Friday, June 21, 2013


Globalization of national and world economies has led to an increase in cross-cultural businesses (Harvey, 2012). There has been a rapid growth in foreign investment by multinational companies across the world. This has led to hiring of employees from different backgrounds with varying cultures and nationalities. The workforce in multi-national companies cannot be sourced from one region, thus people from different backgrounds with diverse cultures are employed forming multi-cultural teams. Individual employees are required to submit to company restrictions on cultural differences (Allen, 1995). This presents challenges to the human resource managers on how to lead multi-cultural teams towards a common goal.
There is also an increase in gender and ethnic diversity among companies which has forced human resources managers to focus on workforce diversity. The ability to manage diversity is very important for the competitiveness of an organization. This report focuses on one diversity issue in National Australia Bank (NAB) and analyses its importance within and outside the organization.

Company overview
The National Australia Bank invests in its employees through training to equip them with the required skills that will allow them to achieve their aspirations. Employees are highly valued and the company fosters culture based behaviors and beliefs. Employees are encouraged to work together as a team and support each other to realize full potential. Respect and authenticity are the guiding principles for all employees regardless of their backgrounds. Individual contributions are highly valued and all employees are treated with dignity and respect. Both men and women from different backgrounds, cultures and generations are valued and included in the organization. Individual goals are supported and career paths are provided to ensure that performance is matched with rewards.

Organizational level of diversity strategies

The NAB believes in diversity for a strong business performance. The company embraces individual differences and seeks to leverage the full potential of all employees (Sharma, 2008). The workforce at all levels of the organization are developed and maintained to reflect the diversity of customers served and the communities in which the company operates. Diversity is greatly valued by the organization. The NAB employs people from different backgrounds in areas where they operate. The bank provides good working conditions and staff benefits are satisfactory. The employees are motivated and well remunerated. However, career progression is slow due to unsatisfactory management`s policies.

The officers and managers at higher positions sometimes ignore the staff`s actual performance and rely on the annual appraisal reports prepared by the supervisors (Lekakis, 2008). Such discriminatory policies should be eliminated and employees should be rewarded based actual performance as opposed to annual and mid-year performance reports. The National Australia Bank is committed on building inclusion and diversity in every aspect of business. The company believes that an inclusive and diverse workforce is for its general business. This helps it to attract and retain highly talented people, become more flexible, respond to customers` needs and create innovative solutions.

A dominant diversity issue in the organization
The company is focused on developing a culture of gender equality which has led to implementation of several gender diversity initiatives (The National Australia Bank website, 2012). Special mentoring and career development programs have been established to support women in their career progress. The reconnect initiative keeps employees on parental leave in touch with the company and helps them to successfully return to work. Policies have been implemented to ensure that both male and female candidates are shortlisted for every position and both genders participate in making hiring decisions. NAB audits and reviews gender pay to ensure that both men and women are paid equally depending on their responsibilities (Taylor, 2011). Special strategies have been developed for attracting and recruiting employees to target women that are willing to join the banking industry. Gender balance is observed in all subsidiary boards and executive positions within the company.

The company has adapted guidelines provided by the council about gender diversity and has established a specific section concerning diversity in its corporate governance statement (Murdoch, 2009). The NAB is an employer of choice for women and aggressively encourages and provides support for women to reach their full potential. Several measures have been taken by the company to protect women. The NAB has increased the number of women in leadership roles and improved the gender balance at management levels. Special initiatives such as career development programs for women, women`s networking and support groups, pay equity & gender metrics as well as mentoring have been established by the bank (The National Australia Bank website, 2012).

