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Human Resource Management is an integral part of organizations. It is one of the key principals of organizational success. The cultural values affect how HRM practices are implemented in nations. According to Warner (2008) comparative HRM focuses on providing an insight into the nature and differences of HRM practices across boundaries. The cultural dimension theory by Geert Hofstede shows the relationship between cultural values and HRM practices across different countries. The research suggested the following dimensions of national cultures; Individualism vs Collectivism, Long Term Orientation vs Short Term Orientation, Masculinity vs Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Indulgence and Power Distance Index. The dimensions are used to analyze different aspects of culture and how they impact the style of HRM implemented in organizations. Although this framework has been largely criticized by different scholars, it has been accepted as important and reasonable (Triandis, 1995). The research is conducted on a basis of country to country and each country is given a score for each dimension; one being the lowest and a hundred being the highest (Hofstede, 1983). For the purpose of this paper, China’s and United States’ Human Resource practices will be compared using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions.
Individualism is defined as the situation in which individuals are concerned about themselves while collectivism is where people feel that they belong to a larger group or collectives which cares for them in exchange of loyalty (Hofstede and Bond, 1998). The American society has a high score of individualism at 91 compared to China which is a very collectivistic society at a score of 20 (Hofstede, 1983). The effect of this can be seen in performance appraisal as Americans are deemed to be more result oriented and are encouraged towards individual performance while Chinese put more emphasis on moral characteristic such as loyalty, friendship and group objectives than the overall impact of the employee to the organization.
Long term orientation focuses many on how the society deals with the future. In this dimension, the society is willing to forego short term success in order to prepare for the future. On the other hand, short term orientation mainly focuses on the present or the past. These societies place their values on tradition and the current social hierarchy. They are more about short term gratification than long-term fulfillment of their goals and objectives. The American society scored 26 in this dimension making it a short term society compared to 87 scored by Chinese society which is a highly long term oriented society (Hofstede, 1983). This is important to HRM as it enabled organizations to fashion different methods to motivate their employees. The American organizations are seen to use more short term instruments such as bonuses to motivate their employees compared to Chinese organizations which use long term methods such as employee retirement plans to motivate their employees.
According to Hofstede (2001), Masculinity refers to a society which social gender roles are clearly distinct. Men are supposed to be assertive, tough and focused on material success while women are supposed to be modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life. Femininity stands for a society with social gender overlaps. Both men and women are supposed to be concerned with the quality of life. Jackson & Schuler (1995) stated that feminine societies place a great deal of emphasis on friendly relationships among people and concern for others, which serve to lower the stress levels. These countries are also expected to have action programs for minority ethnics, old workers (aged 50 plus), people with disabilities, and women in the organizations. USA has a high masculinity which indicates employees are driven by achievement, success and competition. The focus of employed is mainly on income, progress and being famous at the workplace. Societies which have high masculinity tend to be characterized with high levels of job stress (Hofstede, G and Associates, 1998). On the other hand, China is also a masculine society with a score of 60. This shows that the employees in Chinese companies are goal driven and want to be successful. Programs for women welfare and people with disabilities maybe found in both countries, but are slightly higher in China compared to the USA.
This dimension deals with “the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain and unknown situations” (Hofstede, 2001). Members of different societies deal differently with the fact that the future cannot be predetermined. Individuals in societies with high uncertainty avoidance are concerned with security in life. There is a greater need for consensus and written rules and are less likely to take risks while individuals in low uncertainty tolerance are less concerned with security rules and are more risk tolerant (Hofstede, 1980). The USA scored 46 while China scored 30 in this dimension. The USA ranks higher compared to China which means that the American culture is less adapting to new situations. In American organizations, changes are likely to be harder to be implemented compared to Chinese ones.
This refers to the measure of “the extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally” (Hofstede, 2001). Power distance is seen in organizations when employees are differentiated from their bosses with respect to salaries, status and promotions. According to the Hofstede (1983), China got a score of 80 while the USA score 40. In china, employees believe that their bosses or supervisors are always correct even during times they are wrong. On the other hand, in the USA supervisors are more accessible and power is more centralized and distributed equally.
This dimension refers to how people try to control their impulses and desires based on their cultural backgrounds. According to Hofstede, Hofstede and Pedersen (2012) indulgent cultures place more importance in freedom of speech and personal control while in restraint cultures there are strict social norms. In work places these affect how employees voice their opinions. According to this dimension, USA scored 68, while China scored 24. In the USA, which indulgence is considered to be at a high level, employees have a freedom of speech and debate is encouraged in decision making processes or meetings. Feedback is also considered in these vital in these organizations. On the other hand, employees of Chinese companies have more controlled and rigid behaviors. They avoid making jokes while in formal meetings. This is because the culture has strict norms hence people try to contain themselves to a high degree.
In conclusion, when HRM practices are critically assessed there is a dissimilar in methods and procedures followed by the two countries, China and USA. Differences in both practices can be clearly seen. These differences are brought about by a difference in culture. Due to this, management practices are altered in order to accommodate the inherent culture of the workforce in a given country.