studies note how the failure of Western firms to close a

joint venture arrangement, or secure a deal because they failed to step into the cultural

shoes of their Eastern partners.

They presumed computer linked communications were sufficient for the relationship

to grow and cement a deal, how wrong they were! Indeed O’Hara-Deveraux &

Johansen prepared a list of the different uses and meanings attached to various forms

of electronic communication by cultures like Mexico and Canada to try and educate

their countrymen about this significant dimension.

HR Managers need to offer strategic guidance about these issues in their own context.

This can be done through effective research into all of the cultures of business interest

to their company and application of the models presented here in their context.

Chow Et. Al. 1997 provides a comprehensive review of the strategic changes made by

companies in the Asia-Pacific region. They use goal-setting as an example of the

different values placed on different strategies because of the effects of cultural

differences between these west and the east.

Chow Et Al show us that US rate return on investment as their number one priority

reflecting their short term focus. (Chow p.6). Asian companies reflected by Japan and

Korea both selected market-share as their top priority showing their concern with

longer term survival rather than short term results. Chow summarises these

differences as follows:

• Asian companies: longer term emphasis, working with rather than

against government (greater acceptance of the value and role of

authority), seeking harmony rather than confrontation, product


• US Companies: shorter-term emphasis, combative, individualistic

and non-cooperative, antagonistic.

These examples reflect the cultural findings of major researchers such as Geert

Hofstede (in Hickson 1997) and Hall and Hall (1989) about the major differences in

these two cultures.

Indeed the most sensitive analysis of these differences comes from the Japanese writer

Mayuma cited earlier. Mayuma traces the historical and philosophical roots of

Japanese work from before the Shinto period to today, reflecting a merger of Buddhist

teachings about one correct way and fusion with Confucius teachings about duty,

obligation, and harmony with nature and fellow man. Chow Et Al., like many other

writers, notes that there is no universal management theory or strategy.

An analysis by Swedish Professor Anders Tornvall supports the proposition that it is

the unique national history of Japan that is the root system of the work ethic for the

Japanese. [Historical analysis is also traced frequently for China and indeed is the

dominant explanation model used for cultural analysis (see for example Part II – Area

Studies in Joynt & Warner 1996 and also Hickson 1997)]

In the case of Singapore, it is characterised by two dominant forms of corporate

structure with their attendant cultural norms (Tung in Joynt & Warner 1996):

1. Multi-national corporations – these may be diverse in culture based upon their

HQ/owner country (US, Japan, Germany etc)

2. Chinese family owned businesses – uniform in culture usually following the

traditional form of autocratic leadership with family hierarchy, the dominant


Interestingly, Singapore has shown some of the symptoms of the changes occurring in

the West already. Singaporeans have taken greater responsibility for their own

education and training as evidenced by the growth of education providers here,

however they appear to still depend on their employer to support their career

progression rather than seek to change employer for this purpose as frequently as in

the West.

Further, the East is not becoming more like the West in its management style, indeed

there is plenty of suggestion that the East is much more successful in migrating its

businesses offshore than the West. Indeed Yao-Su & Warner in Joynt & Warner 1996

note that blue chip companies like IBM can face failures overseas. The reverse can

also arise that smaller, less prominent firms in their home market can be so very

successful overseas. Nokia, the small company from Finland, is a good example of

this. Porter (1990) cited by Yao-Su & Warner, identifies various advantages that must

carry over to the international arena for success to follow.

Differences are noted between (competitive) advantage transfer, technology transfer

and knowledge transfer. Each of these has its own characteristics and demands on

issues like linguistic skills, similarity of symbols and mythology to aid sales or

acceptance, cultural values and therefore success or failure from each parties


Yao-Su and Warner state that transfer of these must be separated by the use – source

dimension. For example transferring an entire R & D function (source) is of course,

very different from simply transferring the outcomes of the development in terms on

new products or services (uses). Each strategic option brings a different set of HR


Yao-Su and Warner note that advantages based on skills, competencies, capabilities,

know-how, and technology are more difficult to codify since they often reside in

people. Procedures and data cannot substitute for this tacit knowledge. Therefore they

can be difficult to transfer. However, the Japanese have been much more successful in

transferring this non-codified tacit knowledge through their mentoring, partnering and

other relationship building methods.

