Cross-Cultural Issues in Human Resource Management
– a Comparison between Japan and
International Tourism Management
People are an organization’s most important resource and asset. Good management of individuals and the workforce is therefore crucial to attain the organizational goals and objectives (Foot and Hook, 2008). However, these characteristics are not static but constantly changing, including shifts to values and lifestyles, families, education and health. What at one time might have seemed remote from HRM is now a central aspect because global, social and political changes affect all economic activities through marketing opportunities and threats, affecting employment, costs, productivity and the social climate of relationship (Tyson, 2006). To be successful in HRM, it is important to understand the significant differences of the individuals and to cope with the constant changes to help organizations to adjust to the massive social, economic political and technological changes that influence people and consequently the way people have to be managed (Tyson, 2006). Other then often assumed, individual cultural background is not inherited but “man-made, confirmed by others, conventionalized, and passed on for younger people or newcomers to learn. It provides people with a meaningful context in which to meet, to think about themselves and to face the outer world" (Trompenaars, 1993: 24). Successful international operating businesses necessarily have to take into consideration all possible consequences of cultural differences on the management, the individual work attitude, the communication and negotiations (Rothlauf, 2006). It is therefore not surprisingly that especially human resource managers of international operating companies require a profound knowledge of people’s individual behaviour depending on their cultural background. Good HRM is especially important in the service industry, where the first interaction of the service personnel with the customer often decides about a positive or negative perceived image of the company (Boella 2000). Following up the group assignment, this paper analyses the cultural differences managers have to consider when dealing with employees and customers of Japan and Sweden. When studying cross-cultural issues for international management relations, Geert Hofstede's theory of five cultural dimensions is probably the most important and best-known model. Hofstede analyzed data of 116.000 IBM employees in over 60 countries worldwide to find out about the differences between cultures and about how these influence values in organizations (Hofstede, 2003).His results have been independently verified by numerous experts and show the influence of national and regional cultural on the behavior of organizations. Figure 1: Hofstede’s five dimensions for Sweden. Figure 2: Hofstede’s five dimensions for Japan.
The first dimension of Hofstede is the so called power distance index which he defines as “the extend to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations accept that power is distributed unequally” (Hofstede 1983: 419). As it can be seen in figure 1, The PDI of Sweden is relatively low. This means that Sweden is a country where individuality and equality of rights has a high standard. Swedish employees are likely to personally defend their position within the company and stand in for their individual rights. Superiors might consult employees that are lower in hierarchy without the fear of loosing respect. The need for supervisors is lower and employees are often involved in decision processes. Decentralized organizations are preferred over centralized organization structures. In contrast to this, Japan has a high PDI wherefore employees are more likely to expect inequalities in power and on a personal level as a basis of society. Managers are expected to be autocratic because interactions and trustfulness between...
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