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International HR Issues


This case is designed to examine the international dimensions of human resources

administration as they relate to the recruitment and selection process. When analyzing this case,
students often conclude that no one candidate is perfect for the job. Rather, they believe that two of the
three need to be hired for it. The instructor may want to tell students that only one can be hired.

During the class discussion, it becomes apparent that not one of the applicants appears perfect
for the job. The instructor may want to point out that this suggests three possible solutions: (1) the firm
needs to do some additional recruiting, i.e., look for alternative candidates that possess all of the needed
skills, (2) conduct a comprehensive job analysis to determine more specifically and completely the skills
needed in order to perform the job of manager of the Nigerian facility, and (3) obtain more
comprehensive information regarding the skills and qualifications of each of the three applicants.


1. Would it be best for Victoria Oilfield Equipment to select a manager who is a local
(citizen of Nigeria), a home country national (citizen of the United States), or a third-
country national (citizen of some country other than Nigeria or the United States)?

There is no one correct answer to this question. Rather, there are pros and cons to each
alternative which can be discussed. It is important to call to the student's attention that the nationality
issue is not the sole criterion one should use in deciding which candidate should be selected.
2. Which of the factors to be considered would favor the selection of Henry Smith?
Juan Lopez? Matthew Ohwueme?

There are numerous criteria that could be considered in the selection process. Listed below are
some of them along with a possible ranking of each candidate on each criterion:

Education: Smith, Ohwueme, Lopez

Experience: Smith, Lopez, Ohwueme

Job Knowledge: Lopez, Smith, Ohwueme

Past Performance: Smith, Lopez, Ohwueme

Desire: Insufficient Information

Stability: Insufficient Information

Start-up Phase Competence: Lopez, Smith, Ohwueme

Technical Expertise: Lopez, Smith, Ohwueme

Environment Competence Ohwueme, Lopez, Smith

Operation of Equipment: Ohwueme, Lopez, Smith

3. Which candidate would you recommend?

No one candidate is clearly superior to the others on all of the criteria. A strong case can be
made for each individual. Ultimately, the decision rests on the criteria selected and the value placed on
each of them. The instructor may want to point out to students that value issues surround all selection

This teaching note was submitted by Dr. Sam C. Holliday, formerly with the University of Southern


It is very common in the publishing industry to outsource some or all editorial work to third-
world countries, particularly to India where the use of spoken and written English is prevalent.
The reason for U.S. publishers outsourcing editorial work to India is the huge differential in labor
costs with Indian labor costs approximately 25% of those in the U.S. However, these savings may
be overstated if labor productivity and/or the quality of the finished product is in inferior to that
previously produced in the U.S. and requires corrections or reworking. This case illustrates some
of the challenges of outsourcing to third-world countries.


The purpose of this case is to help students think through both the pros and the cons of
outsourcing to less-developed countries with lower labor costs. In such countries, less
experienced employees may have less familiarity with cultural norms and expectations of U.S.
based authors and publishers.


The problem here is that the “intuitional memory” of how particular books were edited and how
communications with authors were handled is often lost when publishers decide to outsource
the entire editorial process to third-world countries for financial reasons. Once that decision is
made, a publisher should invest time and effort in bringing the new Indian editors “up to speed”
in terms of cultural expectations and communication needs regarding both authors and
publishers. In this particular case, not enough time and effort was devoted to these issues.


1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishers or other employers

outsourcing to third world countries?
The advantages are significant cost savings in the short run if productivity and work quality are equal to
that provided by employees in the U.S. If not, then the cost advantage could decline or disappear as
reworking of “completed tasks” is required. The disadvantages might include communication difficulties
between authors and editors since expectations of each might not be clear to the other. This is often the
case where the editors are inexperienced or there are cultural differences between authors and editors.
The long term result could be higher cost for the project. Another potential disadvantage is the likely
deductions in wage differentials between developed and less-developed countries as outsourcing
increases the demand for and power of labor in those countries.

2. What changes, if any, would you suggest to the publisher to better serve their authors
during the editorial process? Why?

