The Strategic Role of Human Resource Management in Developing a Global Corporate Culture

By Rowden, Robert W. | International Journal of Management, June 2002 | Go to article overview

The Strategic Role of Human Resource Management in Developing a Global Corporate Culture


Rowden, Robert W., International Journal of Management


Having a well-defined corporate culture is important as globalization transforms the way business is conducted. A well-defined corporate culture can create an atmosphere for success. Today's Human Resource departments have taken on a strategic role as a change agent and a business partner in the company. Human Resource strategies can be powerful tools for signaling cultural change and reinforcing those changes once they are made. Strategic Human Resource Management helps the organization see promising and positive results by operating on a global level.

One of the hottest buzzwords coming into the millennium has been "globalization." Today, globalization is transforming the way business is conducted by dictating that operating within a personal vacuum will no longer be possible. Thus, the corporate world has found itself catapulted into the global arena due to the emergence of the Internet and other forms of communication, and an increase in the numbers of international mergers and acquisitions. Any business that wants to succeed in this rapidly changing, highly competitive environment must be able to adapt, evolve, and operate on a global scale. Success on a global level now goes beyond dollars and cents. With competition so fierce, the race is now on to place human capital at the very center of a sustainable competitive advantage (Gratton, 1998). In addition to looking toward its people, companies should examine their unique characteristics-anything to separate them from the competition. Looking to organizational culture as a competitive advantage is not a new idea. It is now more important than ever because of the narrow margin between companies globally.

This article examines why having a well-defined culture is so important, and the strategic roll Human Resources plays in giving businesses a "global" competitive advantage through defining and developing the culture of an organization.

There are some very important questions that must be asked before addressing the strategic role of the Human Resources department in creating and defining corporate culture on a global scale. The three main questions that need to be addressed are: What is Corporate Culture? Why is developing a Corporate Culture so important? and lastly, Where to begin?

What is Corporate Culture?

Schein (1992) has defined corporate culture as "the way we do things around here" (p. 12). More recently it has been called "the glue that binds an organization together" (Schell & Solomon, 1997, pg. 35). Others define it as "the shared basic assumptions and beliefs developed by an organization over time" (Greene, 1995, pg. 115). The culture of any organization can express who you are, where you want to go, and what you value externally and internally. It is important because, "it's the sum of total values, virtues, accepted behaviors (both good and bad)..." (Bliss, 1999, pg. 8). In reality, Corporate Culture is a combination of all of those definitions and more. Another way to look at it is to think of it as the rudder of a ship, though a small part of the vessel; it will dictate the direction that the entire ship will go.

Essentially, a well-defined corporate culture is critical for business success today because it can create an atmosphere for success. One quality that successful organizations share is that they build sound infrastructures. If a company's success is measured by the skill, energy and dedication of its "human capital," then surely managers need to start thinking about how to create a cultural infrastructure that defines, nurtures, and harnesses the power of this critical resource (Marchone & Jenkins, 1999)

Where does an organization begin?

Generally, it starts with two-way communication. Inquire within and without about what kind of image or position the company holds with employees and investors. Ask senior executives how they would describe the culture, followed by an organizationwide survey of employee opinions to validate the information provided (Bliss, 1999). …

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