This gives HRM a clue to the skills and methods needed to support a successful cross-

cultural transfer involving a significant proportion of tacit knowledge or experience

residing in local staff. These systems or networks of different types of relationships

represent the channels needed to create a successful transfer. These relationships can

become the focus of development of local networks in different locations. They will

determine the transfer of local tacit knowledge about how work is done and can be

defining importance to the success of a cross-cultural work venture. HRM can help to

define the strategies and tactics on the ground especially for expatriate staff to ensure

the success of the venture.

None the less Yao-Su & Warner note that there are very pragmatic business reasons

why (especially) proprietary knowledge is kept at home and the outcomes of this are

exported. Other strategies like buying out an overseas business to gain access to tacit

knowledge will not always work since the new owner may collapse the structure or

fail to learn how to operate or motivate it. Hence such simple attempts like Sony to

purchase Fox Studios never taught it how to make great movies. Rather the studios

learnt how to extract much needed finance from the parent company.

HRM must keep themselves in the very forefront of business strategy development as

they apply human capital and knowledge worker strategies in an often cross-cultural

context. Such HRM work can grow from an intentional effort to become a significant

strategic partner themselves in their own company (after Tan 1994). Then they can

apply their specialised knowledge about the transfer of human capital to other cultures

in a way that sees the overall organisational mission achieved.

More companies are globalising, more web based companies are starting up,

competition is getting hotter in almost every market, different forms of working are

being used by more companies (see Cappelli 1999 for a thorough review of the US

statistics on employment too extensive to reproduce here). The number and frequency

of cross-cultural interactions in business is growing exponentially with government’s

incentivising export, companies wanting to expand their market share and grasp wider

opportunities for profit.

HRM has several key roles: as a preemptive strike-force to lay the ground work for an

occupying mission into foreign territory or absorption of foreign talent into the home

territory. Creation of competencies (definition, selection and training and

development) needed to meet these pressures are essential programs defined above.

But adaptation does not mean just individual learning.

Creating the management imperative is a first step to meeting these pressures that

HRM must have a leadership role. To follow, HRM can create suitable reward and

compensation systems, social and other human relations needs, housing location

office and other facilities to create a suitable working environment. These are the

programs where HRM must be the driver and facilitator in these and many other

aspects of internationalising a business ensuring it can compete in the global


2. The Organisational Context – a boiling beaker

A summary of the forces acting on the organisation from within and outside is

presented in Figure 2: Drivers, Outcomes and Intervening Variables in a Globalising

Business below. This diagram developed by the author, shows the critical variables

using a risk management model in response to the forces of change. The growth of

transnational organisations dominates and is no longer in dispute (see for example

Bartholemew & Adler 1996, & O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994).

Insert Figure 2. here.

The intervening variables proposed are structured in a way as to as to present a

pathway from the pre-changed state to the new state. Each change transition will take

its own course based on the type of change (developmental, transitional or

transformational as raised earlier) and the locus of change (numbers of staff affected,

levels of staff affected, functions and locations effected).

Still the risk management approach is characterised by more of a problem solving

process (identify, develop alternatives, evaluate them and select and implement the

best solutions, preferably beginning with preventive measures first and fix-it measures

as a last alternative; see for example Dickson 1990).

Figure 2: Drivers, Outcomes and Intervening Variables in a Globalising Business.



Driver 2:
Competition -
if you don’t do
it your
probably will or
already has...

