Managing Cultural Diversity
Culture refers to beliefs, values, expectations, attitudes, norms, behaviours and ideas that are shared by members of a group (De Bono, Van Der Heijden & Jones, 2008). The group may come from the same region such as village, town or country. They may also be from the same work unit such as a department or organization. Some aspects of culture through which these distinct characteristics can be identified include ceremonies, language, norms, rituals and relationships. The challenge that faces most organizations today is not whether they will have to deal with a diverse culture, but whether members are able to understand what diversity is and take advantage by turning it into an asset (De Anca & Vega, 2007).
Reasons for increased interest in cultural diversity within the hospitality industry
There has been increasing interest in multiculturalism with the hospitality industry. Some of the reasons for this trend are as follows. First, is the multicultural workforce, whereby the tourism and hospitality industry is increasingly becoming global. Organizations are diversifying and expanding their operation overseas to enlarge their market potential. This led to a workforce of different cultures, which has increased the need to have knowledge of different cultures. Secondly, there is growing international ownership through out the world. Due to lack of the required management expertise in the foreign countries, the parent company has been forced to send their managers to work in those countries. In addition, some companies have been forced to send their employees to developed countries with different cultures to gain experience (Reisinger, 2009).
Thirdly, there is increasing migration, whereby most people from developing countries have migrated to other countries in search for better living conditions. Apparently, these migrants have readily accepted low wages compared to inhabitants and hence, most managers have recruited them in the industry. Changes in demographics, the population of developed countries is growing slowly, becoming older and comprising mainly of women and the minorities. Therefore, a large part of the workforce comprises of women, minorities and immigrants. Lastly, there have been increasing awareness campaigns for respect of employees’ rights. These include respect for the diverse beliefs values, norms of people (Reisinger, 2009).
Managing Cultural diversity in the hospitality industry
Hospitality industry is a service centred and labour intensive industry. Therefore, the power and potential of employees within the organization can be used to the extent, which the multicultural human resources are effectively managed. Diversity is about empowering people to understand value and use differences in each person in the hospitality organization. Therefore, the hospitality manager needs to know how cultural diversity affects human behaviour in the work place. This includes work habits, incentives, job performance, expectations, motivation and satisfaction. Unless the manager is able to understand the values, beliefs customs behaviours and traditions of his or her culturally diverse employees and be able to use them to the benefit of his or her management style, he or she will be unable to provide leadership that will lead the organization to success.
The influence of cultural diversity within a hospitality organization
Culture is a very complex phenomenon, which manifests itself in many ways some of which are very explicit while others are subtle. Some of these manifestations can occur in the workplace, especially in the hospitality industry. Some of the situations where culture can influence behaviour within an organization include the following. First, there is recruitment and selection, whereby the organization must communicate effectively the requirements of the job. Different cultures differ in the expectations they have of a job. Individualistic cultures would expect most benefits to be focused on the employee, while communal cultures expect the benefits provided by the organization t flow to the family. Therefore, to attract the right the right person the management must identify the expectations of the potential employees and provide them to attract them (Tanke, 2000).
Secondly, the management must carefully design their rules and procedures to cover the diverse within the organization. This includes disciplinary actions, rules of conduct, service procedures, dress codes and perceptions of time. To some cultures, doing some things is not considered a mistake. Therefore, the management should clear outline the rules and procedures and explain why some accepted and some are not. I designing rules and procedures, the management should consider, the employees attitude towards loyalty, challenge, technology and teamwork. This should also address attitude towards failure as well as work and leisure ethics. Thirdly, there is motivation and remuneration. This includes developing compensation schemes that meet the needs of members of the different cultures (Tanke, 2000).
Lastly, there are roles, whereby the management should assign roles within the cultural norms. This includes respecting the role of women in the society. It also includes the dressing codes, whereby the members are not asked to put on attires tat go against their beliefs and values. For instance, in the hotel industry, the waiters are sometimes required to be in attractive clothes. This might lead to lack of motivation on an employee who feels disrespected. Others might resort to legal action against the organization (Mor Barak, 2010).
Cultural Diversity in customers
Organizations in the hospitality industry, deal with both domestic and international customers, who are not a homogeneous group. They are distinctively fro diverse in cultural, religious, political and ethic backgrounds. This multicultural diversity presents numerous challenges to hospitality industry. For instance, hospitality industries that provide food, entertainment and lodging to its clients will have to pursue practices and philosophies that meet the needs of these complex market segments. Therefore, the management needs to train its employees on the various aspects about their customers, which include their language, gender roles, clothing, lifestyles and preferred art forms. On food habits, the employees should know the how they are selected, prepared, preserved and consumed (Cummings, Kwansa, & Sussman, 1998).
The use of different languages often presents a barrier to effective communication as one or both sides may not be as articulate as they are in their native languages. Therefore, miscommunication may occur because the original intent of the person speaking is different from the meaning received by the other person. For instance, it is completely acceptable and courteous for a French businessman to compliment a female colleague in a business setting. However, an American businesswoman may view the exact same behaviour as inappropriate and my even take it sexual harassment. This shows the significance of culture in verbal communication and the challenge that faces managers who lead people that do not share a common language. In addition, the language barrier may not only be with people from different countries but also from the same country. Therefore, the management must seek to know the meaning of the words they intend to use before they actually communicate to their target audience (Kirton & Greene, 2004).
