Influence of Culture on Strategic Human Resource
Management (SHRM) Practices in Multinational Companies
(MNC) in Kenya: A Critical Literature Review
PROFESSOR PETER K’OBONYO
(PhD Candidate: Strathmore University, Kenya)
Professor Peter K’Obonyo
University of Nairobi, Kenya
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
P O Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya
Ole Sangale Road,
P O Box 59857 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-020) 606155
Fax: (254-020 607498
Abstract: Extant theories of strategic human resource management (SHRM) practices and cultures have generally adopted on the one hand the assumption that organizations develop a culture of their own that is distinct from the national and industry contexts in which the organization is embedded, thus ignoring the potential impact of external environmental factors on organizational culture. On the other hand, some researchers and scholars have questioned the validity and reliability of national culture-SHRM practices research.
The current paper explores the employee cultural values in the Kenyan multinational companies (MNCs) and the influence of culture on SHRM practices. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions of collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and femininity are applied. These value dimensions reflect human thinking, and feelings of people, which pose basic problems that any society has to cope with but for which solutions differ.
Definition of Terms
Strategic human resource management (SHRM)
Strategic human resource management involves the development of a consistent, aligned collection of practices, programs (strategies), and policies to facilitate the achievement of the organization’s strategic objectives (Mello, 2002).
Strategic human resource management practices
SHRM practices are those decisions and actions which concern the management of employees at all levels in the business, and which are related to the implementation of strategies directed towards sustaining competitive advantage (Miller 1987). Therefore organizations develop a culture of work practices. Examples of SHRM practices are recruitment practices, staff appraisal systems, remuneration systems, and work flexibility arrangements. National Culture
These are values, beliefs, and assumptions learned in early childhood that distinguishes people in one society from those in another (Beck and Moore, 1995; Hofstede, 1991). Cultural Value Dimensions
Empirically determined main criteria by which the national cultures differ. There are four such criteria, which are labeled by Hofstede (1980) as dimensions; these are Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism-Collectivism, and Masculinity-Femininity.
Of all the factors affecting strategic human resource management (SHRM) perhaps none is more potent than the national culture. This is because the values underlying human resource management (HRM) are not based on individual country’s values. As Kanungo (1995, p. 11) pointed out:
“…because many of our human resource management tools have been developed primarily within a context of economically developed nations, most have never been appropriate for use in developing countries. Traditional US-based HRM theories, in particular,with their lack of contextual embeddedness, their strong individualistic orientation, and their emphasis on freewill… mismatch what is most salient about the nature of work and human systems in developing countries”.
Aycan et al (2000) contend that because of the increasing demands of the globalized and liberalized business environment, both researchers and practitioners have started paying more attention to the study of culture as an explanatory variable. The researchers have also come to realize that the uncritical adaptation of SHRM practices and techniques evolved in the context of Western cultural values...