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A CROSS-CULTURAL SUPPORT PACKAGE FOR AN EMPLOYEE
Wärtsilä Oyj Abp, popular called Wärtsilä, is a Finnish company founded in 1834 and is head quartered in Helsinki, Finland, it is involved with the manufacturing and servicing of power sources and other equipment in the marine and energy sectors.(Wikipedia 2018). As at 2017, Wärtsilä’s net sales totalled €4.9 billion with approximately 18,000 employees, and operations in more than 80 countries around the world. (Wärtsilä 2018). Wärtsilä’s is striving to enable societies with sustainable smart technology. This is achieved by producing transformative results through collaboration, partnerships, market insight and active engagement in ecosystems.(Wärtsilä 2018).
In the marine sector, Wärtsilä manufactures Automation systems, such as: Propulsion Control Systems, Hardware to interface with Information Management System on ships and hardware to interface with the Monitoring and Control System. Wärtsilä also manufactures instruments for measurements on board ships.
Wärtsilä designs monitoring and Control Systems for dredgers which meets the highest industry standard, they also design and manufacture state of the art interfaces for Integrated Bridge Control.
In the energy sector, Wärtsilä designs, builds, installs and services Gas power plants, Multi-fuel power plants, Liquid-fuel power plants and Hydro power plants.
Wärtsilä carries out the following post installation services on all their product: upgrades, retrofits and general maintenance services for all their equipment and facilities.
REASON FOR EXPATRIATION
In principal, all open vacancies are published both externally and internally ensuring equal opportunity to apply including local residents to Wärtsilä positions. But, if there is a specific reason, like competence transfer need from other countries, then expatriates are engaged. (Wärtsilä 2018).
In this case, Wärtsilä has been contracted by the Government of Kenya after a long bidding war to build and install a Gas power plant, to generate power to be added to the national grid. This implies that the power plant to be built, would cater for the more than 51 million people of Kenya. Although Wärtsilä is an international organisation with subsidiary firms around the world, it has developed over the years a project-centric organisation, hence most of their core staff are stationed at the headquarters in Helsinki, Finland and deployed based on skill level, project type and other factors to countries where projects are being carried out. Therefore, it is no surprise that Wärtsilä only has staff capable of carrying out maintenance services in Kenya, hence the need to expatriate staff to carry out the building and installation.
Duration of the project has been penned down for 18 months. Although it exceeds the duration for a standard short-term assignment, it will still be considered a short-term assignment because it requires specific set of skills to fill a gap, and provides opportunity for career development for the expatriate as well as develop the international experience of the expatriate.
Reason for internationalisation can further be justified as maintaining a culture of standard. Wärtsilä has a name that needs to be protected at all cost. This requires that Wärtsilä has direct control over the project in order to maintain the quality control of the project. Such high profile job with the government of another country counts as reason enough to maintain standard by internationalising the project.
Finland is a country located in Northern Europe, it is one of the world’s most remote countries, subjected to severe climate with temperatures ranging from -50 °C to 17 ° It is also the most densely forested country in Europe. (Britannica 2018)(Weatheronline 2018).
Finland currently has a population of about 5.5 million people. (Worldometers 2018).
When it comes to well-being, Finland is ranked above average compared to other countries this includes; education and skills, income and wealth, health status, environmental quality and security. (Oecdbetterlifeindex 2018).
When it comes to political stability, Finland is one of the most political stable country in the world. A chart from the world bank with a grading of -2.5 to 2.5 where -2.5 indicates weak, and 2.5 indicates strong, it shows that for the past 20 years, Finland has never dropped below 1 on the scale therefore indicating its strong political stability as shown in the figure below:
While the host country being Kenya is situated in East Africa, and known for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves. People come from all over the world to go on Safaris in the wildlife preserves of Kenya It has a population which is about 10 times that of Finland, just above 51 million people. It has a rich and dynamic cultural undertone as a country, which is influenced by its more than 40 indigenous ethnic groups. The country as a whole has an average temperature of 10 °C and 34 °C which implies that for an expatriate coming from Finland, the lowest temperature experienced in the host country might still be too hot. (Worldometer 2018)(Britannica 2018)(Kenya-information-guide 2018)
Even though they have been a slow but steady development across the country, Kenya is still a poor country with only a 10 percent decrease in the poverty population from 46.6 percent in 2005/2006 to 36.6 percent in 2015/2016. This implies that there is still much work to be done in terms of social welfare in the country, ranging from housing, to healthcare, to education, and security. (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2018)
When it comes to political stability, Kenya has never been political stable, again this indicates that the security in the country might not be up to per for an expatriate.
