Last week, I was facilitating a discussion in class regarding cultural differences in the workplace. Specifically, we had a lively discussion regarding differences in the approach to performance management practices across the globe. For example, in the U.S., we are always focused on formally documenting performance discussions, mostly to protect us from potential employment related lawsuits. In most Latin American countries, as well as in southern Europe, the attitude toward performance management is very informal, usually completed as on-the-spot conversations, and not at all focused on anything written. Perhaps this distinction is a direct result of civil law vs. common law approaches to employment, or a consequence of American at-will employment rules vs. contract employment? As the conversation progressed, we concluded that the primary cause of these differences goes deeper than the law, but rather to cultural principles.
Many employees receive mixed signals about taking time off for the holidays. For example, in one recent company event, it had been relayed to me that the CEO told his employees to “Have a great Holiday … but make your numbers,” then turned to his head of HR, and asked, “Is that what you wanted me to say?” This CEO is a notorious non-stop work machine. Throughout the room, you could hear people murmuring, agitated by the words they just heard. The general takeaway from this audience was a question of whether or not taking time off from work for the holidays would be acceptable, or would it be perceived as taking their eyes off the ball. Knowing the CEO never stops working, people were unsure if this was expected of them, too.
In recent weeks, I have had been in discussion with an HR colleague telling me about a work situation that is likely just a small example of what we will encounter as political opinions become even more pronounced. In her situation, she is working through a concern regarding an employee of Sikh religious beliefs that suffers from a hygiene issue. The employee has been with the company for almost six years, and during this time, there have been just a few conversations to address the issue, nothing documented. Unfortunately, the hygiene issue is bad enough that coworkers and clients have raised their concerns. When discussing the issue with a senior manager in the organization, she was appalled by the reaction, specifically hearing these words, “Well, the issue will not go away. He isn’t going to change what he eats.”
So often there is a disconnection between what employees are looking for from a prospective employer, and what employers think they are offering. A brief article in the latest edition of HR Magazine cites a recent study by Willis Towers Watson that touches on this subject. According to the article, the top three factors people consider when deciding which organizations to work for are fair pay, career advancement, and job security. This is based on surveys conducted around the world. From a global perspective, it is quite fascinating to see that the rest of the world has caught up to the United States, as job security was, until recently, a given. The global economy has certainly changed the landscape.
The theme of managing a multigenerational workforce has surfaced several times over the past weeks, and thought this would make for an interesting topic to share with the readers. There seems to be inherent conflict between the baby boomer generation vs. the millennials, in terms of what each expects, generally speaking, in the workplace. Another way to look at it is from the aspect of digital immigrants, those born before the advent of personal computers, laptops, smartphones, etc., and those born afterwards.
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