It has been said that arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity.
This is a quote from Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, cited in Vielmetter and Sell (2014: 13).
Globalisation has been a reality for some time. Western multinational firms have gradually moved to operate from distant, low-cost bases. According to Vielmetter and Sell (2014), this pattern will generally continue, but at the same time, the way in which globalisation works is evolving.
Defining Globalisation 2.0
Here we come to Globalisation 2.0, which is fundamentally characterised by a shift in power from west to east. For example, China has been the fastest-growing economy over the past 30 years.
The other defining feature of Globalisation 2.0 is the rapid expansion of the middle classes in emerging markets. Goldman Sachs in 2005 identified the next 11 emerging economies and seven of these are in Asia: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam. In comparison, the list contains only one European country: Turkey. Also included are Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt (O’Neill et al. 2005).
What does Globalisation 2.0 mean for the workplace?
Unsurprisingly, over 70% of business executives expect their company’s international involvement to increase (Tuleja 2017).
A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2012 captured the concerns of more than 500 executives in response to this. Globalisation 2.0 will inevitably require more cross-border team collaborations; when these executives were asked about future challenges in meeting these demands, it was clear that cultural issues regarding both communication and collaboration would be the most pressing:
- 50% of the respondents had experienced cross-cultural communication problems and claimed that such misunderstandings had impeded their business dealings, leading to financial loss for the company.
- Another 50% said that their biggest challenge was responding to differences in the cultural norms of their counterparts in cross-border interactions.
- Notably, 90% said that being able to deal with communication issues would improve their company’s profit and that it was imperative to do more to educate employees regarding cross-cultural differences.
- Only 47% said that their companies had an appropriate system in place for selecting and training people suitable for such interactions. However, regarding that 47%, it wasn’t clear what companies did to help prepare their workforce to meet the demands of a globalising society.
Leaders face many challenges in effectively managing globally diverse teams. For example, one issue is compensation, which can be seen in the case of Unilever.
The case of Unilever
Unilever is a global business with 168,000 employees working in 100 countries. Within this workforce, 1,600 employees are globally mobile (meaning that they relocate to work in different countries). Unilever acknowledges the complexity of designing a fair payment scheme (CIPD 2011).
Previously, they adopted a host-based payment policy, so that employees’ pay was based on what was seen as normal in the country in which they were working. However, after some discontent and friction, they are now experimenting with a home-based payment policy. This is one example of how working within a global workforce introduces issues that impact how employees feel about their work.
The problem of communication
In summary, organisations are well aware of the fact that their teams are diversifying across cultural, national and language barriers, but many feel ill-equipped to manage this effectively. Communication appears to be a critical issue in this conundrum. This leads us back to the issue at hand in this short course: engagement and motivation.
Chartered Institute for People Development (2011) Maximising the Value of Reward: Thinking Global, Acting Local CIPD Podcast 55 [online] available from https://www.cipd.co.uk/podcasts/maximising-value-of-reward-thinking-global-acting-local [02 April 2020]
Hackman, J.R ., and Oldham, G. R. (1976) ‘Motivation Through the Design of Work: Test of a Theory’. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 16 (2) 250-279
O’Neill, J., Wilson, D., Parushothaman, R., and Stupnytska, A. (2005) ‘Global Economics Paper 134: How Solid are the BRICs?’. Goldman Sachs Global Research. New York: Goldman Sachs
Tuleja, E. A. (2017) ‘Cultural Intelligence in a VUCA World’. Visionary Leadership in a Turbulent World: Thriving in the New VUCA Context. Bingley: Emerald, 195-227
Vielmetter, G., and Sell, Y. (2014) Leadership 2030: The Six Megatrends You Need to Understand to Lead Your Company into the Future. New York: Amacom
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