Within an international context, a company has the responsibility to manage not just the domestic employees but also local workers and any third party country workforce that it may hire. This is because recruitment and selection on the International Human Resource Management (IHRM) level is not limited to the domestic or host countries. The company mainly opens up to hiring people from all over the world provided they have the right skill sets that are needed based on the set goals and objectives of the organization in question. In order to manage such a significant diversity of employees, however, the business in question needs to understand and appreciate the cultural differences between the countries in which it is operating as a way of understanding both its personnel and its potential clientele. IHRM, like any other HRM, focuses more on the employees, but in the end, the goal is to achieve the set objectives of the organization, and these are often related to the customers and the competition. Creating a competitive advantage and meeting the needs of the company’s customers are the two most important missions for the organization in question. This paper looks into Thailand and the UK, with an interest on how British Airways conducts international training and development owning to the significant cultural differences in the two countries.
International Human Resource Management
At the international level, the concerns of the HRM team are no longer limited to the domestic contexts for hiring, training and firing employees. The company has to pay attention to the foreign workers through expatriate management practices aimed at making personnel more productive within their work contexts regardless of whether they are at home or in a different country altogether (Center for Creative Leadership 2011). The business, through the IHRM office, also has to ensure that the people working with the expatriates are comfortable and productive as well. This means that the majority of the work done by IHRM is diversity management with the interest of creating a balanced environment for all the employees within the organization. For the most part, the main course of action is diversity training or the creation of cultural competence through relevant exposure and information. For example, if a British Airways employee is supposed to be posted in Thailand for an extended work contract, he/she would be sent to Thailand a few times prior to the extended assignment as part of his/her training. This is relevant exposure in the interest of IHRM. Therefore, IHRM practices for most companies involve preparing staff members for overseas assignments and ensuring that they get all the support that they need in the host locations. This implies also managing the employees in the host location in a way that will enable and accommodate the new foreign worker.
Cultural Differences between the UK and Thailand
The UK, also known as Britain, is an interesting country off the North-Western coast of the European mainland. It is considered amongst the largest sovereign states in the world, with a bittersweet history as a colonial power that controlled a greater part of the world in the colonial era. The country is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and one of the strongest influences on world economy. As shown in Appendix, the UK is particularly known to have a significant effect on the global economy despite not being the wealthiest nation in the world or even in Europe. Thailand, in its turn, is located in the Indochinese peninsula, and it is legally a monarchy despite its recent political turbulences marked by the 2014 coup. The country also has a strong economic influence not just in the region but also in the world based on its industrialized economy and position as a major exporter. The state seems to have lost some of its previous economic appeals in the face of the 2014 coup, but it remains on the list of top destinations for the tourism industry.
Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions as a framework for comparing the UK and Thailand, it can be appreciated that these two countries are simply too different from each other. Employing a British expatriate in the Thailand office would require a lot of diversity management for both the expatriate employee and the people who already work in the Thailand office (Venaik, Zhu & Brewer 2013).
Power Distance (PD)
As indicated in Appendix, UK has a PD score of 35 while in Thailand the score is at 64 (Dwyer 2012). A high PDscore indicates that the decision making role is highly centralized, and it is thus unlikely that the team members within the Thailand office would expect direct participation in decision making or even initiate action in any context. An expatriate from the UK office would, in his/her turn, expect the team members to take as much responsibility for the team as possible and thus participate in finding solutions for their respective challenges within the group (Rau 2013). To bridge this cultural gap, the Thailand team has to be briefed on the expectations of the UK leadership as the UK expatriates are also taught not to simply expect the Thailand team to step up in decision making. The company cannot expect to change the culture of the Thailand team but through training and diversity management the two cultures should be able to complement one another rather than causing friction and hindering seamless operations within the organization. In such a situation, the greatest solution is to communicate effectively to all the involved parties so that they can accommodate one another’s expectations and limitations on the subject of decision making.
On individualism, UK has a score of 89 while Thailand scores at 20 (Venaik, Zhu & Brewer 2013). A high individualism rate means that the people of that given nation are motivated more by personal gain than the collective context. These individuals care about themselves and their achievements or accomplishments more than they care about their teams or communities. They value their freedom and privacy, while appreciating individual rewards for work well done. Thailand is on the other side of this spectrum with the low individualism score. With that in mind, low individualism rate means that the people of Thailand work rather for intrinsic rewards than for the extrinsic ones (Asefeso 2012). Thailand nationals value the experience and exposure that is derived from their work, and they always make the effort to get along well with the people they are working with. When it comes to a question of right and wrong, an individual from a low individualism country is likely to make the choice that will have little to no negative impact on those around him/her even if it gives him/her the least gain. In a practical setting, a leader from the British office is likely to try to motivate people within the Thailand office using individual rewards such as a bonus or a paid holiday. This approach, however, is not likely to motivate these employees as much as a collective challenge with a collective reward might do.
