Promoting Cross Cultural Employee Participation

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Executive Summary: Given the cultural differences that exist between the Australian and South African culture, this report evaluates measures that can be used by Fun Voyage to enhance employee participation and involvement in its South African operation. This arises from an employee survey carried out in the firm's South African operations which showed that most employees felt that they are not adequately involved or do not adequately participate in decision making. This low level of participation and involvement in decision making may lead to low levels of employee motivation and satisfaction, as well as low organizational productivity and effectiveness. In solving the problem of low participation therefore, Fun Voyage is likely to experience higher levels of employee motivation and satisfaction, as well as higher organizational productivity and effectiveness. While many solutions exist that can help solve the problem of low employee participation and its attendant problems, such solutions must be culturally sensitive to the South African context if they are to be successful and must not be imposed from the Australian headquarters. Some of the solutions that Fun Voyage can consider include: the formation of self-managed work teams, enhancement of communication through means such as a company newsletter, implementation of an open e-mail system which will allow views and queries to be escalated even up to the CEO level, implementation of an organizational culture and structure that facilitates and encourages employee participation and involvement (an organic structure), ensuring that regular staff meetings are held, use of informal discussion sessions as well as electronic discussion groups, gender affirmative programs, and the empowerment of employees so that they have the requisite knowledge, training, and experience to take part in the organization's activities. Of these, the report recommends that Fun Voyage reengineers its organizational structure so that it has a more organic structure, that it deploys the use of self-managed work teams in the organization, and that it empower rather than control its employees to enable them effectively take part.

Introduction:

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Fun Voyage is a leading amusement park which is headquartered in Australia, but with branches in many countries including South Africa. Recently, the firm commissioned an employee survey which was conclusive in its assertion that the employees of its South African unit play little or no role in decision making in the organization. Employee participation in decision making has been associated with a number of positive benefits to organizations including: increased employee motivation which results in better employee performance, higher productivity, and a more positive workplace (Miller and Monge, 1986; Perotin and Robinson, 2004; Freeman, Kleiner, and Ostro, 2000). Given such benefits that would accrue to Fun Voyage as a result of involving its employees more in decision-making, it would be in the best interest of the organization to embark on measures aimed at enhancing the participation and involvement of its South African employees in decision making. However, for this to be successful, it should be done taking into consideration the cultural differences that exist between the South African and Australian cultures. Imposing an Australian solution to Fun Voyage's South African operation is likely to be counter-productive and to ensue in a number of unintended consequences since such a solution is likely to be culturally insensitive to the South Africans. The purpose of this report is to outline various measures that Fun Voyage should take to enhance the involvement and participation of its South Africa employees in decision making, in light of the cultural differences that exist between the two countries. Decision making process: The determination of which decision to take will involve determining the cause of the problem at Fun Voyage's South African operations. Once the root causes of the problem are identified, various alternative solutions that can help solve the problem will be identified. This will be evaluated, using cultural frameworks, to determine their suitability for the South African context, given potential cultural differences between the Australian and South African operations of the firm. On the basis of this evaluation, three recommendations that will help solve the problem will be put forward. Models and Theories of Decision Making: One of the cultural frameworks that are commonly used to describe national cultures is the Geert Hofstede framework, which describes cultures on the basis of five dimensions that include: individualism, power distance, masculinity versus femininity, long term versus short term orientation, and uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1984; Hodgetts, 1993). The table below compares the South African and Australian cultures on the basis of the five Hofstede dimensions. Global averages are also given:

Geert Hofstede dimension

Australia

South Africa

Global Average

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Power Distance (PDI)

36

49

55

Individualism (IDV)

90

65

43

Masculinity (MAS)

61

63

50

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

51

49

64

Long Term Orientation (LTO)

31

No scores available

45

Source: "Making Sense", 2010.

