If you were to get a call or a text from a colleague or friend about working in a country, not your home, but where you have worked what tips would you give to them. What would be the key issues for an American in China, an Indian in the UK. What would you consider more important, the working environment or the the social side. If you were both in the same international company, would there be significant differences at work? 

Would the difference be significant?

Are individual differences greater than cultural differences or social norms?

Are we all global now? 

Research suggests that we do need to understand national an cultural differences, even if we work in the same company.

Watch this video… do you agree?

 

A leading voice on the issue of cultural differences is Professor Geert Hofstede, he defines culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others’. To categorise and codify these differences he offers six dimensions of national culture  based on his research. His model is used worldwide in both academic and management applications.

The dimensions are:-

Power Distance Index (PDI)
The Power Distance Index is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” In this dimension, inequality and power are perceived from the followers, or the lower level. A higher degree of the Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established and executed in society, without doubt, or reason. A lower degree of the Index signifies that people question authority and attempt to distribute power.

Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
This index explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.” Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only relates an individual to his/her immediate family. They emphasize the “I” versus the “we.” Its counterpart, collectivism, describes a society in which tightly- integrated relationships tie extended families and others into in-groups. These in-groups are laced with undoubted loyalty and support each other when a conflict arises with another in-group.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
The Uncertainty Avoidance Index is defined as “a society’s tolerance for ambiguity,” in which people embrace or avert an event of something unexpected, unknown, or away from the status quo. Societies that score a high degree in this index opt for stiff codes of behaviour, guidelines, laws, and generally rely on absolute Truth, or the belief that one lone Truth dictates everything and people know what it is. A lower degree in this index shows more acceptances of differing thoughts/ideas. Society tends to impose fewer regulations, ambiguity is more accustomed to, and the environment is more free-flowing.

Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)
In this dimension, masculinity is defined as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Its counterpart represents “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” Women in the respective societies tend to. display different values. In feminine societies, they share modest and caring views equally with men. In more masculine societies, women are more emphatic and competitive, but notably less emphatic than the men. In other words, they still recognise a gap between male and female values. This dimension is frequently viewed as taboo in highly masculine societies.

Long-term Orientation vs. Short-term Orientation (LTO)
This dimension associates the connection of the.past with current and future actions/challenges. A lower degree of this index (short-term) indicates that traditions are honoured and kept, while steadfastness is valued. Societies with a high degree in this index (long-term) views adaptation and circumstantial, pragmatic problem-solving as a necessity. A poor country that is short-term oriented usually has little to do economic development, while long-term oriented countries continue to develop to a point.

Indulgence vs. Restraint (IND)
This dimension is essentially a measure of happiness; whether or not simple joys are fulfilled. Indulgence is defined as “a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun.” Its counterpart is defined as “a society that controls gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.” Indulgent societies believe themselves to be in control of their own lives and emotions; restrained societies believe other factors dictate their lives and emotions.

Each of these dimensions can be measured and evaluated for different societies.

How does your country’s culture stack up against another, try this…

Finally, watch what Pellegrino Riccardi has to say on the matter…

This is just the starting point for a manager or team builder to consider, it is another dimension to team diversity along with gender and race. The Asian born in the UK, will be as much cultural ‘Brit’ as the child of English parents born and raised in Spain. The hope is that they will have an inherent cross cultural sensitivity along with their possible bilingual skills. This just might impact on their cognitive skills and add another dimension to team diversity.