Each society has its own unique culture. This uniqueness of culture affects the values of the members of a given society. Studies and theories on diversity and culture are particularly important for multinational companies that intend to establish their presence in more than one country in the world.
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Geert Hofstede is one of the researchers who have focused on international management, with greater focus on cross-cultural psychology among other pertinent issua es.
This paper will borrow from the theory of cultural dimensions as proposed by Hofstede to evaluate the critical dimensions of the United Kingdom’s national culture. The paper will also make reference to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in trying to explore deeper the aspect of organizational culture and management.
National Culture Dimensions
Power distance is about the extent of inequality that is inherent in a culture and which is agreeable, as well as acceptable among the members of the society who have and those who do not have power. According to Hofstede’s studies, the UK’s score on this aspect is 44 (Needle, 2010, p. 143). This implies that the organizational structures in the UK are mainly flat, with bureaucracy having been lowered to optimum levels.
It also implies that accountability is distributed in an equal manner. This is because employees are considered to be equal with their supervisors. One important observation out of this is the fact that the organizations are able to achieve flexibility, dynamism, as well as resilience. In addition, teamwork is also looked at as a valuable competency because the process of making decisions is highly inclusive owing to the involvement of many people.
UK’s low power avoidance index is highlighted by the teaching of teamwork right from the early education stages. The goal is to achieve a comprehensive body capable of tackling a wide range of challenges and situations through combining the capabilities of individuals.
In the UK school system, for instance, team sports are emphasized as an indication of the support that is being offered to teamwork. An all-round participation when it comes to decision-making process is nurtured in both private and public the institutions through corporative communication tools and the availability of numerous communication channels.
The British Airways is synonymous with its flat organizational structure that mainly seeks to achieve high efficiency at the company. The company has introduced a leaner and agile organizational structure (British Airways, 2009, p. 34).
In 2008, the company allowed up to one-third of its management to leave on voluntary basis and took the opportunity to redesign the orga anization such that it would be in a position to achieve greater customer focus (British Airways, 2009, p. 34).
These arrangements also target to achieve improved governance and leadership. Through the formation of its flat organizational structure, British Airways currently encourages more of its workers to move between the functions in a bid to achieve wider experience and discover new outlets in as far as their respective skills are concerned (British Airways, 2009, p. 34).
This dimension measures the level of anxiety that members of a society develop when they encounter unknown or uncertain conditions. A high score by a nation on this dimension indicates countries making efforts to always avoid ambiguous situations, while a low score indicates that members of the society are comfortable with the varying societal differences in their country.
Hofstede gives the UK a score of 35 points in terms of uncertainty avoidance (Schlägel, 2010, p. 49). In essence, the general attitude amongst the people in the country is lack of formal business attitude. In other words, more attention is given to the essence of a business rather than is done to the business form itself. Most organizations in the country can actually achieve their objectives in a business environment that is more relaxed.
The society gives more importance to long term strategy as a way of achieving objectives. In terms of the society’s acceptance to risk and general change, UK people will often face the change by proposing options that would be appropriate to transform the scenarios that they live in.
One notable character about the people is the fact that they rely on structures and frameworks to enable them identify their course of action. Plans need to be clear and well understood concerning the expectations and parameters.
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The UK government, for instance, sets out long term vision through programs that propose actions meant to address national problems. The reforms on welfare and banking sectors are good examples of strategy plans that highlight long term vision. In terms of frameworks, the UK has established standards to ensure products and services produced in the country meet the requisite standards.
Throughout the world, British standards are popular, with some of them even being adopted as the de facto standards within certain industries. The bail-out strategy that the UK administration adopted in the face of the global financial crisis that began off in 2007 underline the change acceptance as well as the resilience that is synonymous with the UK culture.
Being one of the countries hardest hit by the crisis, the regulatory bodies managed to analyze the situation and offered proposals that would limit the effects of the crisis as well as avoid similar crises in the future.
The British Airways has set out its long-term vision on becoming the leading premium airline globally (British Airways, 2009, p. 26). British Airways wants to emphasize on ‘passenger and cargo flights’. As a matter of fact, the company plans to introduce new products together with new services in order to compliment the core service.
The focus on achieving global leader is aimed at ensuring that wherever the airline operates, both individuals and the business travelers will always want to fly with the British Airways (British Airways, 2009, p. 26). Targeting the premium goal or objective, British Airways is seeking to ensure that all customers flying the carrier will enjoy unique premium services.
To enable it achieve the above vision, British Airways has particularly focused on five key goals (British Airways, 2009, p. 26). These goals include being the airline worth choosing when it comes to long haul premium customers, delivering a unique service for all its customers at all the touch points, and expanding the airlines’ presence within all the major cities throughout the world (British Airways, 2009, p. 26).
Other important goals identified include building on the company’s leading position in the city of London, which also happens to be the airline’s home city, and meeting the needs of the customers. This will be done while the company also focuses on improving its margins through the acquisition of new revenue streams (British Airways, 2009, p. 26).
