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International Human Resource Management
International Human Resource Management
The global market is becoming complex with every passing day. The models of traditional organization and management are less effective in the global market. A new strategy of leadership needs to be adopted to fit the different cultural needs of an international manager. The statement that the effectiveness of international managers requires adaptability, flexibility, and open mindedness, speaking in a foreign language, and making friends of different nations may be ideally true on face value. Discussed below are the fundamental elements that make effective international managers and what different authors have said about the matter.
The need for new managerial skills is necessitated by the work force trends in the world today. Modern technology has changed the lifestyles of individuals. There is a shift in the market and a dire need for labor and talent. The world continues to have a scarcity of well-trained talent. The businesses of today have responded to technology development in a way of interlinking boarders in order to have a more global perspective and maximize on profits. Businesses that have forsaken the traditional way of management are flourishing. Complex companies have arisen and, therefore, the need for new management approaches. The population distribution is also changing and skilled local labor is necessary for the success of any company. International sourcing of labor is the way to go. This makes a new model of leadership and management a requirement.
A study by Goldsmith et al 2003 lists global leadership skills as thinking globally , appreciating cultural diversity, developing technological savvy, building partnerships and alliances and sharing leaderships. Cultural education is of outmost importance in this world where global business has become a routine. A person with a high cultural awareness can be able to identify characteristics in groups and individuals that are beneficial to the organization despite the differences in culture or race. This cultural intelligence, is not inborn, it can be developed. The leadership package can be developed by way of examination, education, experience and exposure. Examination refers to the manager assessing where they are in terms of knowledge regarding cultural differences. This would then enable him to focus on the areas they have been ignorant. Understanding of the cultural differences enables the managerial force to make strategies that would be successful in the particular market. After examination, a person seeking to be effective in global management needs to educate themselves on the different countries and cultures. Information about cultural customs and procedures both from a social and a business perspective would be fundamental in formulation of appropriate business procedures. Developing a global mind set also entails experience and exposure of the manager. The value of living abroad and interacting with different cultures is identified as valuable in developing global leadership skills. People who have lived broad have a sensitivity to culture, they have learnt other languages and are therefore more effective in communication, are great in welcoming strangers and creating new alternatives. Those with only local experience have a difficulty in dealing with global assignments.
Roles Global managers play
According to C.C.L research, a global manager plays the same roles but the behaviors and knowledge associated with the roles are different when working in the global setting. Global leadership competencies, therefore, include International Business knowledge, cultural adaptability, perspective taking and Innovation skills. International business knowledge entails the ability to conduct cross – cultural negotiations effectively. It also entails application of cultural knowledge to the public setting and managing cultural influences on marketing and business practices. Effectiveness of international managers heavily depends on the international business knowledge they possess.Cultural adaptability is another major competency of international managers. This skill enables one to understand the cultural values and predispositions of individuals in different cultures and adapting the style of management to suit them. A manager is able to evaluate the workforce in a neutral way without getting influenced by his personal opinions and predispositions. Such a manager is effective in motivating sharing among people of different cultures and forming multicultural teams.
Perspective taking is another major skill required of a global manager. It enables him/ her to see other people’s point of view. It requires an element of flexibility in decision making which includes listening well, and taking into effect the situation of the other person. Having cultural empathy is essential in understanding what works best in the environment. An innovative manager is needed in global settings. Due to the complexity in the business and differences in culture, a person needs to be able to try new approaches of problem solving, business procedures and team organization.
According to McKinsey and Company survey report on Managing at a global scale, executives think that developing leaders who are culturally and functionally proficient across the regions is crucial to more effective multi- regional operations. The report shows that companies that are more effective in operating globally do so because they have a process of allowing them to enter into other markets and they have executives who work well across cultures.
Similarly Heaps gives among the characteristics of highly effective International Human Resource Managers as, flexibility, Cultural awareness and sensitivity. He asserts that it is of outmost importance for managers to embrace the cultural differences and turn them into competitive business advantage. For instance, the culture in African states say Kenya perspective is that managers of companies have company cars. Some companies are reluctant to follow this model and this causes a detriment to the business in terms of human resource. Another example is the Asian culture of hierarchy and respect for seniority. This cultural practice is bound to affect the procedures of communication, and giving of feedback to employers. Discussions will thus be affected by the cultural dispositions in each country.
Unlike local company managers, global leadership differs in Skills required. This is particularly because the leaders face a unique set of challenges in the global market. Managing a diverse group of employees may be one major challenge of global management. With the culture shocks and a different environment of business, a manager faces the mandate of adaptability. This leads to another challenge of adaptively approaching problems and challenges in the new environment. The question of a different culture also poses a major challenge. Appreciating the new values of the people that may not agree with personal predispositions is something that global leaders are faced with. The business styles are also bound to be radically different and this may lead to an adaptability difficulty. The different kinds of labor relations in different countries also require adaptability. For instance, compensation for work related injuries are different in different countries. The HR manager therefore needs to adopt the locally recommended solution and engage with colleagues to find the best ways to solve issues.
Organizations must adopt strategies that ensure the international managers are fit for the job. One of the most effective results affecting effectiveness is the number of languages spoken by a manager. Organizations can undertake to develop the language skills of their employees. It has been shown to be a major contributor to effective IHRM. Abroad travels have also been suggested as a method of developing a global mind. Other studies show mere abroad studies have been overrated as contributors to gaining of effective global leadership qualities. They suggest that more than visits to countries are required. Interactions with locals in hotels and learning the culture of the people make better international leaderships. If the visits to abroad countries are managed well, they would lead to international management development.