First, the company might consider “insourcing” the editorial process to qualified housewives and
mothers of small children in the U.S. who desire work they can do from home. Although their hourly
wage might be higher, the total labor costs may be similar or lower if the quality of work is higher than
that provided by employees in third-world countries. Editorial work expectations, cultural understanding
between editors and authors, and communication with authors is also likely to be better with domestic
editors. Second, if “insourcing” is not possible, then an greater effort needs to be made to train India-
based personnel regarding communicating with authors, author expectations, and development of a
clear plan for what will be sent to authors by what dates and what responses will be required from
authors by what dates. In other words, clear communication between editors and authors regarding
expectations before the project begins should enhance the quality of work and the final results.


The case begins with Fred in Tokyo wondering whether or not to tell his home office in Boston
that he and his family are returning early from their overseas assignment. Fred reflects back on the
events that contributed to his current situation.

The case really begins with Fred receiving a chance to head-up the firm's Tokyo office. Although
Fred's wife, Jenny, is not so thrilled about the opportunity, Fred thinks he cannot pass it up. Fred and
family leave not long after the decision is made, basically by Fred, to accept the position in Tokyo. Fred
and his family receive little training and have almost no time to do any preparation themselves.

Fred made several mistakes early in his assignment:

1. He failed to notice that there was a division between Japanese and foreign workers.
2. He failed to realize that in the first meeting the Japanese felt put on the spot and were not
comfortable giving their honest thoughts in that public situation.
3. Fred took the John Wayne approach to trying to win a new contract, an approach that was
uncomfortable for the Japanese client.
4. Fred again failed to realize what a young Japanese research associate really was trying to say,
and the situation got worse from there.

In addition, Jenny had trouble adjusting to Japan, and now she insisted that they go home.


The teaching objective with this case is primarily to help students explore the factors that
facilitate and inhibit successful cross-cultural adjustment for an American expatriate and his spouse and
how their adjustment is related to each other.

1. What factors (individual, work, and organizational) contributed to Fred and Jenny’s
lack of adjustment to Japan?

As was mentioned earlier, Fred made several mistakes:

He failed to notice that there was a division between Japanese and foreign workers. He failed to
realize that in the first meeting the Japanese felt put on the spot and were not comfortable giving their
honest thoughts in that public situation. Fred took a John Wayne approach to trying to win a new
contract which clashed with the cultural values of the Japanese client. Finally, Fred failed to realize what
a young Japanese research associate really was trying to say, and the situation got worse from there.

It is usually easiest to get the class going by asking a student how adjusted they feel Fred is and
what factors have contributed to his adjustment. The student will nearly always state that Fred is not
very adjusted and then begin to list factors. It is often effective to group the factors on the board into
four categories: individual, work, organizational, and non-work. This will provide a structure to the
student’s laundry list of factors. Also, it is helpful to ask the student from time to time to explain why a
certain factor he or she mentioned either inhibited or facilitated Fred’s adjustment. Generally, students
will list primarily factors that are inhibiting Fred’s adjustment. They should be pushed to consider factors
that are facilitating Fred’s adjustment. This process can be facilitated by statements such as, “with all
these negative factors, it’s a wonder Fred has survived 6 months. Why hasn’t he just jumped out his
window? Aren’t there any factors facilitating his adjustment?”

This same process should be repeated to analyze Jenny’s adjustment. At this point it is quite
normal for students to begin to discuss the relationship between Fred and Jenny’s adjustment. In fact, it
is not uncommon for students to list Fred as a significant negative factor of Jenny’s adjustment problems.

Although logically backwards, it is often useful at this point to discuss the various mistakes Fred
has made because of his lack of understanding of Japan. This provides a nice lead-in to a discussion or
mini-lecture on the underlying process of cross-cultural adjustment. What is culture shock and why does
it happen? What is the U-curve notion of cross-cultural adjustment and why does it happen? Based on
this discussion or lecture, students can begin to debate whether or not Fred and Jenny are simply going
through normal cross-cultural adjustment.

