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Developing an Effective International SBU Intranet-based Employee Manual Outline and Intranet Listing for Thailand
The average cost of sending an employee and his or her family on an overseas assignment is between three and five times the employee's predeparture salary; consequently, it is important for these expatriate employees to be prepared for their assignment to the maximum extent possible (Sims, 2002). While there are a number of strategic approaches available to assist in the planning and management of international human resources, an intranet would be a particularly useful vehicle to assist XYZ Import and Export Company's ("XYZ") expatriate employees become familiar with their new country of assignment, in this case Thailand (Schippmann, 1999). According to this author, "Intranets are effectively leveling the playing field and allow open access to even the most remote (either in terms of distance or platform compatibility) users" (p. 236). The ability to manage a corporate intranet from a U.S.-based company to provide timely information to expatriate employees just makes good sense. Such an intranet can be easily updated, and can provide for an expatriate employee bulletin board and discussion forum to help promote a sense of community and family for those on extended and far-flung assignments -- and Thailand is just about as far-flung as they come. While many employees may encounter a small degree of "culture shock" on assignment to, say, Western Europe, the fact remains that many things in this region of the world are comparable in many ways to things in the U.S.; by sharp contrast though, not only is Thailand further away in distance, it is completely different in thought and behavior than anything many Westerns have ever encountered before. Therefore, forearmed is forewarned and XYZ expatriates will need to know everything in the intranet content and much more as well. These potential limitations and barriers to implementation are discussed further below.
Potential Limitations and Barriers to Implementation.
It is very easy to install and operate a corporate intranet; indeed, it can be accomplished by human resource managers with little or no previous experience (Schippmann, 1999) and at little cost to the enterprise (Ashbaugh & Miranda, 2002). Rather, the challenge of effectively managing cultural diversity in Thailand involves much more than assessing the degree of cultural congruence and developing plans to minimize (or otherwise manage) the cultural gap by designing a new human resources management system (Jackson, Luo & Schuler, 2003). Rather, this initial educational process is just the first step and further efforts will be required to ensure that organizational structures do not create additional barriers to cross-cultural collaboration and serve to develop a workforce with the competencies needed to work effectively amid cultural diversity (Jackson, Luo & Schuler, 2003). According to Sims, "Cross-cultural, technical, and language training programs will probably be required. The complex and differentiated tapestry of labor laws and rules from country to country and provisions for reassimilating the expatriate when he or she returns home are some of the other issues the organization has to address in its IHRM planning efforts" (p. 364). The proposed intranet outline and brief content description for each segment for Thai expatriate employees of XYZ is provided below.
Intranet Content Outline
Thailand: Background and Overview. This section provides a concise but comprehensive overview and history of this Southeast Asian country, including its population, literacy rates, life expectancy and so forth.
Important Local Laws and Customs. Many customs in Thailand are drastically different than those in the U.S., and it is important to become familiar with these customs to avoid embarrassing yourself and XYZ, and to avoid potential legal problems as described above. In addition, every society is different and U.S. citizens are not exempt from local Thai laws. It is important for you to familiarize yourself with these local laws to avoid legal entanglements that may be beyond the scope of the company's and the U.S. consular staff's ability to assist you. Check back often for important updates!
Other Useful Handbooks, Forms and Information. This section provides links to valuable online resources, including a copy of the XYZ Employee Handbook (which contains important relocation information for XYZ employees depending on their position), the IRS and other useful sites about living in Thailand today.
Educational Resources. Thailand in general represents a unique educational opportunity, of course, but there are a number of formal education resources available to help XYZ expatriates continue or begin a new course of study. This section provides some useful links to educational resources sites in Thailand and elsewhere.
Recreational Activities. You are in luck! Thailand has some of the world's best recreational opportunities for both you and your family, and most of these are very reasonably priced or even free with company sponsorship. Be sure to check these out!
Social- and Family-Related Services. Thailand is just about as far away from the United States and still be on the Earth as is possible, and XYZ recognizes that distant assignments place unusual stresses on employees and their families. Join the XYZ expatriate forum today! Make new friends, help others (and be helped) with the difficult Thai language, share tips about where to eat and visit, and much more!
Intranet Content Sections
Thailand: Background and Overview
Thailand was officially known as Siam until 1939, and again from 1945 -- 48. The several ethnic and religious groups represented among Thailand's people are characteristic of the cultural diversity that for centuries has spread southward from China and eastward from India; in fact, the use of the word "Thai," which means "free," to describe the country's people only came into use in the 20th century (Keyes & Keyes, 2005). Thailand is unique in this region of the world by having escaped the colonialist past that hampered its neighbors (Van Esterik, 2000). Things are changing rapidly in Thailand today, and the country is increasingly absorbing Western elements in its society, but the people remain uniquely "Thai" (Vitebsky, 1995). According to Van Esterik, "This capacity to absorb new items of material culture and new practices and make them local and personal protects Bangkok (and increasingly Thailand) from becoming a huge, cosmopolitan Benetton soup in which nothing is local any longer" (p. 32).
Some current key statistics and demographic information for Thailand is provided in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Thailand Key Statistics and Demographics (currency of estimates as noted).
65 years and over: 7.5% (male 2,251,112/female 2,643,933) (2005 est.)
total: 30.88 years male: 30.11 years female: 31.66 years (2005 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.87% (2005 est.)
15.7 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
7.02 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2005 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 20.48 deaths/1,000 live births male: 21.83 deaths/1,000 live births female: 19.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.57 years male: 69.39 years female: 73.88 years (2005 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.88 children born/woman (2005 est.)
HIV / AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.5% (2003 est.)
HIV / AIDS - people living with HIV / AIDS:
570,000 (2003 est.)
HIV / AIDS - deaths:
58,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vector-borne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are high risks in some locations animal contact disease: rabies water contact disease: leptospirosis (2004)
noun: Thai (singular and plural)
Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%
Buddhism 95%, Muslim 3.8%, Christianity 0.5%, Hinduism 0.1%, other 0.6%
Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 92.6%
female: 90.5% (2002)
Flag Description: five horizontal bands of red (top), white, blue (double width), white, and red (Source: Thailand, 2005).
Important Local Laws and Customs
According to Gross and Lepage (2001), "Those familiar with Asian cultures understand that while oftentimes one hears of 'Asian values' and the like, Asia is comprised of many different nations and cultures, each with its own unique characteristics. Cross cultural sensitivity and understanding is important; Western expatriates must be careful not to stereotype "Asians" and instead consider and understand the specific culture with which they are working" (p. 1).
In this regard, there are a number of unique Thai customs that are very important for newcomers to the country to learn right away to avoid embarrassment or even potential imprisonment (see section on "Local Laws" in this Intranet). Many of these customs are based on…