The figure below illustrates Kenya’s political stability over the past two decades:
The telecommunications sector is the largest sector in Kenya’s economy, followed by tourism and hospitality. One of the fundamental needs of such a sector is power. In order to continue to deliver efficient services and function at optimal level, the sector requires power, so it is no surprise that the government of Kenya is ready to invest heavily in the power sector, so as to boost the telecommunications sector which is a major part of the Kenyan economy.
The above analysis generally implies that expatriates used to life in a developed country might struggle to settle down quickly in the host country especially if this would be their first time as an expatriate to that part of the world, due to weather and environmental factors. Kenya is still a developing country, and social amenities are not yet as sophisticated as that of the parent country. Expatriates are therefore advised to monitor their health closely and not take anything for granted. The location the power plant is to be sited is quite remote and the closest city that would give the expatriate a little bit of what he or she is used to in terms of social amenities like a bar, electricity, pipe-borne water, restaurants and the likes is 2 hours away from the plant location. This gives rise to the issue of security, due to the long commute from the expatriate’s residence to the project site, expatriates are advised to be extra vigilant during commutes. It is well known that Kenya has a high poverty rate and it is also well known that the higher the poverty rate, the higher the crime rate, being security conscious as an expatriate is not borne out of fear of being an expatriate but out of necessity as both the political instability and high poverty rate in the country is something to be weary of in general.
Also by comparing both countries using Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of national culture, the result is as follows:
- Power Distance Index (PDI):
This shows how the society accepts inequalities among people. That is, societies with low power distance strives for equal distribution of power, while those with high power distance accepts a hierarchical order of things in which everybody has his or her place.
In this case, it was shown that while Kenya is a high powered distance society, Finland is not.
This implies that accurate representation of facts might not be made known to the expatriate by local staff as the expatriate will be perceived as one with a higher authority and should not be challenged.
- Individualism Versus Collectivism:
This dimension of Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of national culture, seeks to highlight the social framework to the preference of living within a society. That is, if the society is a loosely-knit society, you are expected to take care of yourself and your immediate family, it is called individualism. While if the society is a tightly-knit society, where individuals can expect relatives or members of a particular group, to look after them and their families, in exchange for unquestioning loyalty, it is called collectivism.
Again the disparity between both countries is quite huge. While Finland leans towards a highly individualistic society, Kenya is on the other end of the spectrum, leaning towards a more collective society.
This can be a good thing for the expatriate, if they tend to be highly sociable with the locals, they become immediately absorbed into the community and treated as such.
- Masculinity Versus Femininity:
This basically highlights a society’s preference to heroism, assertiveness, material reward for success as opposed to a modest, caring society. Simply put Masculinity represents the society’s toughness while femininity represents a society’s tenderness.
In this case while Finland is highly feminine country, Kenya is not, Kenya is a highly masculine country.
Thus, expatriates will have to stare clear of certain discussions and behaviours which they consider as normal in their home country, one of such discussion would be sexual orientation or sexuality and one of such behaviours would be public display of affection.
- Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI):
This is a clear case of societies preference to practice over principles. A country exhibiting strong UAI tendencies, is one that when faced with uncertainty of the future tries to control the future, it is a society that is highly intolerable of unorthodox methods and ideas while a society with low UAI tendencies is one that when faced with an uncertain future, is more relaxed and waits for the uncertainty to happen before acting.
With the help of Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of national culture, we can ascertain that both countries lean towards strong UAI’s.
This implies that expatriates will have no problem adjusting when it comes to procedures of uncertainty, however they react to such situations would most likely be accepted by local workers.
- Long Term Orientation Versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO):
Societies generally try to maintain some links with their past, while dealing with present and future challenges. Societies that score low on this dimension are societies used to maintaining traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. While those societies that score high in this dimension, usually encourage economic prudence and invest in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
In this regard Kenya since not to have a score on the Hofstede scale, while Finland scores low on this scale, implying that Finland is a country which strives to maintain tradition. It can be inferred that Kenya is also a country which tends to maintain tradition and norms due to its rich cultural background which has been maintained for centuries now. Therefore, expatriates will have no problems adapting to this cultural dimension.