Another boiling beaker

of international
Driver 1: Dollars – interna- business: Driver 3: Survival / Growth–
tional market scope for cash Transnational enter the new learning
flow, profit and long term Compa nies (MNC’s); opportunity for future business –
expansion contrast with truly the global market place
borderless business:
web-based businesses

Synergy of skills competencies, U A
Clash of values, conflict and loss of face;
vision and values; new products C I
project, venture and company failure;
and sales, greater market access C L
loss of market share, damaged brand
& share; greater cash flow & E U
reputation, loss of licenses, sales, income &
profit S R
capital investment

Intervening Variables:
[Chow Et. Al (1997), Hickson (1997), Joynt & Warner (1996)]
• Management recognition and responsiveness to international or non-
traditional business environment
• Risk assessment– political, cultural, financial, relational, technical,
• Risk response action plans – training, planning, understanding creation,
structural arrangements, IT and other data collection and monitoring
systems, communication systems,
• Internal variables – support, belief systems, authority, financial and key
executive authorities, competence, systems for managing & support
• External variables – partner(s), government and other key player supports,
market / product match,
• HR Policies to deal with the new environment that enable and facilitate
success in new & different working paradigms
• Sensitivity, awareness, global competencies, organisational context to
support globalisation, resources to meet plans, etc.

Term Paper3 9/99/jr

Bonthouse (1994) [cited by Darlington in Joynt & Warner 1996] constructed a model,

refer to Figure 3 below, for the ways in which different country’s corporations process

or deal with these forces. His model of Preferred Business Intelligence Systems is

helpful to see how these forces are processed by different national groupings. He

notes that the US has some ‘learning disabilities’ due to its emphasis on analytical

understanding. Other countries such as Japan and Sweden are more versatile &

therefore able to adapt more easily to a multi-cultural context. The effects of this are

very apparent when considering HR management issues in a multi-cultural context.

Insert Figure 3 here: Bonthouse ‘Preferred Business Intelligence Systems’

Figure 3: Bonthouse ‘Preferred Business Intelligence Systems’

Heller 1996 notes that the significant problems found by US firms in their HR matters

in China, both in joint ventures and mergers arises from their different almost opposite

views about individuals. The US focuses on the individual as the unit of measure for

selection, training, pay and promotion whereas the Chinese will focus on the group

for these matters. Heller found considerable support in all of the studies he reviewed

for cultural dimensions proposed by Hofstede as still valid and useful as explanatory

variables in to today’s global HR environment.

Additionally, Hall & Hall define another key cultural dimension of strategic

importance: emphasis on the context of the interaction.

O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994 propose an Intercultural Learning Model, see

Figure 4 below. This model is used to map a pathway to greater cross-cultural success.

Models like this one help HR conceptualise the stages that their organisation must

progress through to improve their cross-cultural performance.

Insert Figure 4 Intercultural Learning Model (O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994)


Individual responses to these changes are many and varied, depending upon their

motivation and capacity to adapt (personal versatility, resistance to change,

investment in the status quo and so on).

Figure 4: Intercultural Learning Model (O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994 )

According to the literature (Bridges 1996, Cappelli 1999, Simm 1996, Arthur &

Rousseau 1996, Sullivan Et Al. 1998 amongst others the internal forces of change are

brought by one or more of the following:

Internal pressures impacting in workers – the strong getting stronger…

- role swapping, multi skilling, multi tasking

- self marketing

- team based work

- uncertainty increasing

- greater work & responsibility

- greater information available

- greater opportunities for comparison with others

HRM can have direct impact on mediating these forces in individuals through

organisational changes. They are able to offer programs such as counseling, stress

management training, career guidance and outplacement services, supervisory and

other management programs to name just a few.

The processes used by HRM should reflect the mission and allocation of value to the

company’s human capital and yet meet the immediate and long term strategic

objectives for the company as a responsible social citizen. Addressing the intervening

variables identified in figure 2. above may help to progress the company significantly

towards restructuring without resistance rather than paying for the losses such

resistance creates.

A major point in this paper is that adaptation to new paradigms is a fundamental

objective for the next century. Internal and external forces are acting increasingly to

generate paradigm shifts in structure, financing, relationships, and core versus

peripheral work allocation (after Cappelli 1999) and ultimately the use of human


Markets and therefore customers drive labor (and that there are two types of

customers (internal and external) as well as employees or labor markets: internal and

external also). This is a significant cognitive change from earlier concepts of loyalty

and commitment to a single employer.

These concepts are thought to be virtually dead, except in the minds of those who

have not made the paradigm shift yet (Cappelli 1999 and Bridges 1996). Indeed, long-

term employment with the one firm can be harmful when it creates limitations of

group-think, and can no longer respond to the shifting market (Cappelli 1999).