2. What mistakes did Fred make because of his lack of understanding of Japan?

See list in question 1.

3. What criteria would be important in selecting employees for overseas assignments?

First it is important for organizations to carefully identify the types of skills needed by managers
to successfully complete an overseas assignment. Research on international selection issues indicates
that companies often emphasize technical skills while neglecting cultural skills. When international
assignments fail it is usually because expatriates can’t fathom the customs of the new country or
because their families cannot deal with the emotional stress of relocation to a foreign environment.
Criteria important in selecting employees for overseas assignment should include previous experience or
knowledge of different cultures and demonstrated language skills. These experiences would indicate a
commitment and interest in living and working with different cultures. For example, an individual who
has been a foreign exchange student, traveled abroad, or who has studied another language would have
some appreciation of how to interact with different cultures.

4. What special training and development programs might have been beneficial to Fred
and his family prior to his assignment to Japan?

One of the major reasons for Fred’s lack of success was that his company sent the family to
Japan without any type of training or orientation. Fred and his family only had three weeks to prepare
for the trip. Needless to say most of this time was spent on packing and other logistical activities. The
company should have provided both Fred and his family with an orientation program that would provide
knowledge of the customs and culture of Japan. This program could have involved lectures, films and
videos, museum trips, and even a restaurant trip to familiarize the family with Japanese food. Fred
should have also been given a “realistic job preview” and the opportunity to talk with other executives in
the company who had completed an assignment in Japan. This preview should have included
information on the benefits and idiosyncrasies of an assignment in Japan. The entire family could have
benefited from some language training that would at least familiarize them with everyday phrases.
Firms that provide training for executives with overseas assignments suggest four levels of training:
Level I – focus on the impact of cultural differences and the impact on business outcomes of these
cultural differences; Level II – focus on attitudes and aim at getting participants to understand how
attitudes influence behavior; Level III – focus on factual knowledge about the country in question; and
Level IV – focus on skill building in areas like language and adjustment and adaptation skills.

5. Assume you are Dave Steiner and you receive a call from Fred about his difficulties in
Japan. How would you respond? What should be done now?

The real decision may rest with Fred and how he feels about staying in Japan. Fred may see his
options as either staying or leaving. For those students that think Fred should leave, the self-esteem,
career, and family consequences of that decision should be explored and carefully analyzed. For those
students that think Fred should stay a simple role play is often effective. Usually someone will suggest
that Fred try to convince Jenny to hang in there just a little longer. Asking a female student who seems
to identify with Jenny to play Jenny and the other student to play Fred creates an interesting means of
analyzing the difficulty of staying.

Steiner needs to be supportive of Fred's situation and help him to sort out the advantages and
disadvantages of his situation. Fred would naturally be concerned about this impact of his decision on
his career future. Steiner should offer support for language training for Jenny and Fred and to allow Fred
more time to complete his goals and work plans.


It is helpful to summarize the categorization of factors that can facilitate or inhibit cross-cultural
adjustment and the basic underlying process. It is also helpful to point out that given the increased
internationalization of business, the chances of one of the students being sent on an overseas
assignment is quite high. By briefly summarizing the disparity between what the students suggested
firms do to facilitate cross-cultural adjustment and what most U. S. firms actually do, the point that
students need to protect themselves and take steps to set themselves up for success rather than failure
if they decide to take an overseas assignment can be made quite nicely.

Students are nearly always interested in what really happened. What happened is that Fred was
an innocent abroad but he was no dummy and was reflective. He knew Jenny was at her limit. He knew
an early return would seriously hurt his career and in turn might affect his relationship with Jenny. He
realized that he had neglected Jenny and that she had been isolated. Fred got a flash and called Jenny's
sister and asked her if she would like a free trip to Japan. Jenny's sister came over to Japan, and Jenny
had a great time showing her some of the interesting sights in Tokyo and other close areas. Fred got
some budget slack from the home office for training for both himself and Jenny. He and Jenny stayed in
Japan. Fred turned the Tokyo office around and was made partner in the firm.