Tools and support are also provided for women to balance their family responsibilities and careers. Provision of parental leaves, flexible working schedules and childcare provisions are some of the privileges enjoyed by women. The NAB aims at removing any obstacle that prevents women from ascending to the top. According to the report released in 2010 by EOWA, the National Australia Bank was recognized to an employer of choice for women for the fourth consecutive year (Murdoch, 2009). However, the ratio of men to women in NAB is still unbalanced despite the initiatives implemented. The bank`s workforce consists of 85% men and only 15% women. This is a very wide gap that shows inequality among the employees. The gender difference does not reflect women potential and more efforts should be applied by the bank to ensure that more women are joining the organization.
Literature review

When the company employs people from different backgrounds, they must adhere to restrictions of the company. Different communities have their own perceptions concerning important issues such as distance from power, individualism and gender roles. The duties of managers in multinational and national companies that employ people from different geographical areas are more complex. Co-existence of many cultures within one company causes a lot of problems. Some cultures involve a lot of individualism and male chauvinism where their relations with other employees are guided by personal interests (McMahon, 2010). Such employees do not expect that the company will care for them. They always have selfish interests in their daily activities. On the other hand, there are cultures that believe in
collectivism where the relationships between employees are usually based on morality. This group of employees will always uphold ethical principles in making decision to avoid harming others. They expect the company to take care of them while they are on duty and they are loyal to group decisions. The human resource manager needs to appreciate this diversity among team members and facilitate peaceful co-existence between the group members. Both genders should be treated equally regardless of their backgrounds.

Masculineness is also prevalent in some cultures. Only men are expected to pursue careers and their decisions are dominant over those of women (Tiemo & Arubayi, 2012). Achievements are credited to men with women playing an inferior role. At the same time, other employees might be from a culture that embraces womanhood. In this culture, both men and women look for employment and they work together as a team. All genders are integrated with group decisions being predominant. Personal conflicts concerning the role of women are likely to arise when people from these different cultures are employed together (Harvey, 2012).

There are likely to be conflicts in task, process and relationship. Differences in views and opinions concerning group tasks will lead to conflicts among the group members (Buttner et al, 2012). Controversies on how tasks should be done and the interpersonal incompatibilities will cause tension in multicultural teams. Working on complex tasks for longer time may lead difficult issues in which task conflicts and ineffective communication may arise. The conflicts are higher when the tasks are complex and the teams are co-located in the same place. Reduced face-to-face contact reduces the conflicts between the team members. This however will reduce sharing of conflicting ideas and team members will not be able to understand one another. Conflicts will therefore remain unresolved due to dispersion.

Increased team size leads to reduced performance of the group. The quality and quantity of the overall out put is likely to reduce in large culturally diverse groups (Harvey, 2012). An increase in the size of the team leads to increased variables to be managed thus less productivity. Teams from different countries are likely to have more conflicts than those from one country. This is because people from different countries hold different values, norms as well as communication styles. Misunderstandings are higher in cross-national diversity and the gender issues are likely to arise. There is conflict in expression of opinions and priorities due to opposing needs among the group members (Walck, 1995). Personal conflict will in the long run reduce the overall performance of the team. People from different backgrounds hold different beliefs and values that affect their interpretation, prioritization and how they respond to stimuli. The cultural differences have deep effects as the members hold them subconsciously making it difficult to resolve.

Cultural diversity in teams reduces convergence and increases divergence. This leads to increased conflicts among the team members due to differences in opinion (Andrew, 2011). The social integration of the team will be very low especially when they are working from the same station. Cultural diversity leads to reduced effectiveness in communication especially when they are larger in size and they work together for a long. Satisfaction is lower in larger culturally diverse teams. Cultural diversity has both the positive and negative impacts on the team. The human resource manager should integrate the team with an aim of minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing on the gains to enhance productivity. Multicultural teams have some advantages to the company.

These include; increased innovations from team members, improved quality of management, gaining of diverse views, leadership styles and decision making (Cockburn, 1989). These teams combine multicultural competences in dealing with problems that arise in the course of work. Human resource managers leading multicultural teams need to capitalize on a wide range of creativity and promote convergence of teams to increase productivity.

The ratio of men to women in NAB is still unbalanced despite the initiatives implemented. The bank`s workforce consists of 85% men and only 15% women (Lekakis, 2008). This is a very wide gap that shows inequality among the employees. The gender difference does not reflect women potential and more efforts should be applied by the bank to ensure that more women are joining the organization. An affirmative action should be taken to increase the number of women in the company. There should be special treatment that favors women in order to motivate more women into the banking industry.


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