Further, changes in the working patterns for those displaced or moving to flexible

working situations will result in consequential changes in their private lives (Cappelli

1999). Guidance on how to manage and adjust to these changes is also the purview of

a socially responsible HR function.

3. The Cultural Context – a new paradigm in every country

There is general agreement that culture is the most significant mediator of adaptation

after individual differences. It remains now to apply this learning to our practice of

human resource management.

But before this we need to briefly attack the limiting action of these very stereotypes

themselves as obstructive of further learning about and appreciation of another

culture. This is at the very root of the challenge facing business today – how to get the

most out of each and every individual across all the national and international borders

that our business might stretch. Recall we have said that individual differences explain

the most variability with culture second. The problem can be defined as one of

diversity management at an individual and cultural level.

Research clearly shows that not all Western countries have the same profile. Hofstede

1990, Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars 1996, Hall and Hall all show the significant

variations between countries characterised as Eastern with those defined as Western.

Just picture for example a meeting between Koreans – highly charged emotionally,

with much outward expression of that emotion such as desk or chest beating,

contrasted with the same meeting held in Japan. Now, there will be quiet following of

hierarchical speeches without open discussion but rather simple confirmation of the

earlier networking that preceded this meeting.

Similarly, US to UK business relations shows how very different these two styles are,

with the UK manager much more concerned with protocol than his US counterpart

who wishes to get to the bottom line as soon as possible.

The cautionary message is that stereotyping such as east and west cannot be applied to

any country. Rather it finds use simply to begin to introduce the idea of different

paradigms of work and their cultural antecedents.

Being able to adjust into new cultural paradigms is the key attribute executives and

HR need to elaborate as an essential global competency for executives and whole

companies alike (O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1996, Mayuma 1984, Tan Et Al.

1994, Smith 1996 etc).

The following Figure 5. tables the fundamental differences used to characterises east

and west cultures (note that this does not apply equally or at all to any specific

country in either the east or west):

Insert Figure 5. here

The dramatic and sometimes opposite perspectives between these two groups serves

to highlight the many different behaviors that each group norms towards.

Figure 5. Cultural Differences Between East and West

Radically different paradigms of work between East & West and even
within each of these groups

* Group dominated, * Individualism dominates

social obligation & duty fulfillment * Relationships are based on reciprocal
Relationships are based on exchange, ‘like for like’
differential exchange, my obedience and * Self-expression is highly valued
respect for your benevolence * Self-actualisation
* ‘Face’ work or self and significant other * Single actors
protection prevalent performing
* Sacrificing self for separately on stage
greater good * Equality seeking
* Symbiotic relationships * Homogeneity, emphasises equality
developing and * Short term
supporting actors satisfaction
* Place seeking in the group hierarchy * Egalitarianism
* Heterogeneity, emphasises differences
* Long term goals
* Harmony is sought

There are other dimensions that can be useful to distinguish these two groups broadly:

1. - Context – the information that surrounds an event, very high for the East and

very low for the West (Hall & Hall 1989)

2. - Power distance – levels between highest and lowest in a company – East

significantly more than the West

- Masculinity/Femininity – relates to gender roles and their differentiation –

East maintaining gender roles more strictly than does the West

- Uncertainty Avoidance – level and response to anxiety in society about the

unknown – East is much higher on uncertainty avoidance than the West

(After Hofstede 1991).

- This measure is a controlling variable for success in global business:

Tung(1982,1987) found in her survey of multi-nationals that the Japanese

avoidance of uncertainty led to them giving 5 year postings unlike the US

who only give 2 year postings. Commitment, experience and utility are

therefore different for these two groups because of the difference in


3. - Polyocular vision – the capacity to see from another persons perspective –

high in the East and low in the West

4. - Hierarchical – society and corporations – East emphasizes importance

of position in, will have many levels, with each one not readily transferable,

West emphasizes much less and readily communicates across flatter


5. Aidaschaft – the social context or relationship terrain that each person belongs

to, their tribe(s) – US does not emphasize, whereas Japanese and eastern

societies consider this the fundamental paradigm and not the individual

(Mayuma 1997)