Another strategy that can be used by organizations to develop a global mind set is availing globally challenging assignments to the leaders concerned. Job assignments need to be designed in a way likely to be challenging. For instance, assignments such as leading teams which are diverse in terms of culture, language and values develop a global mind set. This creates a complex role for the manager to synchronize the workforce that is diversely different. This may be made possible by facilitating working across national boundaries. The experience of people speaking different language develops the qualities of innovation on organizational skills. Useful leaders will develop adaptation skills to fit in the environment, while weak leaders are likely to find it excessively difficult.
Another strategy to equip leaders for global leadership is training. Training interventions provide a forum for the less travelled to learn from the experiences of others. It is imperative that organizations provide their employees with global business training forums for them to acquire intellectual knowledge on the requirements of leadership in different settings of the world. This theoretical knowledge may be useful when the factual experience time comes and the leaders are availed an opportunity to travel outside the country to perform organizational tasks. Trainings on diversity make a foundational knowledge on its value within a given organization. Organizations may also promote a global mind set by making diversity an organizational priority by committing human and fiscal resources to the diversity agenda. Acquiring of multi-cultural employees and promoting alliances with multi-cultural organizations is also imperative on the development of international management skills.
One major tool of cultural socialization for organizations is the use of expatriates. Expatriates are people assigned to work in a country that is foreign by organizations based in their home countries. In most cases these people are employees for the organization in their resident countries before the organizations sends them out to carry out management responsibilities in subsidiaries in the foreign countries. Expatriates are used by multinational organizations to control and coordinate business activities for the parent company. In most cases, the assignments are time limited and these people carry out the assignments then are expected to go back to their mother countries. The expatriates face serous strains when trying to adapt to the new life in the foreign countries and often fail in their tasks. Expatriates may be parent country nationals (expatriates who originate from the headquarters or parent company country of the multinational corporation), third country nationals (expatriates neither of the parent nor the host country), or foreign nationals who live and work in the parent country. Expatriates may be assigned by their employer to be relocated to the foreign location, or may initiate the relocation themselves.
Learning about their new role in the country, is a necessity for expatriates to be effective in the new surroundings. Expatriates sometimes face constraints in their adjustment and, therefore, fail in their assignments. This has grave consequences not only on both the parent company and the host company but also on the individual life of the expatriate. The process of relocating these expatriates is expensive especially where, a person has to be relocated together with the spouse and children. The parent organization may, therefore, incur a lot of losses if the management goals are not met. The major reason for the failure of expatriates ids their inability to adapt to the work strains that characterize new job environments. They may either return to the parent countries pre-maturely or fail in the tasks despite staying in the host countries for the time specified. The strain makes the expatriates ineffective in undertaking their tasks because they cannot adjust to the demands of their assignment. This is so especially if the expatriate cannot adequately learn the culture and language of the host country.
The interaction of the expatriates with the HCNs is important in the achievement of the set goals. It is essential for example, for them to learn the local languages, the cultural practices of the place in order to structure their tasks in a manageable manner. The expatriates also need to rely on the mother countries for information and support is fundamental to their success. Cooperation with the HCNs would include getting local workforce so as to have employees that are familiar with the local cultures and business practices. Expatriates could learn a lot by including the host country nationals in the tasks. Some companies prefer hiring host country workforce in the higher level management because they have a better knowledge of markets, and have a good network with the host country governments and industry. Other businesses favor the appointment of home country nationals at higher-level positions. This is often because the directors and executives feel more comfortable with people similar to themselves in the home country.
There are interventions that can make the adjustment process for the expatriates easier. This includes training beforehand. Expatriates need to be trained before relocating on various issues relating to their tasks. Cultural sensitivity should mark one of the training agendas. This training would be to prepare them of the tasks ahead and to ease the strain of the adaptation to the environment. The parent companies could also cooperate with the HCNs to socialize the expatriates to the new environment. Training may also be necessary for the HCNs about the cultural differences between the two countries. Previous studies show that good relations between the HCNs and the expatriates contribute positively to the success of the socialization of the expatriates. These relations include friendships, information sharing and fostering local social support. Information sharing is an important tool of ensuring socialization of the expatriate. The locals are well endowed with information likely to be helpful and thus the need to cooperate with the host countries. Strategies of cooperation include involving the HCNs in planning objectives for the subsidiary organization.
The organization may make the interactions between the HCNs and the expatriates by designing a reward system for the HCNs for the successful expatriate socialization. The locals should benefit for the success of the organization. Studies show that practices such as site mentorship, whereby the expatriate is mentored by the HCNs are effective in promoting effectiveness in international management.
Organizations require unique strategies to deal with the unique challenges met at international transactions of business. One of the most common challenges is the mode of recruitment and selection. The strategy of selection may be an ethnocentric approach which involves choosing only from the citizens of the parent country. An organization may also opt for the polycentric approach, which is limiting recruitment to the nationals of the host country. This ensures that the workforce understands the market. The HR office is localized in this kind of strategy. A company may also opt for the geocentric mode of selection which is selecting the best person for the task regardless of the nationality. The organization must consider what the best selection method is for the company. This majorly depends on factors such as the type of business, political and the social implications of each mode of selection. In recruitment, a company would benefit if it considers previous experience of the employees, the family circumstances of the individual and cultural adaptability which is key to success of global management.
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