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Google Inc. Employees’ Intercultural Competencies Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jul 11th, 2021

A notable aspect of post-industrial life in the West is that as time goes on, more and more organizations are placing increasing emphasis on taking full advantage of the human capital at their disposal. The reason for this is apparent: as practice indicates, making efficient use of people is the key to ensuring that these organizations are able to address competitive challenges. In turn, managing human capital is primarily concerned with deploying an appropriate strategy to identify talented employees and provide them the opportunity to attain self-actualization in the workplace setting. Among the main approaches to achieving this objective is making sure that such settings stimulate the development of intercultural competence in employees. This practice can be expected to have a positive effect on workers’ ability to function as an integral part of a team and consequently on the overall measure of the organization’s effectiveness. This paper will explore the validity of this idea at length, using as an example Google Inc.—a company that fits the definition of “global organization.” While expounding on the subject, I will also promote the idea that the ability to address professional responsibilities in a culturally sensitive manner is one of the most crucial preconditions for a concerned individual who wishes to actualize its existential potential.

Analysis/Discussion

When it comes to discussing the operational strategy of a particular global organization, it is necessary to take into consideration the contextual aspects of how this corporate entity approaches confronting competitive challenges. Probably the most notable of these is connected to the main effect of globalization: as time goes on, the world is becoming increasingly “flatter” in the cultural sense. As Magu (2015) noted, “Globalization results in the widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual” (p. 632). In terms of the functioning of Western societies, globalization contributes significantly to making them truly multicultural. This, in turn, calls for both governmental institutions and commercial companies to adopt a culturally sensitive paradigm of organizational functioning. The rationale behind this suggestion is apparent: managing to achieve this particular objective will without a doubt result in increasing the extent of the organization’s systemic efficiency. After all, an employee’s ability to understand and appreciate different cultures will naturally make it much more likely for him or her to succeed in taking part in collaborative professional tasks. The affiliated organization will also benefit as a whole from such an approach (Liu, Volcic & Gallois, 2015).

At the same time, however, a few problematic issues connected to the outlined organizational context demand consideration. The most obvious is that the notion of intercultural competence is in itself essentially Eurocentric, drawn from the assumption that globalization is a thoroughly objective (unstoppable) process and that the collective West is specifically the actor that has a “natural” right to exercise full control over the process. However, the current dynamics in the arena of international politics (reflective of the ongoing confrontation between Russia/China and the United States) do not appear to be even slightly consistent with such an assumption. Adding even more complexity to the issue in question is that being essentially constructivist, the concept of intercultural competence lacks axiomatic integrity. In other words, the way that different social scientists go about outlining the tangible benefits of the possession of such competence is imbued with a strong speculative quality. In order to deal effectively with this issue in the future, social scientists must be willing to adopt an interdisciplinary approach for addressing the phenomenon.

While conducting this research, I will primarily rely on thematically relevant scholarly articles and books, seeking sources that meet the criteria necessary to be deemed academically credible. Nevertheless, I will also make a point to reference other relevant sources such as web-based blogs and journals. The rationale for taking the latter approach is that even though the first-mentioned sources may fully meet the criteria for credibility, the possibility remains that only some of them will prove to be up-to-date, offering current and relevant information. This factor is especially true in the IT sector that makes up Google’s domain; the company is unceasingly having to adjust its competitive/organizational strategy to remain consistent with the fluctuating demands of the surrounding socioeconomic environment. Moreover, as implied earlier, current geopolitical realities appear to affect the corporate subtleties of the functioning of many global organizations to an ever-greater extent. In addition, because of the nature of this study, online sources in particular may provide many enlightening clues and insights into the issue under consideration.

Commonly referred to as the “world’s best workplace,” Google Inc. is applying much effort to select the best out of those who apply for positions with the company. In particular, Google has a focus on recruiting individuals capable of addressing their professional responsibilities without the need for supervision, along with those who are intellectually flexible enough to discern and develop innovative or even unconventional approaches to solving organizational problems within the range of their professional specialization (Sutton, 2015). In addition, Google makes a point of hiring only individuals who have the capacity to be emotionally comfortable with each other and with the company’s corporate culture.

