Globalization is seen as a growing interconnection “reflected in the expanded flows of information, technology, capital, goods, services, and people throughout the world – a force so ubiquitous that it will substantially shape all of the other major trends in the world of 2020” (Brown, 2006, p.23 ) Five years from now, corporate leaders are compelled to focus on two primary areas of development in order to hire the best people, to retain their services, and to develop a competitive advantage over other firms (Steger, 2009).
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First of all, globalization is expected to take on much more of a non-Western face (Brown, 2006, p.23) Corporate leaders will see an increasing number of multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce within individual firms. Secondly, corporate leaders will see the impact of Web 2.0 in hiring, retaining, and developing a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce.
Therefore, the primary challenge for corporate leadership is to bring about a new leadership mindset in order to use Web 2.0 Information Technology in hiring, retaining, and developing a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce.
Multi-Cultural and Multi-Generational Workforce
At the turn of the 21st century the world witnessed the impact of globalization in terms of heightened interconnectedness, and the breaking down of barriers in terms of international trade. The shaping of the future workforce characterized as multi-cultural and multi-generational was an emerging pattern. However it was not obvious to many leaders. There are several reasons explaining the lack of focus regarding this topic in the last 15 years.
The same thing can be said of the critical impact of Information Technology when it comes to hiring, retaining, and developing key personnel in order to create a competitive advantage, and sustain corporate growth. Information Technology has always been linked to globalization.
But in the past the role of Information Technology was more on aspect in the discussion of the impact of globalization, however, its role in shaping the future workforce was not yet clear. Corporate leaders valued the importance of Information Technology in terms of streamlining the supply-chain management process. For example, it was easier to communicate to subordinates through the use of e-mail, instant messaging, and Voice-Over-Internet Protocols.
A significant component of Web 2.0 is social media platforms. In other words, people are not only exchanging e-mails, they are communicating with each other and discussion details about their work and private lives. Facebook and other social media platforms made it easier to develop relationships across continents.
The first reason is the radical shifts in demographics brought about by the retiring baby boomers. The baby boomer generation was expected to retire at the turn of the 21st century. However, the financial crisis of 2008-2009 forced many of them to work until they are 74 to 77 years old (Meister & Willyerd, 2009, p.5).
When they begin to retire five years from now, the corporate world will experience a significant drop in the number of top quality talent. At the same time, there were at least 80 million people born between the years 1977 to 1997, and these people are going to make up half the workforce starting 2014 (Meister & Willyerd, 2009, p.5).
Therefore, corporate leaders are going to fight over the services of experienced and talented professionals in a competitive labour market. At the same time, they are going to deal with the impact of a multi-generational workforce.
The second reason for explaining why current leaders are blindsided by the impact of a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce is due to the fact that fifteen years ago the joint ventures with China and India were just getting started for most global companies (Meister & Willyerd, 2009).
Multinational companies started joint ventures with china and India to increase revenue and sustain the profitability of their respective businesses. However, no one really anticipated the positive impact these ventures will bring to their partners in China and India. According to one commentary:
Rising Asia will continue to reshape globalization, giving it less of a “made in the USA” character and more of an Asian look and feel. At the same time, Asia will alter the rules of the globalizing process. By having the fastest-growing consumer markets, more firms becoming world-class multinationals, and greater S&T stature, Asia looks to displace Western countries as the for international economic dynamism (Brown, 2006, p.23)
Finally, the reason why current leaders are slow to embrace the power of Web 2.0 in hiring and developing top talent is due to the fact that there was never a time when a “generation entered the workplace using technologies so far ahead of those adopted by its employer” (Meister & Willyerd, 2009, p.5).
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Consider the following fun facts regarding Web 2.0: At the turn of the 21st century, “Google had just moved out of its garage office in Menlo Park, California; Apple was considered to be on the skids; YouTube was still five years away from being invented; Facebook’s creator was still in high school” (Meister & Willyerd, 2009, p.1) The emergence of Asian multinational companies and the radical changes in Web 2.0 technology compels a radical change in leadership mindset with regards to managing a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce.
Preparing for the Future
Multinational companies are therefore compelled to send managers and experts to Asian countries as a direct consequence of joint ventures and other forms of business partnerships. At the same time, multinational companies based in Asia will be compelled to send managers and experts into Europe and America to interface with their clients and business partners. Therefore, it is inevitable that future leaders will have to handle a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce or work teams.