Masculine societies value assertiveness and achievements while less masculine societies are likely to emphasize on the quality of one’s relationships with people around them. According to the Hofstede chart above, UK is more masculine than Thailand (Venaik, Zhu & Brewer 2013). This means that people from the UK are more likely to care about achievements than their Thailand counterparts. In the Thailand setting, it is thus likely that the employees will value their relationship with the superiors and other team members more than they value their individual achievements. Thus, while working towards the set goals and objectives of the organization, they will also try to ensure that they do not antagonize those people they are working with. This is something that an employee from the UK would have to learn and appreciate. Any expectations that he/she places on members in the Thailand office will have a good impact on the relationships within the personnel or, otherwise, he/she will not be considered as reasonable by the Thai team.
This dimension concerns mainly the aspect of how the people in a particular nation cope with anxiety. A low score for this dimension indicates openness and a lower sense of urgency while a high score demonstrates conservativeness and a higher level of emotional expressiveness. Thailand has a low uncertainty avoidance, meaning that the Thailand personnel, on the one hand, are more likely to avoid risks and to do things in a rigid way that is mostly by the book (Rowley & Warner 2013). The British employees, on the other hand, would be comfortable experimenting and taking significant risks as they discover new things along the way. A British expatriate working in Thailand would, for example, have to understand that it might take a longer time and more effort to practice change management in the Thailand office compared to the British office.
A high score for this dimension indicates a need for short term-gains, with education being highly valued. In addition, people from a high long-term orientation nation are more likely to focus on what and how questions rather than the why questions. This is because they are more interested in getting things done and moving on. A low score in this dimension indicates a more nationalistic and often religious disposition with a need to understand the ‘why’ of everything and thus finding a higher purpose in one’s existence and indulgences. This means that in this dimension, a British expatriate in Thailand is likely to be seen as pragmatic and snobbish to some extent based on the tendency of the British to rush through things compared to their Thai counterparts. The strong convictions of the Thai people, in this case, may be a ground for conflict, as they will insist on knowing ‘why’ before they can partake in a given activity.
On the one hand, a country with a high indulgence score encourages its people to spend their money, to enjoy themselves and generally to seek happiness. Nations with a low score in this dimension, on the other hand, tend to prefer restraint, with limited personal indulgences in the pursuit of happiness or self-gratification (McLaurin 2008). Both the UK and Thailand are relatively high on this dimension although the UK is much higher. This means that both countries value gratification and having a good time.
International Training and Development Issues in British Airways in the UK
Considering the contexts of the British culture, the management system is more interested in the achievements of the individual. In order to create global managers, however, the company continues to send its employees overseas for work experience in various cultural contexts. Under their international training and development, it can be noted that the corporation offers training for potential expatriates before posting, training after posting as well as diversity training for host country nationals and the third state nationals. Within the UK office, the greatest challenge so far is with regards to training the host country nationals. The members of staff in the UK office have a specified perspective on work, rewards, and relationships to the point that they find expatriate employees from the Thailand office too emotional and in some cases even rude. This is because while in the UK most conflicts are passive aggressive, people from Thailand are used to communicating all their feelings blatantly and in words. As expected, this does not go well with the UK team, thus causing the need for them to be consistently reminded that it is not really being rude if it is part of the Thailand culture. The host country training in this location thus mainly focuses on communication and conflict resolution as a way of maintaining a good working relationship.
International Training and Management Development Issues in British Airways HRM in Thailand
In the Thailand office, the company faces a significant challenge training the expatriate employees on the management positions on the importance of a good working relationship for the Thailand staff. People from the UK assume that personal rewards and achievements are enough motivations thus they are likely to push for adjustments in the compensation program when they need the workers to give the corporation their best (Heller et al. 2010). In Thailand, however, this system does not work, and it takes some time to get the foreign managers to accept this information and thus focus on things that actually matter to their Thai subordinates.
The differences between the UK and Thailand indicate that there are very many challenges that one is likely to face if he/she has to move from either location to another even within the same company. The expectations of a British leader being sent to work in Thailand and those of a Thai leader being sent to work in the UK will both be left unmet if these leaders are not fully informed about the drastic differences between the two nations. Thailand has a lower score than the UK on individualism, masculinity, long-term orientation and indulgence while having a higher score in power distance and uncertainty avoidance. These differences indicate the diverse expectations that an expatriate originally has depending on his/her culture. Relocating to another country would thus require significant training and research in either context.