This instructor’s note was prepared by J. Stewart Black.



This case provides students with the opportunity to discuss cultural issues and its management in a
multi-national organization. Globalization has resulted in companies doing more and more business in
other countries. Human resource managers need to be able to make a significant contribution in helping
their organizations be successful from a human resource management perspective. It is often these
issues (lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness that can spell the difference between success and
failure). Cultural diversity in the workplace is known to cause conflict, which often results in
misunderstanding, frustration and motivational problems. The present case is an adaptation and
shortened version of an actual situation that took place in South Africa during 2002. The case illustrates
the importance of understanding different cultural assumptions, beliefs and values in a multi-cultural
workplace. It also illustrates the importance of preparing management and employees on cultural
aspects for foreign or international work assignments.


1. Why are the views of the German managers and associates so different? What are the underlying
cultural values that may be causing the differences?

‘Why are views so different’ can be discussed based on the basis of diversity and what makes
people diverse and how does these differences influence people’s perceptions, assumptions, beliefs
and values. The concept of cultural identity, social identity and national identity also comes to play.

Cultural values of the German managers stem from a more Eurocentric/Individualistic world
view and the associates’ from a more Afrocentric/Collectivistic/Communal world view. Distinguish
between these two worldviews and its impact in the workplace based on the case. This could also be
used as a class discussion on diversity amongst students and how this could influence their
perceptions, assumptions, beliefs and values in completing an assignment. A good reference point
for this discussion is the recent results of the GLOBE Research conducted by Bob House and
colleagues. The study has descriptions of African cultures in sub-Saharan Africa as well as that of
European culture.
2. Do you agree with the GAM’s view that the best preparation for an international assignment is
“learning on the job” instead of formal training programs?

No, because formal training programs prepare the individual for acknowledging the possibility
of value - and behavioral differences which need to be understood. It thus creates awareness that
these differences may cause misperceptions and lead to misunderstanding in the workplace, such as
in the case. The GAM thought he did the right thing, but did not understand that it was not viewed in
that context by others who have a different culture.

However, “learning on-the-job” will enhance the cognition, knowledge base and build the
cultural competence after awareness has been created through the formal training programs.

3. What are the human resource problems associated with a multinational company adopting a global
human resource management strategy rather than a local strategy for operations outside its home

A global human resource management strategy might not fit the local practice or culture.
Recruitments and selection, recognition and reward systems, performance management systems,
communication and feedback practices such as indicated in the case might differ between countries
and can result in conflicting situations as the different role player’s needs and expectations differ. The
legislative practices in terms of labor law also differ among countries and therefore a local strategy
will need to accommodate the local practices, needs and expectations.

4. Evaluate Dr. Kriek’s approach and actions. Do you agree with the approach she took? Why or Why

Dr. Kriek has extensive experience in the workplace and understood the local culture, as well as
realizing that motivational problems or morale issues are a result of other underlying problems or
challenges. She also realized that cultural issues are complex and contextualized, meaning it differs
from situation to situation and therefore any assumption to solve a perceived problem without
clarifying the underlying causes might not resolve the issues in a multi-cultural company. In
establishing the real issues from the various stakeholders enabled her to make informed decisions
based on facts and it also built trust amongst the employees as no group was excluded from the
consultation process and survey.

The actions proposed by Dr. Kriek were based on a holistic approach and not just a single
intervention which is necessary when dealing with issues such as motivation and conflict. It was
based on awareness creation, knowledge acquisition, skills building and behavioral change. Often
managers have the knowledge, but still do not know what to do or how to approach it.
If she did not understood the local culture and believed in her approach the associates might
not have opened up and might have told her what they thought she wanted to here or could have
misled her. If the GAM was not open and flexible to accept the more time consuming and involved
approach it would also not have worked.

5. Evaluate her proposal for the cultural awareness and sensitivity workshop for management. What are
its strengths and weaknesses? What effect do you think it will have on the managers?