The creation of a multi-cultural team is also precipitated by the following development in the corporate realm: “Globalization has brought about major changes in the development model of science and technology, from traditional spontaneous development to a model featuring integration of outside scientific and technical achievements into domestic R&D; from shutting the door to the outside world to opening the door; and from technonationalism to technoglobalism” (Hu, 2011, p.111).
The heightened need for collaboration will increase the number of multi-cultural teams working in corporations all over the world. One of the best starting points is to study leadership and management frameworks, such as, Holfstede’s five cultural dimensions. The first two components of this leadership paradigm is helpful when it comes to acknowledging the value of cultural differences.
The first dimension is labeled as power and distance (Holfstede, 2001). In the American and European culture, it is not a big deal for a subordinate to confront the boss. However, in Japanese culture it is not only a major issue, the subordinates are not allowed to talk to their superiors without considering the importance of age and social status (Holfstede, 2001).
The Second Dimension is Individualism, and it is a helpful management framework when dealing with multi-cultural teams. In the context of managing teams in Asia, the leader must be mindful of the fact that Asian tend to choose harmony over confrontation. Ignorance of this particular cultural dimension may frustrate leaders who are unable to compel team members to speak their minds regarding a particular problem that the group is facing.
Prior knowledge will encourage leaders to persuade team members to speak out and not worry about the potential conflict the critcism might bring to the group. Leaders of the future are supposed to now more about certain analytical tools to help them see the impact of cultural differences in project team management, human resource development, and collaborative works.
For example, the Twenty Statements Test or TST helps leaders determine if a team member or employee adheres the values inherent in individualistic or collectivistic cultures (Rhee, Uleman, Lee, & Roman, 1995, p.143). Those who have an affinity towards a collectivistic cultures prefer, “collective identity, in-group solidariy and harmony; duties and obligations, behavior regulation by in-group norms, family integrity, and strong in-group-out-group distinctions (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman, 1995, p.143).
Thus, the project leader must never assume that Asian members are going to initiate changes on their own without the approval of the group leader. Although the Western mind abhors this kind of mentality, a good leader can use the “collectivistic culture” in the creation of a highly-dependable team that works best when each member knows how to create synergy through the combined impact of inidividual talents working together as one cohesive unit.
The leader of the future must learn to change his worldview regarding the use of Web 2.0 technology, speficifically social media sites like Facebook and YouTube (Barney, 2004). The leader of the future understands the power of social media when it comes to hiring and retaining the services of a multi-generational workforce (Castells, 2010).
Due to the retirement of baby boomers and the inherent market dynamics in the age of globalization, there will be a significant number of younger people who are going to occupy key positions in the corporate world. Based on the aforementioned discussion on the quest for top talent, corporate leaders are going to hire people born in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This means that young people will flood the labour market. These new generation of managers and leaders grew up in a time when social media sites are part of daily living. Therefore, the prudent use of social media platforms is one of the key to attract them to work for a particular company. The same technology does not only provide employment information, it will also provide a platform that companies can use to jumpstart and sustain a corporate training program.
The leader of the future must anticipate the impact of a rising Asian economy, shifting demographics, and the increasing interconnectedness of people because of social media sites. The leader of the future must study the importance of culture in the context of a multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce.
Finally, the leader of the future must know how to use and appreciate Web 2.0 Information Technology in order to attract top talent through social media sites, and at the same time, use the same technology for knowledge and skill transfer.
Barney, D 2004, The network society. Polity Press, Massachussetts.
Brown, J 2006, Globalization in 2020, Nova Science Publishers, California.
Castells, M 2010, The rise of the network society. John Wiley & Sons, Massachussetts.
Hofstede, G 2001, Culture’s consequences: comparing values, beaviors, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. Sage Publications, Califorinia.
Hu, A 2011, China in 2020: a new type of superpower, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.
Meister, J & Willyerd, K 2009, The 2020 workplace: how innovative companies attract, develop, and keep tomorrow’s employees today, Harper & Collins, New York.
Rhee, E Uleman, J & Roman R 1995, ‘Spontaneous self-descriptions and ethnic identities in individualistic and collectivistic cultures’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol.69, no.1, pp. 142-152.