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Motivating the Global Workforce

By eclipse Jan 13, 2008 3999 Words

The focal point of this research is motivation of the global workforce. The research will focus on cultural differences that influence the motivation across the global workforce. The study will be based on the Hofstede Cultural Dimension Theory. The Study examines six countries that represent different cultural values: India, Australia, China, United States, Japan, and Mexico. It also analyses practices of motivation and the problem of bridging cultures in a global workplace. The reason for this study is to review available data that could be used by managers working with a diverse workforce and for the further studies of motivation of the global workforce.


Motivation of Cross-cultural Workforce – What – Why – How II.The Hofstede Cultural Dimension Theory
III.Motivation of Workforce in:

Motivation in a workplace plays a significant role across the cultures. Looking into different cultures, one may say that one culture works harder than the other. Because productivity can not be measured only by individual abilities to perform the task, but also will to act, motivation has been in the center of the discussion for promoting the effectiveness of an organization. In a cross-cultural perspective, motivation is defined under a set of vectors that sums up a behavior. These vectors are initiation, direction, persistence, intensity, or termination of a particular action This definition shows us a multi-dimensional part of cross-cultural motivation. This is also a prove that cross-cultural motivation can not be assessed based on a singular perspective. Variables that form multi-dimension meaning depend on environment, political system, social pattern, culture, and approach towards work (Cross-cultural Management Network, 2006). From the organization's standpoint, work motivation is defined as the result of interaction between individual traits and organizational characteristics. This definition teaches us that motivation is addressed as the will to act and produce results despite the different processes that influence action. In this definition, a person's individuality and the organizational environment play a great role in defining motivation (Cross-cultural Management Network, 2006). The Hofstede Cultural Dimensional Theory

This study will focus on the Hofstede Cultural Dimensional Theory to answer the question; what motivates employees of a global workforce? The framework that Hofstede proposed consists of five factors that show the difference across cultures. The factors that drive motivation are based on the values accepted by a specific culture. Values, though, express motivational goals. First factor is: power distance, which is the degree of inequality between people, hierarchy or a source of power within organization. Second factor compares individualism, where human being think and judge independently versus collectivism in which fundamental unit of an entire system is group. Third factor compares masculinity versus femininity. It signifies the behavior according to gender. Uncertainty avoidance factor indicates what level of structure people expect in each country. The fifth factor is long term versus short term orientation, which determines how one looks at the future, how much value does one give to quick and risky action or long but predicted action. India

In the last decade, India is one of the leaders of the flat-earth, a term from Friedman's book the The World is Flat (Friedman, 2005). India is the leading outsourced service provider, especially in the software industry and business process outsourcing with one million jobs expected to move to the Indian rim (Moskalyuk, 2005). Cross-cultural communication between the Indian workforce and American managers is a prime example of cross-cultural motivation and leadership. Karina Schomer (2001) stated that the difference in motivational "wiring" between Indians and Americans can either be successful or risky, depending on the level of adaptation between managers and employees.

The Hofstede analysis in Indian culture shows a high power distance, which points to a high acceptance of inequality of power and wealth distribution. This condition is not necessarily imposed but rather accepted as a cultural and religious norm as expressed by the Hindu caste system. Indian time perspective shows that they value long-term security over short-term gains. This is reflected in their need for job security over high monetary compensation. However, the same Hofstede scale suggests that Indians are in the middle of the individualistic-collectivistic scale. This separates them from a highly collectivistic East Asian culture, which suggests distinct differences in the motivation of individuals across Asia. India is known as an Asian outlier in the whole individualistic-collectivistic construct. (Gupta-Biener, 2007).

The cultural distinction of the Indian workforce is also guided by its demographic variation. The bulk of Indian employees in entry positions are younger compared to their Western counterparts. At the same time, the highly hierarchical structure of the Indian population lies in elite networking rather than equal opportunity. Job security is not only a cultural leaning but also an economic need in India. The division of the Indian workforce and diversity lies along religious lines, gender, and the caste system (Schomer, 2007).

Motivation and leadership in India, as compared to individualistic America, creates a big divide rooted in highly variable cultural beliefs. Indian and Hindu philosophy centers on the dharma, which promotes order in life and nature. Indians regard the accomplishment of one's duty as a spiritual act. Indians find intrinsic benefits in work motivation. Therefore, the emphasis on intrinsic rewards to continually motivate employees is essential in Indian culture. In striving for a positive working relationship and work environment, communicating to Indian employees should be done politely and should not be done in a frank fashion. Indians regard the word "no" as a direct and harsh refusal to a proposition. Therefore, evasive communication practices when it comes to disagreement are more common in the Indian workplace (Butler, 2006).