As a part of advancing its organizational agenda, with an eye to identifying potential employees who fit this profile, Google requires candidates to undergo a series of interviews with recruiters and to take a number of psychometric tests. The actual purpose of this selection procedure is to serve as an instrument to gain insight into the qualitative aspects of the tested applicant’s perception of the surrounding corporate reality and the individual’s place in it. The main focus here is to tell whether the tested candidate for a particular job will be likely to derive emotional pleasure from interacting with his or her co-workers and from acting in a professionally committed manner. The person’s ability in this area is measured in conjunction with the extent of his or her intercultural awareness. As a part of the assessment procedure, the company is requiring job applicants to reflect on the corporate significance of cultural traditions in different parts of the world as well as contemplating their understanding of how the particulars of the individual’s ethnocultural affiliation affect the actual workings of his or her psyche (Moore, 2016).

Once hired, Google’s employees are expected to apply a continual effort in expanding the scope of their intercultural competencies. The company provides its workers with many opportunities to succeed in this undertaking. For example, it has now become a commonplace practice at Google to require top managers to spend a few months abroad to help them familiarize themselves with the cultural customs of other countries where the company’s sub-divisions operate. Such a practice reflects the organization’s awareness that the notion of a competitive challenge has a strong intrinsic cultural component. To capable of functioning as a valuable employee, it is highly necessary to understand the influence that a surrounding cultural environment will have on potential adopted approaches to solving various organizational problems (Schmidt, Rosenberg & Eagle, 2014).

While gathering information with respect to the chosen global organization, I made an effort to ensure the discursive objectivity of the anticipated insights to be obtained. For this reason, I made a point of referring to both academic articles and web-based sources of information to inform the results of this study. Nevertheless, addressing the task proved more challenging than I initially anticipated would be the case. One contributing factor involved the apparent speculative nature of most authors’ approach to the significance of the company’s policies aimed at promoting intercultural competence. For example, the reviewed materials suggest that, according to Google’s perception, a person’s cross-cultural awareness positively relates to his or her value as a competent employee. Moreover, the company’s top officials also believe in the existence of a positive relationship between the former and the person’s genuine commitment to acting in an ethically sound manner while in the workplace. After all, this idea defines the discursive premise of the currently deployed managerial paradigm in the West. The fact that Google has a stated goal of investing heavily in helping its workers to acquire intercultural skills should have resulted in establishing the company’s reputation as a socially responsible commercial enterprise. As practice indicates, however, this is far from being the case.

The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated by way of considering the sheer number of public scandals that the company’s functioning triggered throughout the last decade. In the most recent of these, as revealed in 2017, Google previously resorted to fraudulent means of generating income, such as charging advertisers for clicks that had never taken place (Baron, 2017). Google’s spokesmen declared that the concerning practice under discussion came about as a result of some of the company’s employees having failed to observe the code of corporate ethics. The company has also been sued on account of its managers’ tendency to prefer hiring foreigners as software designers at the expense of denying employment opportunities to equally trained native-born applicants (Moore, 2016). While trying to justify the adoption of such a practice in the court of law, Google’s representatives claimed that the approach had been intended to serve the purpose of promoting cultural diversity within the company. This, of course, suggests that the element of perceptual bias has a strong effect on how numerous authors may view the significance of Google’s commitment to encouraging its employees to develop intercultural competence.

In light of what has been mentioned earlier, the qualitative characteristics of the global intercultural context are as follows:

  • Cultural interconnectedness. Because of the rapid progress that has taken place in the field of IT and the population’s increased mobility, it is indeed appropriate to consider the measure of individual workers’ cross-cultural awareness to be at least partially reflective of the individual’s value as an employee.
  • Cultural flexibility/adaptability. The earlier specified cultural particulars of globalization presuppose that, to be able to prove their professional value to corporate employers, employees must be capable of assessing work-related challenges from a contextual (rather than object-oriented) perspective (Bennett, 2013).
  • Cultural immersion. A worker’s chances to succeed in achieving professional self-actualization can be weighed in conjunction with the measurable aspects of the person’s varying capacity for deriving emotional pleasure from being required to indulge in cross-cultural socialization on a continual basis.

On the one hand, the outlined specifics of the global intercultural context in fact substantially affect my professional attitudes. The reason for this is apparent: I live in a society that is growing increasingly multicultural as time goes on. On the other hand, however, most of the corporate employers that I have dealt with are continuing to adhere to the Eurocentric (or transactional) model for assessing workers, based on the assumption that a valuable employee must be emotionally and cognitively comfortable with an object-oriented type of cause-effect reasoning. Consequently, this implies that the concept of intercultural competence is ideologically driven to a considerable extent. Because of this factor, many employers do not regard pursuing such a goal as being highly workable in any practical sense.