This refers to the use of symbols such as tone of voice, gestures, body language, postures and use of objects to convey meaning. It also includes personal adornment and physical setting. In most cases trust and respect is conveyed through non-verbal communication rather than through verbal communication. For instance, in the western societies women are regarded as equal to men. Therefore, a woman can equally perform any ask that is done by a man. As a result, leaving women out of projects just because of their gender amounts to gender discrimination and is an offence. On the other hand, the Arabic world has a place reserved for women, which they cannot surpass. For instance, when one goes with a woman to a business meeting, the woman cannot be allowed to shake hands with men. In case that happens, the men will perceive it as disrespectful. Therefore, the leaders managing people with different cultural backgrounds should identify and appreciate the different meanings each culture attaches to the various symbols (Kirton & Greene, 2004).
Managing cultural diversity within international strategy
Cultural diversity is increasingly becoming inevitable with regionalization and globalization of trade. Multinational corporations are mostly faced with the task of achieving integration between different multinational divisions as well as getting internal multinational teams to work together effectively. How successful the management will be depends on its ability to achieve a cultural fit. Fit refers to a relationship whereby different cultures are able to work together without unnecessary misunderstandings between their various divisions. The management can employ various strategy options to achieve cultural fit. However, each of them has advantages and disadvantages (Segal-Horn & Faulkner, 1999).
Each of the strategy options fall in either of the following broad choices. First, is whether to have the culture of the parent company dominate the subsidiaries or to strive for a balance of contributions from various subsidiaries’ culture. The second choice is whether to integrate the parent company and subsidiaries’ cultures’ with the aim of attaining synergy or to keep apart the various subsidiary cultures. This second one aims at avoiding conflict as well as reducing the effort committed towards management of culture (Segal-Horn & Faulkner, 1999). The various strategy options are explained as follows:
First, there is ethnocentric strategy whereby all key positions are given to parent company nationals. This policy aims at achieving cultural integration through the dominance of the parent company culture. It is best suited in situations where the MNC has a general superiority in technical expertise. Hence, this can be used to the benefit of the whole company and the subsidiaries. Secondly, there is polycentric strategy whereby host countries have domestic managers and use domestic cultures while the parent company nationals and cultures dominate the headquarters. This strategy aims at attaining a balance between the various subsidiaries or divisions. However, it does not seek the integration between the cultures of various subsidiaries or with the parent company culture. For example, one subsidiary might adopt one style of rewarding its employees while the other might adopt a completely different style (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1998).
Polycentricism may reduce the opportunities for mutual learning between different cultures. This approach may also result in a poorly integrated and inefficient management system of the MNC as a whole. These are caused by limited communication and duplication of effort as well as competition between the various subsidiaries. In addition, a manager sent to work in an overseas subsidiary may face personal problems because he or she will be exposed to a completely new system of operation. The third option is geocentric strategy whereby the best people for the job are posted to either the headquarters or the subsidiary regardless of their nationality. This policy aims at integrating the cultures of both the headquarters and the subsidiaries. It aims at achieving the fullest possible cultural fit and is the most suitable in promoting learning between the different constituent parts of an organization (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1998).
Through synergy, the different elements from each culture are put together to produce an effective management system as well as effective and efficient deployment of resources. This approach is based on the premise that the positive aspects of each culture are preserved, put together and expanded to create a new whole. Cultural differences are not ignored or suppressed in achieving synergy but time and effort is devoted to discuss them openly. There is a fourth possibility, which is characterized by a conflict between the cultures of the parent company and the subsidiary. This happens when the parent company seeks dominance but fails to secure acceptance or integration. When the headquarters fails to secure adequate cooperation and co-ordination, then tensions and conflict are bound to arise. If such a situation is not handled appropriately, then it can lead to breakdown of the whole organization (Holbeche, 2005).
Importance of effective management of cultural diversity
As noted above, cultural diversity presents various challenges to the management. However, if such differences are managed appropriately the organization can realize huge benefits. This therefore shows the importance of effective management of cultural diversity. One of these is the ability to launch operations in different and new market areas. An organization that has employees from different cultures can be able to operate in various regions with little difficulty. Such an organization has in its workforce employees who understand each of the different markets and are able to develop strategies and operations that are suitable to such markets. For instance, an American company will have much difficulty in entering the Chinese market if it has only American managers than when it has Chinese managers as part of its leadership (Nowak, 2010).
Secondly, effective management of different cultures leads to synergy. An organization that manages to achieve a cultural fit will be able to combine the positive aspects of the different cultures to achieve a whole that is greater than that of employees from the same culture. Different cultures are good in one aspect of organizational management. When these aspects are put together and developed, the organization will have a competitive advantage over its rivals that are only embracing one culture. Effective management of cultural diversity is also a means of survival. Population migration has resulted in multiethnic and multicultural populations. Therefore, the organization has to transform its operations and strategies to be able to survive in such an environment. This is only possible through effective management of the different cultures of the employees, customers or other stakeholders (Nowak, 2010).
Cultural diversity increases the chances of mutual misunderstanding as well as personal offence. On the other hand, the business world today brings together people from different cultures who are supposed to establish a working relationship. In addition, organizations seek to serve different markets that have different cultures and needs. One of the main challenges to attaining cultural integration is cross-cultural communication, which is important in interaction between different cultures. Organizations can adopt various strategies to attain a cultural fit, which will enable people from different cultures to work together and serve different markets effectively. Effective management of different cultures will enable an organization to attain synergy from the different positive aspects of those cultures. It will also help the organization to serve different markets that it would otherwise not have served.
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