For Indians, the beauty of carrying out tasks is not hinged on the consequences or rewards following its completion. Instead, they find motivation in the process of the action. Indians value the process theories of work motivation as the dominant factors in keeping things moving. In contrast to Western values that value result or the capability to determine the output, Indians do not place too much value on the result of their actions. The Indian assumption maintains that a result always happens after every action. However, it is not in the worker's power to dictate the output. This passive belief allows Indians to concentrate more on the work process rather than the anxiety of not meeting work expectation. This correctly relates the Hofstede view, which places India with low uncertainty avoidance. Therefore, they are likely to accept uncertain conditions or, in this case, uncertainty in results. (Butler, 2006).

In the same thought, compensating an Indian employee should be based more on the security of their jobs rather than the promise of higher monetary compensation. American managers find that Indians are not comfortable with volatile career shifts with a promise of short-term but profitable earnings (Schomer, 2007).

Indian religion and culture does not place much value on the weight of particular tasks. For Indians, every work is equally sacred and important. Thus, the importance of organizational roles in Indian culture is not as emphasized compared to Western cultural structure. As long as the dignity of their labor is expressed, then the Indian employees will continue to bring their best work (Schomer, 2001).

On the culture of leadership, the emphasis of the oneness of existence is evident for Indians. This follows a deeply religious belief of the universality of the souls or the union of humanity. In leading Indian employees, it is important to show an effort to develop a singular identity from every rank. Indians therefore look for support, friendship, bonding, and something that they can identify with in their leaders. Leaders should not be seen as someone who has the orientation to place rank ahead of understanding and patience. Despite the gap in power, Indian employees are motivated more if they feel that there is a sense of equality among the workforce. However, the definition of equality here is intrinsic since Indians are more susceptible to acceptance of authority or a hierarchical structure as expressed by a deeply rooted caste system (Schomer, 2001).

The acceptance of authority drives Indian motivation in individual's career promotion in the short term and the long term. For Indians, career promotion is determined by the boss. Indian employees place responsibility on their leaders to decide and secure a future for them within the organization. They expect their leaders to look out for them. This is different from the Western perspective where they usually have a clearly defined career path that does not follow any loyalties (Schomer, 2001). Leadership in India, in terms of evaluating their employees, is not as formal as Western practices. In India, evaluation should be done by mentoring and qualitative posturing. These evaluation procedures are less clear than the legalistic, more formal, and item-based evaluation procedures of the West (Schomer, 2001).

Australian culture holds a paradox from the Western cultural structure and its geography from Asian countries as compared to proximate European cultures. Australia's cultural identity is governed by the heavy mass of its population in coastal urban centers, and its European heritage is highly homogenous despite an originally indigenous population (Hunt 2006). The Hofstede analysis shows high individualistic tendencies among Australians. Australians also have lower uncertainty avoidance. Power distance is relatively high, which is manifested across different aspects of Australian society, including government, business, and family relations. Australian work culture is a cooperative work culture (Hunt, 2006). Australia's high power distance and individualistic tendencies means that they have clearly defined roles in the workplace. Australian employees can get more work done when they know what they are accountable for and what they are not accountable for. It is important for leaders to define the functions of their subordinates. Australian employees also assess the effectiveness of the leaders in their ability to motivate others and the ability to negotiate effectively. This characteristic is more similar to The United States than to European countries like Germany and France. Australian employees also seek competent leaders with high achievement-orientation and self-development initiative. As employees, Australians have the capability of self-motivation in the structure of defined roles (Hunt, 2006). In Hunt's (2006) study of different traits that are most important to Australian employees to measure management competency, personal integrity ranked first, followed by the ability to learn from past failures and verbal communication. Australians also value managerial skills and team building over technical know-how. Australian employees admire leaders with traits who can build cooperation between individual members. These traits can be described as building team morale, building teams, providing individual consideration to subordinates, motivating others, encouraging participation and facilitating group interaction. In many ways, Australians have the same ideas as Americans when it comes to defining competent leaders and managers (Hunt 2006).

Communicating with Australian employees involves different norms. Eye contact is important during meetings and conversations, and shaking hands before and after a meeting is essential. Australians have an open and friendly cultural disposition, but they do not appreciate rambling conversations; instead they seek directness and brevity. Most importantly, Australians do not dwell on status or past achievement but rather on the quality of work (Hunt, 2006). In motivating Australian employees, credit and compliments are valued. However, superiors should not play the superiority card. Australian employees value equality in opportunity. Australians are sensitive to organizational justice and the belief of equitable return for their efforts. Australians are also similar to the United States in the aspect of risk taking and venturing. Entrepreneurial ability and short-term planning are valuable among Australians (Williams, 2006). China