Ever since the time of its founding, Google has enjoyed the reputation of a particularly progressive organization that appreciates its human capital to the fullest. This can partially be explained by the company’s willingness to take practical advantage of the specifically transformational model of leadership, reflecting the idea that to be an effective leader means to be able to provide followers with psychologically empowering motivational incentives. The model’s theoretical premise draws from the assumption that managers should adopt a non-authoritarian and culturally sensitive approach in dealing with their subordinates (Deardorff, 2012). In 2013, Google adopted the so-called “self-directedness” policy, which allowed the employees the liberty to determine their own work schedules and to take an active part in defining the company’s competitive strategy. However, hindsight shows that this development proved to be counter-beneficial in the long term: “Removing the managers meant that the (company’s) founders themselves were continually approached to resolve conflicts and deal with routine, everyday matters” (Sutton, 2015, p. 50). Because of these results, Google’s top managers decided to do away with the policy. This example shows that, contrary to the way such issues may be commonly perceived, the progressive appearance of a particular leadership model does not guarantee that it will prove practically viable.

Nevertheless, there can be little doubt about the fact that as a whole, Google’s corporate culture is indeed consistent with the inherent implications of the term “global leadership.” The validity of this suggestion is best exemplified in the company’s commitment to benefiting humanity (by mean of connecting people together) as something that has value in its own right.

As a culturally competent person, I am fully aware of the fact that intercultural conflicts are usually triggered by a lack of interpersonal understanding between individuals who are coming from different cultures. In its turn, this is best explained with respect to the well-established fact that the specifics of an individual’s ethnocultural affiliation tend to have a considerable effect on how the person reacts to externally induced stimuli. For example, most White people are naturally driven to perceive the surrounding social environment in the earlier-mentioned object-oriented manner while taking full advantage of their culturally determined predisposition to rely on formal logic when trying to find effective solutions to different problems. In this regard, East Asians are much different: “They (East Asians) make little use of categories and formal logic and instead focus on relations among objects and the context in which they interact” (Meijun & Zhihe, 2015, p. 278). Hence, the key to fostering positive intercultural communication appears to be the necessity to explain to workers about the dialectic subtleties of the relationship between culture and cognition. One way of reaching this objective, on the part of the managers, is to enable employees to experience “cultural immersion” in the workplace setting. After all, it has long been understood that the most effective mode of learning is one that is experiential.

Conclusion

I believe that the acquired insights into the subject matter are consistent with the paper’s initial thesis. It is apparent that good reason exists to consider a person’s endowment with intercultural competence as the main precondition for him or her to be able to acquire the reputation of a highly valuable employee. Nevertheless, the earlier discussion also implies that throughout the last decade, the concept under consideration has gained a certain fetishist quality. Despite the multitude of available scholarly publications on the subject, many organizations are continuing to experience difficulty in trying to put this concept to practical use. This once again proves the validity of the suggestion that it is namely the lack of axiomatic clarity regarding this topic that contributes the most toward complicating the task even further. Understandably, it is obvious that the described situation can hardly be deemed tolerable, and a workable solution should be sought for in the future.

References

Baron, E. (2017). Google makes billions by failing to properly police rampant ‘click fraud’ on ads: Lawsuit by Vacaville man. Web.

Bennett, M. (2013). Basic concepts of intercultural communication: Paradigms, principles, & practice: Selected readings. Boston, MA: Intercultural Press.

Deardorff, D. (2012). The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence. New York, NY: SAGE.

Liu, S., Volcic, Z., & Gallois, C. (2015). Introducing intercultural communication: Global cultures and contexts. London, England: SAGE Publications.

Magu, S. (2015). Reconceptualizing cultural globalization: Connecting the “cultural global” and the “cultural local”. Social Sciences, 4(3), 630-645.

Meijun, F., & Zhihe, W. (2015). Toward a complementary consciousness and mutual flourishing of Chinese and Western cultures: The contributions of process philosophers. Philosophy East and West, 65(1), 276-297.

Moore, C. (2016). The future of work: What Google shows us about the present and future of online collaboration. TechTrends, 60(3), 233-244.

Schmidt, E., Rosenberg, J., & Eagle, A. (2014).Web.

Sutton, A. (2015). Work psychology in action. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

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