Thursday, October 31, 2013

Managing in Multi-national companies

Introduction
In the past couple of years, the firms that operate in the different industries have been involved in the global operations. The firms have sought to be able to capture new market share as well as be able to improve their economies of scale in the markets where their operations are being undertaken. The liberalization of the diverse industries in the world for instance Airline industry coupled with the improvements in the transportation infrastructure and the growth in the use of the information technology has played an important role in the internationalization of the operations of the different firms.

The internationalization of the operations has led to the increased focus on the need to be able to understand the diverse cultures that are found in the different countries of the world (Armenakis, & Brown, 2011). Geert Hofstede (1991) noted that the different countries of the world have diverse cultures that set them apart from the other national cultures that are found in the different countries. The management of the employees from the diverse culture gives massive challenges to the firms and the managers who have to be faced with the diverse cultures that are found in the market. The paper will consider an international multinational corporation (MNC) that has operations in many countries of the world. The two countries which will be considered are Japan and Germany.

The two countries have different cultures mostly based on their Western and Eastern origins as well as the expectations of the people who are from the two cultures. The paper will offer a critical review of the differences in the attitudes between the German and Japanese employees towards work especially with regards to the overtime. The Germans always expect to be paid for all the overtime work that they may undertake in the organization while the Japanese are always willing to be able to undertake the overtime without any pay. The above differences will be understood based on the consideration of the differences of the national cultures of the two countries. The German culture and the Japanese culture will be considered based on the Geert Hofstede national culture dimensions. Finally, the recommendations as to whether the firm should make use of one overtime policy for both the employees in Germany as well as the employees in Japan or whether such overtime policies should be varied for the German and the Japanese employees.

The paper has an introduction which is followed by the culture background. The culture background will entail the definition of culture and the organizational culture. After the consideration of the above, there will be the consideration of the national cultural dimensions modeled on the dimensions that were developed by Geert Hofstede. Based on the differences of the cultures of Japan and Germany, the differences in the attitudes between the Japanese and the German employees of the MNC will also be considered. Finally, the recommendations for the overtime policy to be used in the organization will also be considered.

Culture background

There are a number of the definitions of culture that have been developed by scholars. Some scholars see culture as the programming of the mind. The above definition was developed by Geert Hofstede and he attributed such programming to the differences that exist between different groups of people and the similarities that exist between the people who belong to the same group (Hofstede, 1991). Other scholars have also been of the view that culture are the patterns of the behavior that are spread or gained through the use of the symbols that depict the achievements of the given groups of the people.

Just as the culture has been a subject of massive debate between the different groups of the scholars, the definition of the organizational culture has also elicited as much debate. There observable behavior patterns that are found in an organization are what make up the organizational culture for some of the scholars (Deal & Kennedy, 1982). For the others scholars, the organizational culture is a by-product of the compensation that is found in the firm for instance the recognitions that are provided in the firm, the groups of the sanctions that are used, the advancement of the status of the individuals and the reward systems that are used in the given organization (Moore, & Rees, 2008). The first definition that has been explained in the paper seems to stress the importance of the behavior and the repeated actions and habits in the formation of the organizational culture. The feelings of the people who are found in the organization are not considered at all under the definition.

In the face of the plurality of the views with regards to just what makes up the organizational culture, it is important for the paper to be able to adopt a working definition that will underlie the discussions that are being undertaken in the paper. The working definition that is adopted in the paper is a product of the views of many scholars. It will be taken that the organizational culture is the joint description of the given firm or organization from within.

The organizational culture plays an important role in the success of the organizations. The MNC that has the operations in Germany and Japan must be able to understand how the varied culture management can help in the achievement of the organizational objectives. The understanding of the organizational culture will play an important role in the innovation and the enhancement of the creativity in the firm (Adler, & Gundersen, 2007). The organization operates in diverse cultures for instance Germany and Japan thus there is the need to be able to support the workforce to be able to be at the forefront in the development of the products. Low power distance cultures and the cultures that are characterized with low uncertainty avoidance will significantly support the innovation and the creative initiatives by the employees who are found in the firms. The firm needs to be able to recognize the innovative products and be able to encourage the employees to be involved in the innovation that will ensure the improved success of the firm in the present as well as in the future of the operations (Terry, 2007).

The creative ideas of the different people who are found in the firm will be supported by the communication methods as well as the decision making process and procedures that are found in the firm. For the organization to be able to encourage the innovation, it must be focused on the risk taking, allowing the employees to be able to take the challenges as well as the acceptance of the debates that may challenge the conventional ways through which work is undertaken in the organization (Sriussadaporn, 2006). The use of the reward systems as the case of the overtime payment which is the matter of the consideration in the paper also play an important role in the innovation and the development of the creative ideas amongst the employees who are found in the firm.

The innovation and the creative idea development play an important role in the reduction of the costs as well as the increasing of the efficiency of the operations that are being undertaken in the firm so that the success of the firm can be assured. The organizational culture also plays an important role in the strategy execution. The rules, regulations and the values that are found in the organizational culture shape the behavior of the employees in the firm thus they will always work towards the achievement or the realization of the goals and objectives that are contained in the strategies (Linstead & Grafton-Small, 1992).



The adoptions of the values that are found in the organization play a role in the enhancement of the levels of the commitment of the different employees who are found in the market. Apart from the enhancement of the levels of the commitment of the different employees who are found in the organization, the communication that is a product of the culture will also enhance the understanding of the goals thus the employees will work towards the achievement of such goals that are found in the market. Moreover, the organizational culture also plays a role in the success of the organization through the enhancement of the organizational learning (Ramachandran, Chong and Ismail, 2011). The culture in the organization may support the sharing as well as teamwork thus leading to the sharing of the knowledge that may be held by any one employee of the organization with the group of the other employees of the firm.