Since China is regarded as the oldest continuous civilization, much of their work and organizational practices follow deep traditions in the Confucian mold.
The Hofstede analysis for China shows the collectivistic nature of the Chinese created by communist and traditional philosophies. Chinese value long-term rewards over short-term gains. The Chinese are known for their perseverance, thrifty approach to consumption, and overcoming obstacles with time (Williams, 2006). Chinese employees regard loyalty and security, which are collectivist manifestations, as prime motivational factors. Wage rewards and practice with respect to performance is not very clear. Chinese employees accept the fact that to work less is to earn less, but to work more does not mean they gain more. Monetary benefits, therefore, do not play a significant role in work motivation. There is a sense of complete submission to the authority by Chinese employees. In the same sense, acquisition of merit is not as clear as the United States and Australia. Therefore, the perception of one's merits is decided by authorities and is not under the control of the employee. This is a manifestation of the high power distance in Chinese society (Fang, 2004). Chinese management practices are more rule-oriented and procedure-intensive. In terms of work commitment, Chinese employees perform tasks based on the structure or procedure set by the leader. Collectivism also suggests that Chinese employees seek the leader's trust as a motivating factor (Fang, 2004). The Chinese work motivation and the Chinese work ethic are central to three stages, namely the Confucian work ethic, communist ideology, and western management practices (Williams, 2006). The Confucian ideology can be broken down into three categories, which are harmony, hierarchy, and humanness. Harmony seeks to preserve the relationship of one human to another and to nature, while hierarchy acknowledges the structure of relationships within the group. Humanness is the approach of an individual to achieve harmony and hierarchy. Therefore, Chinese culture focuses on the achievement of collectivist goals more than the goals of the individual. The ability to maintain harmony is a virtue. That is why Chinese employees seek a better work environment and better working relationship with superiors rather than individual gains. Chinese employees are more likely to conform to collective goals than to place him above the group (Williams, 2006). United States

The U.S. culture consists of a cultural melting pot from different races and heritage. As a country that welcomes immigrants, the diversity of the U.S. workforce hinges on cultural differences. That is why today, the study of motivation in leadership in cross cultures is immediately applicable to the local U.S. setting. Americans are very litigious and law abiding. For them, there is comfort in a strong democratic structure that allows them to take risks and express their creativity. The US east coast is more formal in dress and manners as compared to the looser and more informal nature of the U.S. West Coast (Roberts &Taylor, 2006) In the U.S. majority of workforce believes on rewarding hard work handsomely. Individualism is the highest factor in the U.S., and they err more on getting short-term profits than long-term security. While the traditional American system is structured, Americans do not want to find themselves tied in long-term commitments making them more flexible in acting on fresh opportunities. This result-oriented, short-term approach shapes the way they view compensation, employment mobility and dealing with opportunities (Schomer, 2001). American employees value employment mobility, which gives them autonomy and flexibility to choose and evaluate available opportunities. The individualistic nature of American employees make loyal to their companies as long as they advance their earnings and their careers. They do not depend on their leaders to decide on their career development. Americans seek every opportunity for promotion (Schomer, 2001). In motivating American workers, leaders should focus on a short term positive and high yielding compensation. Giving them the freedom to their chosen methods to finish a task will give them more flexibility to find work motivation. At the same time, organizational commitment is stressed when leaders place a contingent rewards on employees. Americans find motivation in rewards. They do not take criticism lightly. They find ways to correct their mistakes while continuing to be an autonomous unit in a cooperative team. Like other western cultures, Americans tend to be more responsive in quantitative and formal training and evaluation process. A black-and-white list of their performance components allows them to pinpoint their weaknesses. A good leader clearly communicates feedback on their performance while giving them quantitative evaluations (Schomer, 2001). The Japan

Japanese organizational attitudes seem to be contrasting. While there is a strong traditional leaning that diferentiates them from other East Asian national cultures, Japanese employees follow some Western-based cultural values (Williams, 2006). The Japanese have a high masculinity rating, which reflects a competitive and assertive workforce. The motives of this behavior are not individualistic, as Japan is a very collectivist society. Their aggressiveness and competitiveness does not translate to taking risks or being unique. Japan has a moderate power distance and rank high in a long-term orientation (Williams, 2006). Workers are expected to be submissive and duly obey their leaders. In return, leaders are highly paternalistic, which leads to a hierarchical and rigid organizational structure. While Japanese culture calls for aggressive and competitive behavior, they follow implicit consensus and work for collective goals. Leaders in this regard form a personal and collective bond with their subordinates and place emphasis on group harmony and positive work environment (Dunfee and Yukimasa Nagayasu, Kulwer, 1993). A survey developed by Nomura Research Institute (2005) points to decreasing work motivation in the Japanese work force. The apathetic attitude about their jobs is a result of not finding a sense of personal growth. It is interesting to note that personal growth here is closely related to satisfying intrinsic needs. Of the 75% who felt apathy in their jobs, 31.7% said that they lack a sense of social mission. Japanese leaders tend to be blunt and straightforward in giving criticism. Effective leaders always establish a sense of cohesion and team building within the Japanese workforce. To fulfill to their sense of social missions, employees should be able to personally communicate the company's vision and mission. Presenting concrete challenges and opportunities for employees allows for a short term satisfaction that can translate to a healthy and competitive work environment. Supportive leadership increases a job satisfaction and work motivation. Contingent punishments result in a negative impact to job satisfaction (Williams, 2006).