6. - Time – monochronic – one event follows another linearly in time, and

polychronic – many events are understood to be happening at once,

East is polychronic and understands that events may be overtaken by others

not in a linear fashion, West is monochronic and expects a before b before c, a

linear chain of events. (O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994);

past, present and future orientations – societies can be characterised by their

orientation in these three different time zones, the East is more oriented toward

long term future as well as a more significant past, the West is more focused in

the present and the short-term future (Hall & Hall 1989)

7. Information flow – pathways and speed of communications – East has high

speed, multi-level, diverse networks; West uses low speed, singular pathways

and compartmentalize information. (O’Hara-Deveraux & Johansen 1994);

- transfer of tacit knowledge – unwritten information about the who, what,

when, where, and how of a company’s operations; East transfers this via the

vigorous networking, mentoring and relationship building that they use every

day, whilst in the West they struggle to make Lotus Notes perform the same

function. Knowledge in an ‘East’ company is more frequently shared in some

measure on a daily basis, whereas it is usually stored in West companies

(either in the ‘grey mice’ who hold the corporate memory or in a database or

one or two individuals memory).

The forces acting on each of these two cultures are outlined in figures 1. and 2. earlier.

Add to this each country’s own political and geographical pressures such as Taiwan or

Turkey have recently experienced recently and the full scope of competency

requirements in our HR providers becomes clearer in the future.

Bridges 1995 suggests that the collectivism prevalent in the East may cushion the de-

jobbing trend now arising in the West. Interdependence remains a cushion for change.

Flexible working is already the case at least for family members in a family run

business. Moreover this is often a flexible job, and beyond flexible working, as family

members change roles, swap jobs and cover for each other during absences. Outside

this context flexible working does not yet welcome flexible jobs at least in the west as

a practice Simm (1996).

5. What Next?

Cappelli 1999 notes that as pressures grow on organisations the demand for HR

solutions will grow consequently.

Work and jobs as we knew them have gone in many cultures, but not all. Traditional

Chinese businesses for example continue to resist outsourcing and other influences.

They have either already been used to keep the greater business within the family

tribe or are simply being ignored as the autocracy and inter-group relations are still

strong enough to bind the business together (Skromme, Granrose & Bee appearing in

Arthur & Rousseau 1996).

For all those working in Multi-national companies and global non-family businesses

the changes are evident. A stable job and a linear upward career path are not the likely

case. Individuals in this situation will have to learn to create their own jobs and career

paths (Sullivan 1998, Cappelli 1999, Bridges 1996).

This trend will continue to see companies focusing on their unique capabilities and

competencies and jettisoning unnecessary cargo in the form of non-core work. They

will also continue to be driven by their perceptions of the new demands in their global

environment, of market and competition.

HRM has to act in a proactive and responsive way to earn its stripes as a profit

contributor at strategic level as well as a service provider at operational level.

Indonesian and Korean trends for example, see the growth of family conglomerates.

Perhaps in a few generations even these companies will separate into distinct units

and re-grow themselves further as separate businesses. Global branding is a unique

survivor in this changing landscape. More will probably realise this and seek to grasp

it. Like Sony, McDonalds, Coca Cola and others, this allows a single identity in many

different paradigms or cultures. Surely a recipe for success in the new millenium.

For HRM adapting and realising the learning organisation as a model for their

company will provide the platform for cross-cultural business to prosper (Fukanawa

1997). In this model, learning is rewarded at all levels (individual, team, business unit

and company) and is facilitated by appropriated investments in human capital,

technology and business management practices which are responsive to the different

paradigms found when doing global business.


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Author Biography:

John M. Read

Managing Consultant,

What Career Next?

John has over twenty years corporate experience as a specialist Human Resource

management. John has worked in Australia’s largest multi-national companies in

Australia and South-East Asia. He is establishing a specialist career management

consulting firm for global professionals based in Singapore.

Highest Qualification: Graduate Diploma OHM, Monash University Ballarat Campus

Bachelor of Science Applied Mathematics & Psychology,

University of Melbourne

John is currently studying for his Masters of Science in Asia-Pacific Human Resource

Management at the National University of Singapore.