Finally, the reward systems that are used in the organization also play a role enhancement of the success (Schein, 1990). The punishments and the rewards (as forms of the reinforcement that are found in the organization) that are meted out in the organization are important for the success of the firm as the employees will always work hard to receive the rewards and avoid any forms of punishments. The organizational culture ensures that the employees are well informed of the impacts of all the actions that may be undertaken in the firm thus they will always seek to maximize the benefits that they will receive while the punishment are minimized to bare minimum or no punishments at all.

Differences in culture: Japan and Germany

The differences in culture between Germany and Japan will be explored based on the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. There are five cultural dimensions that were developed by Geert Hofstede to be used in the study of the cultural differences between countries. First, power distance refers to the nature of the acceptance of the inequalities (power) that may exist in a society. Secondly, there is the individualism which refers to the level of the interdependence that exist between the people who are found in the given culture thus there are the independent cultures (individualist) and the dependent cultures (collectivist). In the latter, the focus is on the whole society or the groups of the people while in the former the focus is on the given individual and his or her close family members. There is also the element of the masculinity for instance the masculine societies are those societies that are characterized with focus on success, achievement and the competition between the different people who are found in the society. In such a society, the people are socialized to be able to compete and thus start from the primary or elementary levels right up to the workplace.

The feminine societies on the other hand are characterized with focus on the enhancement of the quality of the lives of the people who are found in the society. The other dimension that is considered is the uncertainty avoidance that is related to the issues such as the way in which the society deals with the situations that are not known especially the future. Finally, there is the element of the long term orientation which mostly related to the Confucian virtue ethics (Hofstede, 2013a).

There are a number of differences that exist between Germany and Japan. First, there is the difference in terms of the power distance. Germany is highly decentralized and the employees of the organizations are involved in the making of the decisions that affect the work. The management of the organizations in Germany is always challenged to be able to show the expertise rather than just draw the authority from the positions that they hold in the firm. Japan on the other hand is characterized with high centralization in the decision making and the hierarchies that are found in the firm. In Japan, all the decisions that are made have to be ratified by the top management of the organization. The above is unlike Germany where the decisions can be made by the employees of the firm.

The second difference that exists between Germany and Japan is found in terms of the individualism versus collectivism. Japanese employees focus on the group cohesion and group loyalty thus the individual opinions are shelved to be able to adopt the position by the group. The focus is on the need to be able to reduce the disharmony in the firm. The Germans on the other hand are individualistic thus they believe in the self-actualization (Hofstede, 2013a; Hofstede, 2013b). The loyalty in Germany is a product of the duty, preference and responsibility that is a result of the contract between the employer and the employees who are found in the organization.

The other differences that exist between Germany and Japan are found in terms of the masculinity. Germany is a masculine society thus there is the focus on competition, achievement and the self-esteem of the different people. The managers are thus required to be decisive to be able to command the respect of the employees (Hofstede, 2013a; Hofstede, 2013b). Even though Japan is also very masculine, the collectivist culture reduces the competition and the search for the achievement from the individual level to the level where the competition is between groups and not the individuals who are found in the firm. The Japanese culture is characterized with long work time and hard work amongst the employees.

The other difference that exists between Germany and Japan is with regards to how the countries deal with uncertainty. Germany focuses on the need for detail so that the uncertainty can be reduced while Japan focuses on the need for the maintenance of the status quo. The high uncertainty avoidance in Japan make the changes from the current reward systems to the one where overtime is paid due to the massive amount of time that will be taken to make decisions especially based on the need to consider all the factors and the risks. Germany also focuses on the need for the detail (Hofstede, 2013a; Hofstede, 2013b). Finally, Japan has a long term orientation thus the culture supports savings and the need for the long term stakeholder benefits. Germany on the other hand focuses on the short term orientation thus the low savings rates.

Attitudes towards work

There are a number of differences that exist between the Japanese and the Germans with regards to their attitudes towards work. The main focus will be on the view of the overtime payment in the two cultures. The Japanese have a long term orientation thus the need to be able to serve the long term goals of the stakeholders thus the ability to work the overtime without pay. The short term orientation in Germany pushes them to seek to acquire all the financial rewards that they can as they are focused on the present situation and not the future success of the venture. Also, the masculinity in Japan makes them focus on the punching in of long work hours as compared to the Germans who are focused on ensuring that they accomplish the requirements that are found in their employment contracts (Hofstede, 2013a; Hofstede, 2013b). The focus of the Germans is on the self-actualization and the performance thus they always want to be paid all that is due to their performance of the duties.

This leads to the situations where the Germans require the overtime payment for all the work that is undertaken. The final difference that can also be considered is related to the power distance where the Germans will significantly question the decisions that are made by the top management and will always require them to be able to show significant capabilities. In Japan on the other hand, the employees readily accept the decisions that are mad by the top management of the firm.

Recommended overtime policy

The recommended overtime policy to be used in the firm

is related to the differences that exist between the Germans and the Japanese. It is recommended that one overtime policy should be used in the whole of the organization. Since the Germans are already being paid for all the overtime work that they do, the Japanese should also be paid for the overtime. The above change in the Japanese operations will be spearheaded by the top management of the firm. T/he power distance and the hierarchies that exist in the society will be used to implement the change. The change will be spearheaded by the top management and thus would be accepted easily by the employees of the firm who are found in Japan (Hofstede, 2013b). The above will lead to the similarity of the operations and also allow for cross-posting of the employees from Japan to Germany and vice versa.

Conclusion

Germany and Japan have differences that would warrant different management and human resource management methods and strategies. However, with regards to the overtime policy that is to be used in the firm, the use of a single policy modeled around the Germany’s operations policy will suffice especially if it can have the blessings of the top management of the firm.