The Mexico
Latin American or Hispanic culture presents different cultural influences altogether. The value of family and personal relationships spurred from Catholic and indigenous traditions, and they are closely related to the business culture. A sense of collectivism based on family ties is apparent in Latin American culture. The value of time in Latin America follows the mañana habit. It does not readily represent the relation of opportunity, cost of time and money. However, this should not reflect a lesser sense of work ethic but instead a different value of time and money. For Mexicans, personal obligations are more important than business meetings (Nicol & Taylor, 2006). In the Hofstede scale, Mexicans have a low uncertainty avoidance. This is reflected with the variety of social laws and cultural laws aimed to avoid what is uncertain. Motivators and leaders appeal to a Hispanic workforce by ensuring job security in the company. The concept of the family in the Mexican mold follows collectivistic culture; nevertheless Mexico still has a higher individualism than other Latin American countries. The reason for this is its geographical proximity of individualist USA. In the Hofstede scale, Mexico has a high power distance and high masculinity. To complete the picture, Mexico has a very structured male dominated and highly collectivistic society (Nicol & Taylor, 2006). Leading a highly Hispanic workforce should start with personal bonding. Mexicans are keener in following if they feel that they have established a rapport with their managers. They expect their bosses to be more understanding in personal matters. Work environment and harmony is closely related to the personal and family bonding. Unlike other cultures, a healthy Mexican workplace includes knowing personal stories. Thus, collective efforts are done based on relationships. If you are proven loyal to them they treat leaders as part of the extended family and are most likely to commit (Nicol & Taylor, 2006).

Hofstede Cultural Dimensional Theory

India Australia USA China Japan Mexico

Power DistanceHighModerateLowHighModerateHigh
MasculinityHighModerate to HighModerateModerateHighHigh Femininity LowLow to ModerateModerateModerateLowLow
Uncertainty AvoidanceLowModerate to LowHighHighHighLow Long Term OrientationHighLowLowHighHighHigh
Short Term OrientationLowHighHighLowLowLow

The differences in values that each culture holds offer an interesting insight in the motivation of employees across the cultures. I find behaviors of different cultural settings very valuable for managers to use in different situations. Figure 1 summarizes my research findings. The motivational approach due to cultural differentiation can be a problematic issue of corporate governance. The result of such differences must be understood and tolerated before being dealt with. The research underlines is that cultural values govern the significance or meaning of an employee to seemingly uniform factors. What is a motivating factor in one culture maybe an insult in a different culture. There are many different methods to appeal to employees to commit to their work. Bridging these gaps in a global workplace is therefore an exercise of tolerance, cultural awareness, and understanding.

Butler, P. (2006). India business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and India Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from Cross-cultural Management Network. (2006). Motivation. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from

Dunfee W. T. & Nagayasu Y. (1993) Business Ethics: Japan and the global economy, Kulwer Academic Publishers.
Fang, Y. (2004). Chinese managers and motivation for change: The challenges and a framework. Proceedings of the 15th annual conference of the association for Chinese economics studies Australia. Friedman, T (2005). The world is flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Gelfand, M., Erez M., Zeynep, A. (2007). Cross-cultural organizational behavior. Annual review of psychology. 58 (3), 479-514.

Gupta-Biener, N. (2007). Is there a unique Indian leadership style? Retrieved October 5, 2007, from
f Hunt, J. (2006). A Comparative analysis of the management and leadership competency profiles reported by German, U.S., and Australian Managers. International journal of organization behavior. 5 (9), 263-281.

Ming-Yi, W. (2006). Compare participative leadership theories in three cultures. China Media Research.
Moskalyuk, A. (2005). Indian outsourcing brought in $12 bln in 2004. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from
Nicol, J.,Taylor, S. (2006). Mexico business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and United States Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from Nomura Research Institute Ltd. (2005). The key to management strategy in 2010 Is. Retrieved October 7, 2007, from Roberts, K., Taylor, S. (2006). Unites States business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and United States Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from Schomer, K. (2001). How culture affects motivation. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from Schomer, K. (2007). Workforce diversity in India and in the US. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from Williams, D. (2006). Australia business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and Australia Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from Williams D. (2006). China business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and China Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from

Williams, D. (2006). Japan business etiquette, manners, cross cultural communication, and United States Geert Hofstede analysis. Retrieved October

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