To further accentuate the corporate vision, British Airways launched a change program for three years, dubbed as Compete 2012 (British Airways, 2009, p. 27). The program was linked to British Airways’ sponsorship of the Olympic Games that were later held in London in 2012.
The program was rolled out across the company’s business in a progressive manner for purposes of refreshing the organizational culture while targeting to revolutionize the way the company works (British Airways, 2009, p. 27).
This dimension evaluates the extent to which a given society values long-term, in contrast to short term, values, and traditions. According to Hofstede’s study, the UK’s index on future orientation is 25 (Cooper-Chen, 2005, p. 9). A low score on this dimension is characterized by general equality in the society, high creativity, as well as individualism.
The implication of such characteristics is that individuals living in such a society are bound to be less attached to the existing customs and traditions. The people consider others as equals, while they seek self-actualization. Members in the society hold others with high respect and would not hesitate to introduce changes that they deem necessary.
In the UK, various examples point at the constant innovation as well as changes that are inherent in the society. The country’s music industry is popularly known for producing both new popular bands and new musical styles that are later accepted in the rest of the world.
UK’s entrepreneurship has particularly played a significant role in enabling the improvement and invention of machinery, devices, sports, and even services that have eventually succeeded in transforming world history. With the change of generation comes the transformation of customs and traditions, paving way for the invention of new ones.
As Davila, Epstein, and Shelton (2007, p. 117) note, British Airways was in the 1970s reputed as the last choice airline. However, this weakness was changed progressively as the company sought to introduce innovation as the best strategy of transforming the work culture in the early 1980s.
The strategy involved putting the whole frontline staff, which included 40,000 personnel through a program dubbed Putting People First that lasted for two days. In the program, the main point that was dealt with was the building of interpersonal relations. The move bore positive results as the employees became sensitive to aspects of good relations both with the customers and amongst the workers themselves (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2007, p. 117).
A number of cross-functional teams were established with the critical objective of pursuing change process. Examples of the teams included one charged with the designing of management information system (MIS), while another one was expected to refurbish livery.
A combination of all these programs enabled British Airways to win the award of the best airline for several years in the 1980s. The move also enabled the airliner to record a £216 million in profits in 1984, being a turnaround from the £545 million loss that the company had recorded previously (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2007, p. 117).
Gender egalitarianism measures the degree with which a particular society maintains and values roles that traditionally have been associated with the male or female members of the society. High scores are a pointer to a society where men are expected to show ‘toughness, be the provider, be strong, as well as be assertive.’ In such a society, it is expected that women should only engage in professions that are different from those of men.
On the other hand, low scores in this dimension indicate a society with blurred roles. Members of the society, regardless of their gender, will work together comfortably in different professions. This is very common in any society in the world. Such a society accords women the opportunity to work hard and scale the heights of their professions, even as men remain sensitive.
Hofstede’s studies equated the UK society with an even score of 66 in as far as the gender egalitarianism dimension of the society is concerned. This reflects the fact that the UK society places a distinction between the works that are considered to be for men and that considered to be for women. A woman in the UK is at freedom to attempt what a man does and the society respects powerful women who register great success in their roles.
The UK government has for long witnessed women take charge of significant roles. The head of state in the country, for instance, is Queen Elizabeth II who has been at the helm since 1952. Britain has also had the privilege of being headed by a woman Prime Minister, the late Margaret Thatcher, who headed the government for close to 12 years, between 1979 and 1990 (Evans, 2007, p. 1).
The private sector and general business leadership in the country have also witnessed women leaders with reputable results. However, given that Hofstede’s evaluation of the country on this dimension is even, it is worth noting that some activities in the society are still regarded as being women duty. Children care and housekeeping, for instance, are still strongly looked at as women chores.
At British Airways, the company has set out elaborate measures that are aimed at achieving gender equality (British Airways, n.d., para 4). Work-life balance has been an important issue as a way of ensuring that women go back to work without delay after their maternity leaves.
Harassment and bullying are addressed by the management through specific policies in the area that mainly aim at raising awareness of the dignity and offering high respect at the work place (British Airways, n.d., para 4). British Airways is a member of the DTI/Amicus Dignity at Work.
The company uses its membership to share information and work in close association with other member companies all aimed at dealing with bullying and harassment at the workplace (British Airways, n.d., para 4).
Activities are also undertaken across British Airways, including poster campaigns, road shows, and even publishing of journal articles. These varied methods are all aimed at innovativeness and creating engaging communication by way of producing videos and many other training activities.
Other aspects of gender equality that British Airways addresses further include racial equality, supplier diversity, sexual orientation, as well as religion and belief (British Airways, n.d., para 4).
This measure determines the strength that marks the ties between individuals living together in a society (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2010, p. 198). A society with a high score of collectivism indicates the high tendency with which people lose connection with each other.
