Globalisation Has Increased Competition Faced By Many Enterprises. There Are Resulting Pressures To Achieve World Class Standards In People Management, Operational Methods And Service Delivery”
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Theodore Levitt, writing in 1983, is often credited with describing economic globalization as it is currently understood today. His original article was subject to a HBS Colloquium in 2003; the area of particular interest being the dissolution of national and regional preference, and the requirement for business enterprises (and those employed within them) to understand the difference between multinational and global corporations and activities; in the former an entity regards each geographic area as distinct and adjusts its prices and products accordingly, while globalization would indicate products, prices and services being targeted and delivered in a more uniform and encompassing manner (Levitt 1983). This approach and definition is still relevant, and the nature of internationally mobile resources and interdependent economies is examined in the preamble to the OECDs globalisation handbook (OECD 2005), and its implications have been studied in depth, particularly regarding the economic impact of migrating employment needs and the changes in job types and skills requirements resulting from both the influx and relocation of trade, goods and services (Warner 2002; Jenkins 2006).
Nevertheless, this is a look at the broader picture. While firms must understand the new dynamics, they must still understand that globalization has failed to change many of the fundamental characteristics of national citizenship (Hoffman 2002). While this clash and conflict is demonstrated at its most extreme by the proliferation of religion and culture as determinants of terrorism (Arystanbekova 2004; Huntington 1996), the more practical implication for business would seem to be that they will increasingly, irrespective of size, be required to operate across borders and cultures.
Literature regarding the practices and methods used by human resource managers initially tackled the role that expatriate workers would play in such a scenario, though over the past two decades this has broadened into a wider discussion of cross-cultural issues and managerial practices, such as leadership, workforce management and the need to reconcile conflicting personal viewpoints, required in such situations (April 2000; Bures & Vloeburghs 2001; Brewster et al 2005). Furthermore, human resource thinking has started to reconcile itself internally, mainly following from the increasing development of strategic partnerships and international joint ventures within the business community requiring a more integrated approach to human resource management. The most obvious example of this is in the convergence of the, previously separate, schools of comparative and international human resource management The first generally being concerned, as the name would imply, with the study of differences for their own sake, while the latter addressed the implications of such differences. (Boxall 1995; Budhwar & Sparrow 2002).
Following on from this identified need to consider the broader issues of cross-cultural issues, came the realisation that such considerations should be integrated more into the overall corporate strategy, and this has lead to the continued realisation that knowing how to “elicit the best from individual differences and incorporate them into an effective working environment” is not just a sign of good people management, but an increasingly fundamental key to success and competitive advantage, and one that needs to be addressed at the micro- and macro-organisational levels (Waller Vallario 2006; Wright et al 1994; de SaÐ±-PÐ¹rez & GarcÐ½a-FalcÑƒn 2002).On a more prosaic level, increased globalisation has lead to increased spread of workplaces, with the continued uptake of virtual teams and working at home; partly as a result of simple geographic spread, but also because both developed and emergent markets are seeing sea changes in how employees wish to balance life and work (April 2000; Boninelli & Meyer 2004; Berg et al 2003). These aspects, namely international leadership, cultural integration, remote work and life and work balance, will now be examined more closely, with a view to providing insights into best practice considerations.
International Leadership & Management
A series of individual case studies looked at the influence of Japanese management techniques on British companies in the 1990s identified several key changes that occurred, either due to take-overs by, or strategic alliances with, Japanese firms. It examined the changes that were experienced by all levels of the involved organisations, and commented on the striking differences in managerial style that evolved; the most common theme being the increased feelings of democracy and inclusion felt by all members of the workforce, while not diluting the responsibility or authority of management (Hasegawa 2001). These changes, however, did not come without their challenges, with some Trade Unions in particular resenting the direct interface created between those they represented and the firms management, but they were achieved by an international management team that understood the need for true transnational leadership.
In order to achieve this level of competence, human resource managers must set about designing a framework that both encourages the new paradigm, while also making the organisation attractive to those that are already functioning well within it. The need for continued education, on both business and cultural issues, the need to become adept at simultaneous interaction, rather than the more traditional model of sequential or separate, and the ability to see multi-cultural workplaces as benefits rather than hindrances are not achieved quickly or easily; there must be systemic procedures in place to encourage a new way of leadership thinking. Similarly these systems should be benchmarked globally, in the same manner that recruiting policy should embrace a global scope. Merely placing these systems in place, in effect playing lip service, will not work;
“Simply increasing the number of cross-cultural training programs offered to individual managers does not ensure that they will actually use the skills on a regular basis, nor that the firm as a whole will benefit from the potentially improved cross-cultural interaction. To benefit the individual must want to learn that which is not-invented-here and the organisation must want to learn from the individual” (Adler & Bartholomew 1992 p63)
These aims are not simply laudable in their own respect; the failure to manage human resources internationally is increasingly recognised