When discussing cultural differences, we tend to think in terms of national culture. Culture, however, goes beyond nationality and is referred to as “the pattern of beliefs, behaviors, and values maintained by groups of interacting people.” (Milton J. Bennett, Ph.D). This implies that there are several types of culture: regional, gender, religion, professional, corporate and generational.
From a company’s perspective, culture and organizational culture more specifically is a mix of various subcultures who all have their own “patterns of belief, behaviors and values” and still manage to interact under the umbrella of the corporate culture. It is exactly this complex corporate environment that HR professionals need to take into consideration when recruiting and on-boarding new employees.
As the ocean of talent widens and sourcing talent is often across international borders, understanding the complexity of culture and of organizational culture in particular becomes key.
When sourcing employees for a specific job abroad, having somebody from the location in question to assist with the recruitment process can be invaluable. Aware of the local culture, they will know which questions are appropriate and important to ask to find out more about the person. Furthermore, they will also understand and better interpret the answers they receive. What motivates people and how they perceive work can vary from one culture to the other. An example to illustrate this could be a question that comes up in interview or in employee surveys such as “would you be proud to work for us.” This type of question works well in a US culture, but in other parts of the world where you work to live and not live to work you are not necessarily proud of a company but rather of people and family.
During the recruitment process it is also important for HR professionals to know what their corporate culture is and how a new hire will fit into this culture. Do they share the same values, the same relationship to work or what is required. If the corporate culture is egalitarian, how will a person from a very hierarchical culture fit in? What is the candidate’s relationship to hierarchy or to taking risks? What motivates them, how do they react towards feedback or how do they resolve conflict? All these aspects can be very different from one culture to another and when hiring, a culturally aware recruiter will know which questions to ask in order to find the best person for the company and the position.
This brings us to on-boarding where it is essential to ensure that the new employee is informed of the various elements that make up the organizational culture. On-boarding is part of putting the human in the center of the process, of officially welcoming them in the new organization, of showing them that the company cares. It is also during the on-boarding process that companies will minimize culture shock of employees, maximize productivity and retention rate. Don’t forget that most employees have worked for other organizations, maybe in a different country, and still have that corporate culture in mind and in their way of operating. A culturally aware organization will know what to include in the on-boarding program to address all the different parts of their organizational culture.