Maintenance of organisational culture and its fragmentation

In class, we discussed the importance of organisational culture and how a strong organisational culture can be beneficial for both employers and employees. However, it got me thinking about large multi-national corporations (MNCs) that have branches overseas. Can the “original” organisational culture be maintained with “new” roots in a different culture, and is cultural fragmentation within an organisation always a bad thing?

(1) Can the “original” organisational culture be maintained in a “new” country?

So, we know that culture is the underlying set of beliefs, values, norms shared by members of an organisation. The purpose of culture is that it enables employees to take pride in the organisation they are working for and thus creates a sense of belonging.

What about MNCs that have operations in different cultures? Of course, the organisation can communicate what they expect and how the culture is, organisational socialisation, but that does not gurantee the total acceptance of it by the employees in the “new” country. Organisations also hope for anticipatory socialisation where employees accept the values and beliefs of the organisation before entering. However, that is based on the assumption that the future employee has complete access to the knowledge of the “original” company’s culture. Mostly, organisations count on resocialisation when they set up an overseas division, hoping that employees learn the new culture and accept it.

However, I got to thinking that regardless of the learning processes in place for an employee to accept the organisation’s culture, there will be to a certain extent a difference between the “original” organisational culture and the overseas division. A person is exposed to and acculturated into his/her own culture and hence beliefs well before he/she joins the workforce. These beliefs that an employee has are in line with their own culture and culture that the organisation goes into, not necessarily the culture that the organisation brings thus leading to a cultural fragmentation of sorts within an organisation.

(2) Is cultural fragmentation always a bad thing?

But is cultural fragmentation always a bad thing? We talked about reverse socialisation in class where younger members teach older ones hence influencing the organisation’s culture. My take on this is that organisations that do expand to other cultures need to be open to the “new” cultures. Perhaps there is a possibility that there is something new that can be brought back to the “original” base. Or, and more likely, there is a possibility that the “new” culture can reach out to consumers of the region better. Different cultures subscribe to different aspects of cultures, and the “original” organisational culture is more often than not rooted to the culture of the “original” country. However, who is to say that the country that the organisation is expanding to may have aspects of culture that would work better for the organisation and should be adopted? Aspects such as teamwork or being results versus process oriented.

The different cultures that an organisation exposes itself to, I’m sure, has an effect on organisational culture as a whole. While the foundation of the organisational culture is rooted in western ideals, the way the Asian division works, what it believes in and what makes it tick is quintessentially based in the Asian values.

It is my view then that cultural fragmentation of an organisation’s culture can be beneficial. That’s the way that it can effectively attract talent from respective countries, it also ensures that within an organisation there is diversity. There is a need for organisation culture to constantly be challenged and adapted as that, to me, is a sign that an organisation is open and flexible to change and that in itself is telling of an organisation’s culture.

There needs to be a feedback channel between the “original” organisation and the “new” division of it to discuss which aspects of the organisation’s culture is different and should be changed according to the country that new operations are in. In this way, there is a flatter learning curve during resocialisation as employees can identify easier with the organisation’s culture when it has been adapted to not conflict with the values and beliefs that they have been brought up with.

All in all, the “original” organisational culture’s set of beliefs will serve as a foundation for the countries that it goes into. However, with increasing globalisation, there is a need to acknowledge that cultural fragmentation within the organisation will happen and it may not always be a bad thing if it is approached with an open mind that wants to learn from it rather than excluding it completely. That attitude, will without a doubt build a better organisational culture for employees and employers alike.

What do you all think?



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