Problem Identification- Causes and Consequences: The main problem with Fun Voyage's South African unit is that its employees are not adequately involved and do not participate in decision making. This could be as a result of various factors including: a hierarchical organization structure where authority and knowledge are concentrated at the top, ineffective communication within the organization, a hierarchy (as opposed to a clan culture, for example) organizational culture which fosters competition rather than teamwork, and the achievement of organizational goals through control rather than empowerment. As a result, employee motivation, job satisfaction, individual performance and overall organizational productivity are likely to be adversely affected (Freeman, Kleiner, and Ostro, 2000). Generate alternative solutions: The various alternatives which Fun Voyage can consider to resolve the problem of low employee involvement and participation in its South African operations include: the formation of self-managed work teams, enhancement of communication through means such as a company newsletter, implementation of an open e-mail system which will allow views and queries to be escalated even up to the CEO level, implementation of an organizational culture and structure that facilitates and encourages employee participation and involvement (an organic structure), ensuring that regular staff meetings are held, use of informal discussion sessions as well as electronic discussion groups, gender affirmative programs, and the empowerment of employees so that they have the requisite knowledge, training, and experience to take part in the organization's activities (Stanton, 1993; Pil and MacDuce, 1996; Morden, 1995). Evaluation: Given that the organization is headquartered in Australia, and the implementation of these measures is to be done in its South African operations, cultural differences that will dictate the suitability of such measures in the South African operations must be taken into consideration. This will help avoid a situation whereby solutions that are culturally acceptable in Australia but insensitive to the South Africans are imposed on the South African operation (Hodgetts, 1993). The South African cultural context resembles the Australian one in many respects. Even though South Africa is an individualistic country, its degree of individualism is much lower than that of Australia. This implies that the use of self-managed work teams as a strategy to enhance employee participation and involvement may stand a chance in South Africa. The low levels of uncertainty avoidance mean that transformation of the organizational structure of the South African operation to a more organic structure (with fewer levels, fewer controls, and greater employee autonomy) would also work very well. This also sits well with the country's small power distance. A high masculinity score implies that the women in South Africa are assertive and aggressive, but not as assertive or aggressive as men. This means that more men are to be found in decision making positions than women, who are mainly to be found in subordinate roles. As such, an opportunity also exists to enhance the participation of women in decision making through such programs as affirmative action. However, since the South African society accepts - and even expects such differences - this may not work so well. In view of the above discussion, it is recommended that Fun Voyage undertakes the following measures to enhance employee participation and involvement in decision making in its South African operations:

Reengineer its organizational structure so that it has a more organic structure where most of the hierarchies are abolished and some of the decision making authority delegated to subordinates and managers would play just a facilitative role. This will solve the problem of having power, authority and knowledge being concentrated at the top. With the organic structure, authority and knowledge will be dispersed and subordinates equipped to make informed decisions as well as to follow them through.

Deploy the use of self-managed work teams in the organization, and empower rather than control its employees. This will ensure that all employees take art in making decisions.

Empower rather than control its employees. This will be achieved by deliberately reducing controls, excessive supervision, and monitoring and giving employees a high degree of autonomy. They will be equipped through training and development programs, which will give them the knowledge, experience, as well as skills and confidence t handle more responsibility.

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Implementing and monitoring the chosen solution: Clear benchmarks of what requires to be achieved will be established. A timeline for the achievement of these benchmarks will also be set. The actual achievement of these benchmarks will be compared against the targets, and any deviations identified. The causes of these deviations will be determined, and alternative solutions aimed at resolving them generated. The best cause of action from these will be chosen and undertaken. The responsibility of monitoring and implementing the recommendations made will be vested with the change management team, where each individual will have clearly outlined responsibilities. 3.0 Conclusion: By reengineering its organizational structure into a more organic structure, empowering its employees, and deploying the use of self-managed teams, Fun Voyage will increase participation and involvement of its South African employees in decision making and help to improve their motivation, job satisfaction, and consequently, organizational effectiveness and productivity.

4.0. Recommendations: To implement the above solution, a change management team drawing its members from all functional areas, with adequate representation from the subordinates and with the full support of top management will need to be formed. This team will be tasked with the responsibility of spearheading the change (implementation and monitoring). Resistance to change is likely to be experienced (for example, managers may resent having to give up some of their decision making authority to subordinates) and steps should be taken to handle this. For example, strategies such as the use of incentives; extensive, constant and effective communication and education; and co-option, can be used (Kotter, 1996). All stakeholders to the organization who are likely to be affected by the change should also be supported and empowered to make the change effective. For example, adequate resources should be provided, and employees should be armed with the requisite knowledge, experience and resources to be able to handle the activities of the organization without necessarily being supervised or extensively monitored (for example, through training and development).