However, a low score in collectivism points at the inclination of the members of the society to have strong cohesion within groups. Group members respect each other a lot and remain loyal to one another all the time. Equally, individuals take responsibility for the well being of their colleagues in the group.
The UK’s score in terms of collectivism as determined by Hofstede is 89 (Sengupta, Bhattacharya & Sengupta, 2006, p. 54). This is a considerably high score, indicating that society highly values people’s time as well as their freedom need. The society generally enjoys dealing with challenges, particularly in regard to the fact that rewards follow hard work as well as high respect where privacy is involved.
The degree of individualism in the UK is reflected in the single-occupancy properties that are seen in the country. In general, there is an increase in the number of such properties throughout the country. With the increase in individualism, there is a culture that is highly inculcated to rewarding hard work.
For instance, the UK banking sector is renowned for motivating employees through the provision of bonuses to match the accomplishment of objectives.
The UK’s respect for an individual’s personal information highlights further the evidence that the society observes individualism. The laws concerning this aspect protect information about individuals from being accessed without their consent, regardless of the individual’s social or legal status.
Leaking of private information in the UK is considered as being a big fault. Similarly, the UK is widely considered to be a debate culture owing to the individualism levels in the country.
There is literally no existence of such thing as a typical employee of British Airways. Workers are drawn from varied walks of life and backgrounds. The policy at the airline encourages diversity to achieve an all-inclusive team that is able to learn from and develop each other.
One determining factor of the UK’s workforce diversity is in the diversity of the customers served by the airline. As such, British Airways strives to ensure the diversity of its customer base is well reflected in its workforce. Additionally, the company has taken upon itself to reflect the demographic picture of the workforce in the UK.
For instance, the British targeted to achieve a 50% workforce comprising of women, while also setting aside up to one-third of its managerial jobs to women (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32). With the company’s target being to achieve a workforce that is totally diverse, British Airways encourages persons with disability to apply for employment consideration (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32).
The company also expresses its subsequent commitment to assist disabled persons in their development. Recognition of lifestyle changes has seen British Airways strengthen its teams by distinguishing the additional responsibilities that individuals need to fulfill for their families and their personal commitments (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32).
There are special services for parents who are employees at the firm, including such initiatives as summer schools for the children who have attained the school-going age (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32). These arrangements aim at easing the demands of full-time child care and full-time work.
In general, the British Airways targets to create a working environment for its workers by providing all the above additional services (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32). The company seeks to retain all its workers and develop them to enhance the overall performance of the company. This will, in essence, enable the airlines to recognize and value the fact that its workforce is diverse (Cornelius, 2001, p. 32).
Different societies have different cultural practices that often affect the way they do their numerous activities. Several studies have attempted to study cultures and rank them on certain aspects in order to make it possible for people who are not part of society to interact with individuals easily.
One such study has been conducted by Geert Hofstede who identifies important dimensions upon which a society can be evaluated. These dimensions include power distance, uncertainty avoidance, future orientation, gender egalitarianism, and collectivism, among many other dimensions.
Geert’s studies classify the UK has having a low power distance score, meaning the country’s organizations generally have a flat organizational structure. In essence, supervisors and their subordinates work closely together. British Airways, for instance, has a flat structure that seeks to achieve leanness in terms of performance.
The UK’s score on uncertainty avoidance is also low, depicting the culture’s tendency to rely more on long term strategies as a perfect way of achieving their objectives. The British Airways equally adopts a similar strategy where it draws out its vision well in advance and determines appropriate steps to enable it to achieve the targets. The UK also scores lowly on the aspect of future orientation, but even in terms of gender egalitarianism.
List of References
British Airways 2009, Annual Reports and Accounts 2008/09, viewed April 15, 2013, http://www.britishairways.com/cms/global/microsites/ba_reports0809/pdfs/Workplace.pdf
British Airways n.d., Diversity strategy: Gender equality, viewed April 15, 2013, http://www.britishairways.com/travel/crdivstrategy/public/en_gb#disability
Cooper-Chen, A 2005, Global entertainment media: Content, audiences, issues, Lawrence Erlbaum, New Jersey, NJ
Cornelius, N 2001, Human resource management: A managerial perspective, Thomson Learning, London
Davila, T & Epstein, MJ & Shelton, RD 2007, The creative enterprise: Execution, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT
Evans, EJ 2007, Thatcher and Thatcherism, Routledge, New York, NY
Needle, D 2010, Business in context: An introduction to business and its environment, South-Western, Hampshire
Samovar, LA, Porter, RE & McDaniel, ER 2010, Communication between cultures, Wadsworth, Boston, MA
Schlägel, C 2010, Country-specific effects of reputation: a cross-country comparison of online auction market, Gabler Verlag, New York, NY
Sengupta, N, Bhattacharya, M, & Sengupta, R, 2006, Managing change in organizations, Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi