HR corporate culture: There are major differences between USA and GCC
Dr. Amira Shalaby is an American with Egyptian background that has lived in USA for over 30 years, and is currently operating in the GCC region. Amira has a career of over 25 years as a University Professor (both post-graduate and undergraduate), Facilitator, Trainer and Human Capital Management (HCM) Advisor. In this interview for LEORON Professional Development Institute, Dr. Shalaby discuses some of the leading challenges in the field of HC and draws a parallel between industry standards in the western world and the GCC. She notes that the young population of the Middle East will be in direct need of jobs and education where the West can come in strategically to assist them in developing and restructuring the population accordingly. Moreover, Amira is certain that some of the most important challenges in the upcoming decade will definitely include leadership development, successfully managing change and Human Capital professionals to best utilize HC metrics and measures as an integral tool to in assessing change, productivity and efficiency.
1. In our attempt to acquire a few more substantial insights on the role of HR (HC) and the latest trends in this field, could you briefly make a reference to any ongoing developments that you consider to have struck this field with a transforming tendency? Where is HR management heading today?
Dr. Shalaby: The rapid transformation in the field of Human Capital Management has led the HC management team to closely look at many ongoing developments to include:
*Recruiting, managing, retaining and developing current talent with its continuous scarcity in light of the fact that over the next 5 years, the gap will continue to increase between available and required human capital with the required competencies.
*Higher ethical standards focusing on trust and integrity at all levels, understanding that trust is the base for triumphant leadership.
*Harnessing new technology to communicate with employees by moving to software platforms (HCIS) with specialized applications to include succession planning, applicant tracking, job evaluation, performance evaluation, grievance handling; intranets and linking them with the worldwide internet whilst maintaining security. This will allow for more employee self- service and data exchange for benefits transactions, personal data update, context-specific information and personal development.
*Managing the changing and diverse workforce in light of the structural shift from the manufacturing to service sector. Also due to the increased multi-cultural human capital components in almost every industry, sector and country in the world. This entails a better understanding of national cultural differences and how it will trickle down and affect the organizational culture.
*Work-Life Balance with more flexible patterns of work to sustain high productivity and efficiency whilst maintaining sound family relationships and health conditions.
2. According to some of the latest researches on HR, professionals from the field are anticipating some major challenges during the next decade. In fact, a survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers on behalf of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations, states such approaches as change management, leadership development and HR effectiveness measurement to be of utmost importance in the future. What is your personal view on this? Moreover, are these standards also applicable to the GCC region?
Dr. Shalaby: Some of the most important challenges in the upcoming decade will definitely include leadership development, successfully managing change and Human Capital professionals to best utilize HC metrics and measures as an integral tool in assessing change, productivity and efficiency.
Leadership development is fundamental for the sustainability, branding, stability and growth of organizations to continue prospering and competing. It is crucial to recruit, retain, train and develop successors for all key positions in any organization for its sustainability. On another note, it is important for organizations to continue managing change and maintaining an organizational culture that is sensitive to the many national cultural differences of their human capital. Understanding that human capital are an organization’s most valuable asset, HC professionals need to lead this change if they are to carry on in today’s competitive business world. HC effectiveness measurement is of utmost importance if we are to manage and improve productivity, efficiency and change. HC professionals will only be able to accomplish this by utilizing appropriate and accurate measures and metrics that will allow for precise assessments throughout the organization.All of the above challenges and initiatives are very relevant not only in the West, but definitely in the GCC since there is a multitude of nationalities which brings vast diversity to almost every organization in every industry and sector. Thus, it is imperative to take all of these challenges into consideration and seek the best fit of international but culturally sensitive strategies to adopt and implement to realize success.
3. One of the programs you teach, the CHRM (Certified Human Resource Manager) by IABFM, seems to deliver more than a basic understanding of HR: It offers an in-depth understanding of HR policies and procedures. How this is beneficial to attendees and what particular gains may the host companies acquire by engaging their employees in such programs?
Dr. Shalaby: The CHRM program, not only delivers a basic understanding of HC, rather the various strategies that can assist any organization in realizing success through its most important asset—namely its human capital. Appreciating the need to resort to creative and sound strategies to accomplish an organization’s vision and mission; HC professionals will need to partner with top management to develop these strategies and initiate programs and action plans that will be implemented successfully via sound, fair and ethical HC policies and procedures.
4. Considering your diverse background, which seems to encompass much of the US and the GCC, are there any major differences that distinguish HR corporate culture in these two regions?
Dr. Shalaby: There are definitely major differences between HR corporate cultures in the USA vs. the GCC. In an attempt to illustrate some chief differences in culture, I will refer to Hofstede’s 5 major cultural dimensions of:
*Power Distance (PD)
*Uncertainty/Avoidance Index (UAI)
*Long-Term Orientation (LTO)
In the USA, one will find that that Power Distance is low where people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power. On the other hand, we will find just the opposite, where PD is high.
Individualism, which is a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families, prevails in the USA. Where collectivism is the preference in the GCC, as they prefer a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. So basically it’s the difference between “I” vs. “We.” Now at work, the opposite is the case, respectively. That’s why teamwork in the GCC is more challenging than in the USA.
Masculinity is the preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success and more competitive; which is characteristic of the USA. However, it is much lower in the GCC where it prefers Femininity which stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented. Better described in the business
context, Masculinity versus Femininity is related to as “tough versus gender” cultures.
Uncertainty/Avoidance Index is much higher in the USA versus the GCC. It refers to the degree to which members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas. Conversely, weak UAI societies such as the GCC, maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.
Lastly, Long Term Orientation is much lower in the GCC than in the USA—the former prefer to maintain time-honored traditions and norms while the later encourages thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future. In light of these 5 major cultural dimensions, one can better understand and expect the numerous challenges when people from the West and East come together in one organization. Coming from polarized national cultures, obviously this makes for a challenge in trying to create a “sound and balanced” organizational culture. Human capital of different national cultures would be expected to work harmoniously, efficiently with constructive conflict which would lead to creativity rather than destructive conflict. Working in teams, concept of time, ambiguity, the distribution of power and accepting democratic/participative management are just a few of the many challenges that are confronted in any multi-background corporate culture.
5. Demographic shifts are said to play a major role in workforce and education. Contrary to the developed world, where the next couple of decades are expected to produce an overall decrease in professional involvement and education by the baby boom generation, the emerging markets such as the Middle East, have a very young population. This inherently brings up the need for jobs and teaching. In this manner, do you think HC has the capacity to restructure the population accordingly? Can professional development companies help in this aspect?
Dr. Shalaby: In an attempt to undertake this huge challenge in the Middle East, the West definitely has a ‘golden opportunity’ in expanding their business and opening new markets. Whether it is investments in production, export, goods/products or services, government or private sector; these demographic shifts will provide for win-win circumstances for all. The young population of the Middle East will be in dire need of jobs and education where the West can come in strategically to assist them in developing and restructuring the population accordingly.
6. Amira, you also offer the “Performance Evaluation for Employees and Establishment” program, that tends to be a balanced assessment of an employee’s performance within organization. What are the potential benefits of this?
Dr. Shalaby: Quoting Deming “you can’t manage or improve what you can’t measure.” Thus, the potential benefits of this Program for any person/organization are abundant. To name but a few:
*Identify/coin what is meant by “Performance”
*Develop quantifiable measures for qualitative tasks to measure performance
*Classify Metrics and Measures that will assist in standardizing Performance Evaluation *Develop KPIs for organizations and industries
*Build a fair and standard Performance Evaluation Management System for human capital—an organization’s most important asset
*Allow for a gauge in determining training and development gaps for all employees
*Allocate measurements that will serve as International Indicators and Standards to compare to other world-wide organizations in the same industry.
*Offer fair and just evaluation methodologies and techniques for all employees * Put forward standard measurements to strategically quantify, improve and manage all tasks in an organization
* Drive efficiency vs. effectiveness
* Ascertain the need for forces for change, how to drive organizational change and managing change and transition
I could go on and on, but then I leave nothing appealing for people to look forward to and arouse their interest to attend the “Performance Evaluation for Employees and Establishment” Program!
7. To conclude, which industries would benefit mostly by attending the HR (HC) programs?
Dr. Shalaby: Since human capital is any organization’s most important, crucial and vital asset; then it is highly recommended that any organization in all industries, whether government, private sector, NGO or family-owned business highly consider in investing in its human capital to attend these programs. These programs are significant, not only for HC professionals, but also for employees in any other function so as to be able to partner with the HC professionals to strategize and implement successful programs and action plans throughout the organization. Interview by Gent Mehmeti, Corporate Communications Manager at LEORON Professional Development Institute
Interview by Gent Mehmeti, Corporate Communications Manager at LEORON Professional Development Institute