Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Intercultural HRM Teaching and the Management of Diversity: A Cultural Synergy Approach in the Context of Developing Countries

Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Intercultural HRM Teaching and the Management of Diversity: A Cultural Synergy Approach in the Context of Developing Countries

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Having just finished preparing my course on HRM and organizational change, I feel particularly excited. Applying the concept of change in HRM practices has been for me a great source of intellectual inspiration. I love teaching the impact of change intertwined with the current theory on interactionism and situationism, because it reminds me of the intellectual conversations I had with my professors while I was completing my doctoral thesis. While I prepare to go to my first HRM course on African soil on this sunny May morning, these memories cross my mind and remind me that even now, I will have a blast transferring this knowledge to the students I am about to meet. After I presented and unveiled the course outline for the next few weeks at the beginning of the course, I expose HRM concepts in the context of organizational change. I start with a case study, an empirical illustration of a technological change that took place in a Canadian firm that had generated a wave of unexpected resistance from the employees involved. I explain with great enthusiasm the rational basis for the participant's resistance to change, all the while using some theories of action as an analytical framework, which states that any change must engage and actively involve its participants in order for it to be successful. When I present this material in the West, my students respond positively in using personal and work experiences as examples to relate to the theory. Oddly enough, in this African university class, there is no reaction. In fact, nobody says anything. The students listen religiously, but I feel that their spirit just did not follow. I even feel that the subject brings them discomfort. I have a vague impression that the synergy between us is nonexistent, which does not bode well for future meetings. While sorting out my material at the end of the course, a student comes to me and says:

   Sir, your course was very interesting, very dynamic. However, I
   cannot rationalize the foundations of the resistance to change that
   you have incurred. You know, here we think that employees must be
   very grateful to their boss, not the other way around. It is thanks
   to him that they can feed their families! No? So, if the boss wants
   change, we will accept it, because if we do what is asked, the
   company will succeed, which will help us even more to feed our
   family. So, in our world, work conditions, motivation and
   participation, do not really, you know...

That is the type of reaction you might get upon arriving in a completely different cultural setting when delivering teaching material on human and social relations. The various theoretical approaches to HRM, as in general management, have often been developed in the West while being based on certain social and cultural parameters in that part of the world. In these circumstances, when attempting to apply these approaches without adapting the material to different cultural settings, there is a high risk of hitting a wall. This phenomenon may sound abnormal at first. However, it might seem more natural if you make the effort to grasp the rational foundations of the culture in which you intend to teach because there is no universal theoretical model for HRM.

In this work, our intention is to identify some methods and tools in order to improve the effectiveness of HRM teachings in different cultural contexts. In fact, following questions will guide this work: what kind of differences could we bring forward when examining Western theoretical models of HRM compared to the visions of subjects from other cultural backgrounds and their management practices? In this sense, in what measure should the usual theoretical models be more flexible in order to adapt to different cultural contexts? First of all, this document will present the theoretical foundations of HRM practices that are usually taught in Western classrooms. In addition, this section will trace the contours of the cultural context in order to grasp its various theoretical dimensions and highlight its importance when actors with distinct cultural backgrounds interact. …

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