Global companies are discovering cultural diversity in the workforce. According to BusinessWeek’s “Davos Special Report” on “Managing the Global Workforce”, companies are realizing that to attract and retain employees around the world, they must adapt their methods and procedures to what is culturally appropriate. For example, ITT employees in Shanghai showed their displeasure with being rated anything less than five on a five-point performance scale by not talking to their bosses or quitting their jobs. And in the democratic workplaces of Scandinavia, the idea of bosses rating workers was resisted by employees.
I find it fascinating that it has taken the demands of trying to survive in other countries to finally make U.S. business leaders pay attention to cultural differences and be willing to embrace these differences. James Duncan, Director of ITT Talent Development, said that people from all cultures just want to be “treated like an adult.” This has always been the case, whether companies are domestic or global. Cultural differences have always existed within all organizations and workers have always wanted respect. The point is that managers should not assume that every employee learns in the same way, wants to be managed in the same way, or will react to change in the same way. This is true even within groups defined by gender, ethnicity, or economic status. All people are the same in some ways and all people are different in other ways. Companies ignore these differences at their own peril.