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human resources management Conduct a series specific case studies companies, countries, approach issue human resource management development. Specific comparative analysis made practices U.S. countries.
Human resource management -- the case of McDonald's and Wal-Mart's HRM practices in Europe, Asia and the United States of America
The role of human resources management has changed dramatically throughout the past recent decades. Once the people operating the machineries and blindly implementing the decisions made by the managers, the employees have gradually metamorphosed into the most valuable organizational assets. They are the ones who put together their knowledge to create intellectual capital and support the employers in attaining their objectives.
The modern day staff members create value for the organization and represent it in all aspects of the business dimensions and the interactions with other categories of stakeholders -- customers, business partners, the general public, governmental and non-governmental institutions and so on. And this trend in the importance of the human resource is supported by the emergence of the services sector -- the largest generator of revenues and employment facilities --, but it is also present in all companies, services or non-services centric.
In this order of ideas, human resource management becomes a key success factor by striving to generate employee loyalty and performance, and the ultimate support in attaining organizational goals. Developing and implementing a HRM program is however a more difficult task, and it is pegged to a wide array of elements, such as managerial traits, the sector in which the company operates, the organizational resources or the nature of the work completed.
All these factors are quantitative, in the meaning that they can be measured and addressed in a numeric and objective manner. Still, there are other factors which are more salient and less difficult to address. One of these factors is represented by culture, in the meaning that it is intriguing to observe how the culture in one region impacts the human resource practices of the economic agent.
Answering this question is a highly intricate endeavor, for the specific reason that the role of culture in shaping human resource management is a qualitative factor -- it cannot be measured or quantified. It will as such be addressed through systematic research of various companies in diverse global regions. Emphasis would be placed on the HRM practices they developed and the scope is that of identifying whether differences occur and if they are pegged to the features of the local cultures.
2. Human resource practices in selected comparisons
The role of culture in shaping the human resource processes is rather difficult to estimate, but it is commonly accepted that such a role does indeed exist. Laraine Kaminsky (2002) for instance believes that "culture impacts on every stage of the HR cycle, from selection and recruitment, to feedback, evaluation, coaching, and exit interviews." In other words, when conducting international operations, the multinational corporation would develop HRM practices based on the features of the local culture.
On the other hand, it is also commonly accepted -- by a different spectrum of researchers -- that multinational corporations develop their own cultures, which they implement globally. In this order of ideas, regardless of the market in which they operate, the multinationals would develop the same HRM practices, as belonging to their own culture, rather than the local cultural features. "Organizations develop a culture of their own that is distinct from the national and industry contexts in which the organization is embedded, thus ignoring the potential impact of external environmental factors on organizational culture" (K'Obonyo and Dimba, 2007).
These statements regarding the role of culture in the development of HRM practices are quite generic, and in order to address the issue at hand from a more particular viewpoint, it is necessary to review the HRM practices implemented by specific multinational corporations operating in Europe, Asia, as well as the United States. For purposes of comparison, the cases of fast food giant McDonald's and retailing leader Wal-Mart would be assessed.
2.1. Culture and location in management
McDonald's and Wal-Mart are two of the most successful companies at the global level. They are often blamed for the impact of unhealthy nutrition on the population, respectively for the sacrifices made in the name of the lowest price, but from an economic standpoint, they are the epitomes of business success and the emblems of the globally triumphant American corporation.
The human resource management practices at McDonald's are centered on the attraction of employees, their retention and their training. McDonald's is globally renowned for promoting its employees to middle management positions and for allowing them to work flexible schedules, so that they can best meet their personal and professional responsibilities.
Within the United States of America, the human resource practices are focused on raising enthusiasm and integrating the staff members within the overall organizational culture. Employees are motivated to be more active and determined to prove their worth, and the company promises to reward them through incentives such as competitive wages, free or discounted meals, flexible hours, management training, promotional opportunities, medical insurance or even profit sharing.
"We strive to hire and keep the brightest and the best. And to do that, we've put together perks designed to make you smile -- even before you pick up your paycheck. From flexible schedules and competitive wages to management training and investment opportunities, our benefits let you know you're a valued part of our team" (Website of McDonald's, 2011).
This culture is highly common within the United States, where economic agents focus on raising enthusiasm and creating a dynamic, competitive and rewarding working environment. Here, companies strive towards integrating the staff members and aligning their individual goals with the overall goals of company. A similar approach was implemented by retail monolith Wal-Mart, who attempts to promote a cheerful working climate. Employees at Wal-Mart gather up each morning to give a cheerful morning salute, to start the day in a joyful mood.
Still, when this culture is exported to other global regions, it is less successful. The most relevant example in this sense is offered by the failure of Wal-Mart in Germany. The retailer operated in the European country for several years, but was eventually faced with the need to count its losses and close the store.
The reasons for Wal-Mart's failures in Germany can be assessed as multiple and linked to various stakeholder categories. Still, on a closer look, they are all due to the company's inability to recognize and adapt to the traits of the local culture. For instance, the German retail industry was already populated with European retailers, such as Metro, Carrefour, Cora or other hypermarkets, and Wal-Mart was unable to compete with them. Then, at the specific level of the human resource policies, Wal-Mart did not recognize that the German population was more private and would not show enthusiasm or enjoy the morning cheer. Also, the German employees were better protected by employment laws and fought the minimum wages as well as the corporate prohibitions from forming and joining unions.
Furthermore, the managers in charge of operations at Wal-Mart Germany were all Americans, who did not want to learn German. Subsequently, English became the official language of Wal-Mart Germany. These managers also ignored the specifics of the German market as well as its legislations (Knorr and Arndt, 2003).
Overall then, Wal-Mart's HRM practices in the European country were virtually imported from the United States, but they did not find a real applicability. The company strived to integrate its own culture in the German store, and did not recognize the particularities and importance of the local culture. In this particular case, the local culture did not play a real role in the development of HRM practices. Nonetheless, since Wal-Mart Germany was eventually closed down, the neglect of local cultures in the development of organizational strategies contours as an inadequate course of action.
And the retaliating giant seems to have learned this lesson and is now better at applying it in Asia. China was the first Asian country penetrated by Wal-Mart and the corporation strived to apply the same HRM model and organizational culture as in the United States. Still, to avoid failure from repeating, it made some concessions, the most important of them being that of allowing the Chinese employees to join unions (Dessler). Other than this however, the HRM policies in Wal-Mart China are similar to those in the United States, focusing on enthusiasm, employee commitment and the staff support in attaining customer satisfaction and organizational goals (Website of Wal-Mart China, 2011).
The experience of Wal-Mart's international expansion portrays a company focused on its own culture, and placing little emphasis on the cultural features of the regions in which it operates. The multinational organization strives to export its operations, its business model and its human resource strategies, and makes little effort towards adapting its HRM practices to the management and development of the staff members.
In the case of McDonald's, the managerial act they implement in China is also similar to…[continue]
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