- Indulgence Versus Restraint:
This is basically the representation of a society that is free to gratify natural human drives and enjoy life as opposed to as society where gratification is suppressed and regulated by means of strict social norms.
While Finland seems to be a country that enjoys indulgence due to its relative high score on the Hofstede scale, Kenya once again does not appear on the Hofstede scale, which might imply that it is more of restrained society and this can easily by backed up by its high level of masculinity on the Hofstede scale.
Again expatriates are advised to be moderate with their indulgences throughout the duration of the project.
Below is a graphical representation of the Hofstede analysis used:
JOB ANALYSIS / DESCRIPTION
The following job analysis / description is based on information gotten from (careerstructure 2018).
As with all projects, getting the right people to do a specific job is equal to half the success of the whole project.
Therefore, to successfully carry out this project a site engineer would be needed. The site engineer’s job includes; providing technical, supervisory and organisational support throughout the duration of the project.
A site engineer typically is someone who is part of the site management team, and takes on responsibilities such as security, health and safety, as well as organising and supervising materials and people. The site engineer marks out the site, makes sure designs and measurements are accurate and applied correctly throughout the duration of the project, liaises with contractors and sub-contractors as well as the site manager.
The site engineer acts as a day-to-day manager and is the main source for technical advice and quality control for everyone working on the site.
The perfect candidate for such position is one who possesses a mixture of personal, technical and physical abilities. Also, the candidate should have a strong numerical and analytical skills and think in a very logical way. Must be a team player, capable of dealing with a wide variety of other professionals, have good writing skills and be able to produce excellent report. Experience as an expatriate, is an added advantage.
The site engineers job description is as follows:
- Reports directly to the site manager
- Plans the work to be done and organises things so that deadlines are met.
- Provide technical support to on-site workers and resolve any technical issues that might crop up
- Liaise on a daily basis with contractors and sub-contractors
- Responsible for price negotiations for materials used as well as the choice / quality of material used.
- Produces detailed daily report for site manager and the management team.
EXPATRIATE’S CROSS-CULTURAL SUPPORT PACKAGE
According to a former a site engineer for Wärtsilä,
He said during his time with Wärtsilä, standard practice before deployment was as follows:
A three weeks intensive training on local language, host country’s history and culture will be undertaken. Security briefings on host country would also be handed out to participants of the training. A little of physical intervention and self-defence classes would be taken as well. Also secret signs and codes were taught for security and emergency purposes. Lastly a guide book on who to contact locally was provided. All these were the pre-departure package. He said there was no post-arrival support package nor was there any support package for repartriation provided.
For him it is a highly flawed package for expatriates. Although these pre-departure packages were made available for expatriates, it was never enforced, that is, it was up to expatriates to decide on their own accord whether or not they want to attend those pre-departure classes which is not a good reputation for the HR department.
Also he mentioned that the security report was usually bought from a third party. An independent security firm carrying out its own operations in the host country. Although the intel gathered is for the security agency’s own private use but Wärtsilä usually buys the security report from them every time they have pre-departure classes.
He also said no provision for housing was made available for the expatriates, that Wärtsilä believed that for paying them handsomely almost 3 times their regular monthly salary they should be able to take care of themselves in the host country. Transportation was provided but because the project team members were scattered about the place due to the lack of accommodation except on few occasions where they could all get accommodation close to each other, a lot of time that could have been saved was spent picking up team members from different locations before onwards movement to the site.
He made mention of the fact that there was no existing contact with a health facility in host countries and that members who required medical attention had to take care of themselves and save the receipts to file for re-imbursement on getting back home.
Lastly, he said that Wärtsilä had a strict practice when it came to relocating expatriates with their family members. Only the site managers were given the option to relocate with their families during the duration of a project all other members were given a split-family contract, no arrangement to visit family regularly or for family to visit the expatriate regularly.
From the site engineer’s testimony, we can see that Wärtsilä employs the didactic type of cross-cultural training. This is almost like a standard practice now for big corporations.
