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Cultural Audits of HR Practices, Business Processes and Programs

Overview

Cultural values and preferences can impact how the employees, vendors/suppliers and customers of a global organization respond to its strategies, products, practices and communications. A marketing strategy, training program, compensation plan, advertising campaign, competency model, corporate communication or personnel policy which is successful in one culture may be wholly ineffective in a different culture, resulting in not just loss of revenue, but loss of goodwill as well.

Cultural audits examine current practices, programs and processes to identify how culturally appropriate they may be for multi-cultural or global audiences. They enable the global organization to align business processes with desired outcomes.

Conducting Cultural Audits

A cultural audit consists of three stages: Assessment, Analysis and Recommendation. The Assessment stage can consist of any or all of the following:

Review of internal documents

Review of print and other media (radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, web content, etc.)

Site visits

Focus groups

Surveys

Interviews with stakeholders to define desired outcomes

Data collection for comparison with a cultural database.

The objective of a cultural audit is to identify areas in business practices for improving cultural sensitivity. It clearly identifies challenges and opportunities, establishes a baseline, analyzes the gaps, and directs the organization toward cost effective initiatives.

The goal is to build employees’ loyalty and enhance their productivity, increase the client base adherence, and attract more new clients – thus driving the company’s overall competitive advantage.

Cultural audits can save time, money and effort. They can prevent the erosion of internal and external relationships needed to achieve high performance. Audits can focus the business on prevention of errors in global markets and with the global employee bases. They can also build cultural competence and provide the infrastructure for leveraging continuous improvement.

Examples of Areas for Application of Cultural Audits

A. Outsourcing

US attitudes towards debt and credit are significantly different from the understanding of debt and credit in countries such as India, China, the Philippines, and Costa Rica (as well as other countries/cultures locations chosen). Call center agents need to deal with US Americans who are carrying a heavy debt load. It may be particularly difficult for employees from these cultures to empathize without a great deal of context.

B. Globalization of HR Practices

Company A has successfully rolled out peer mentoring in the US. Peer mentoring assumes individuals are willing to take responsibility to work with their peers to gather and share information about the organization. Employees with a preference for Power Distance may incorrectly expect the manager to provide this information for them and may incorrectly be perceived as “not willing to take initiative.” As currently structured, Company A has created a process that inadvertently discriminates against employees with a preference for Power Distance.

C. HR materials like policies, training manuals, employee handbooks

Companies want to provide employees with information and knowledge but do not know if their materials are legally and culturally appropriate outside the home country.

Notes on Implementation Cultural Audit recommendations can be implemented through the ITAP Alliance. Localization implementation of everything from HR Policies and training materials to marketing presentations and product descriptions can create just the differentiation that will set your company apart from your competition.

Knowledge Inc.

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