I therefore recommend that the didactcic type of cross-cultural training be maintained and extra efforts be made to implement an experiential type of cross-cultural training as well especially at post-arrival period.
The following are strategies for implementing the suggested cross-cultural training as well as support packages to improve the overall experience of expatriates.
First of all, the pre-departure briefings should be enforced with a lot more strictness.
Secondly, a post-arrival package should be made available for the expatriate. This should include a brief tour of the city or the country if need be, to fully immerse and appreciate the culture of the host country.
Accommodation for the expatriate should be sorted out before arrival, preferably close to local workers, this is because proximity to local workers gives the expatriate a better chance of bonding with local workers, and ease the process of learning the customs and norms of the host country society. If Wärtsilä acquires a property in the country it could end up being a good investment because, they will end up saving money on accommodation in the long run, since this project looks like the first of many to come, and by having something somewhat like a base in the country can help with expanding their reach throughout the entire East Africa.
A contract should be established between Wärtsilä and a good local medical facility. This is because, apart from the fact that people tend to react differently to new environments no matter how psychologically prepared they were and a good medical facility can help in treating and facilitating recovery for an expatriate if the need arises, for an expatriate, having the knowledge that you do not have to pay your medical bills and struggle to get reimbursed can be good for the psyche.
Also provisions should be made for the expatriate to travel home to see their families every once in a while preferably every 4 months, throughout the duration of the project, again covering the cost of such trips and actually giving expatriate time with their family can be good for morale.
Also, the idea of buying security briefs from third-party should be stopped. Imagine an expatriate getting security briefing based on a third party information, he or she may not feel a 100 percent safe, because those reports could be highly exaggerated or might be underrated given to the fact that what some trained security personnel perceives as a threat might be different from what an ordinary civilian perceives as a threat. Hence getting your own people on the ground coming up with country security of the host country will do well for morale as well for the expatriate. Alternatively, Wärtsilä should legally contract security firms to carry out security reconnaissance covering specific aspects that would be most beneficial to the expatriate rather than buying information that may or may not be useful to the expatriate.
A repatriation package is dependent on if Wärtsilä provides the expatriate with travelling privileges. If the expatriate goes home every so often, then there will be no need for a repatriation package but if not, then there is a need.
According to (budgetyourtrip 2018) and (migrationology.com 2018). An average hotel costs $60 a night, a three days safari and tour costs approximately $500 average price of food a day is $27. Therefore, the cost for a week for the experiential type of cross-cultural training which will be delivered as a post-arrival support package is $1,049.
The Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages, Zanzibar, currently teaches Swahili for $80 a week. The cost of training an expatriate in Swahili for three weeks would be approximately $240.(glcom 2018).
The average cost of self-defence classes now is about a $100 for a day’s training.(sqrgroup 2018).
The total cost for training an expatriate is approximately $1,389.
And the cost for supporting an expatriate in the host country is as follows;
Average monthly cost of renting an accommodation at a relatively normal location, including utilities is approximately $500 a month.(Expatistan 2018).
Therefore, accommodation for the duration of project would be $9,000.
The average cost of transportation in Kenya is $20 a day.(Migrationology 2018).
The approximate cost of transportation for the duration of the project is $10,950.
A cursory sum of $10,000 would be made available for the expatriate for health emergencies and travels.
This brings the total cost for training and supporting the expatriate for the duration of the project to $31,389.
While the cost of training and supporting a single expatriate may seem too high, it is important to note that the cost of failure is greater than the cost of training and support. It costs an organisation up to $150,000 per employee if the expatriates fail. Top U.S. firms loose up to $2 billion a year because of expatriate failure. (Copeland and Griggs, 1985 cited in Deshpande and Viswesvaran,1992). The need for cross-cultural training packages cannot be overemphasised.
Keeping the expatriate emotionally stable is a good investment for the organisation, because going by the figures above loosing such monies to expatriate failure would be a shame.
- (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2018)
- Better Life Index (2018) ‘Finland’ Available at: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/finland (Accessed on 1st December 2018)
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- Deshpande, S.P and Viswesvaran, C (1992) ‘Is Cross-Cultural Training of Expatriate Managers Effective: A Meta Analysis’ International Journal of Intercultural relations vol.16, pp 295-310
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