The training program was well designed. Objectives were stated so every participant knew
what to expect from the two-day workshop. The workshop contents addressed the critical
competencies of managerial development such as:

 Knowledge improvement (Awareness)

o The definition of culture, as culture is such a broad concept
o Culture and country differences
o Culture and its influence on managerial approaches ( How to and why it is
necessary to know about this)
 Managerial skill of cross-cultural communication in different cultural context as
communication is the glue that binds us or if not done effectively leads to
 Assisting managers to become more culturally intelligent as cultural intelligence is
not learnt in a class room, but through practice and being conscious of your
knowledge, motives and behavior when dealing with people from another culture.

Strengths and weakness could be identified by using a force-field analysis and then to also
ask student to suggest improvements and motivate their suggestions.

Ang, S and Van Dynne, L. (2008). Handbook of Cultural Intelligence- Theory, Measurement, and
Applications. M.E. Sharpe: USA

Fink, G. and Mayrhofer, W. (2009). Cross-cultural competence and management –setting the stage,
European J. Cross-Cultural Competence and Management, 1(1): 42-65

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly

Hills, CA: Sage.

Hopkins, B. (2009). Cultural Differences and Improving Performance – How Values and Beliefs Influence
Organizational Performance. Gower Publishing Company: England.

Javidan, M., Stahl, G., S., Brodbeck, J. & Wilderom, C.P.M. 2005. Cross-border transfer of knowledge:
Cultural lessons from Project Globe. Academy of Management Executive, 19 (2): 59-76.

This teaching note was prepared by Professor Yvonne duPlessis of the University of Pretoria.
V. Term Project




To help a student group of two to four students critically analyze a human resource system or
subsystem, identify problems, and recommend constructive improvements.

II. OUT-OF-CLASS PREPARATION TIME: 30 - 40 hours per group (10 - 15 hours per student) for a
total human resource system evaluation and 20-25 hours (5-10 hours per student) for a subsystem

III. IN-CLASS TIME SUGGESTED: None, unless an oral report is required by the instructor. In that
case, each group will make a 15-20 minuet presentation to the class.

IV. PROCEDURES: See text for detailed directions for either Option 1 or Option 2.


The project focuses upon the selected organization's human-resource objectives, structures,
policies, practices, and selected administrative problems. It provides the student with the opportunity to
learn first hand about the human resource system of an actual organization to develop field research
experience and evaluative skills. These skills should prove beneficial in future academic and professional
assignments. For the organizations cooperating with the projects, the obvious benefit is a free
consulting service with the possibility of improving efficiency/effectiveness of their personnel systems.
The final report should be based upon the Evaluation Guide in the text. Some of the sections of
that Guide may be irrelevant to some organizations. For example, the questions under the "Employee
Frictions" section will be irrelevant for organizations which are not unionized. Some other organizations
may have unusual circumstances regarding human resources management which are not adequately
covered by the Guide. In this situation, the student should be encouraged to go beyond the Guide to
discuss which is important in the personnel process.

Each student group should assume the stance of an outside consultant who has been called in to
evaluate the human resource system or subsystem of the particular organization. This information may
be gathered either through in-person interviews with human resources managers or through the
organizations website at a minimum, that paper should reflect the items contained in sections I, VII, and
one other part of the evaluation guide.

Possible criteria for the instructor's evaluation of individual or group final reports are as follows:

1. Does the report provide enough specificity and detail to allow the reader to
understand the human resource management processes currently being used by the
2. Has the group gathered information from a broad range of individuals or are they
basing their report on only one interview with one person? Are different
perspectives represented?
3. Does the report evidence a healthy skepticism toward information provided by
interview respondents? Does the report go beyond the superficial to probe what is
really happening in the organization?
4. Does the report evidence mastery of the basic concepts and principles of human
resources management, particularly in the "Summary and Evaluation" section which
calls for solutions to any problems identified in the report? Do the suggestions make
sense in terms of the organization's total situation, identified problems, and human
resources theory? Is there enough detail, specificity, and justification for the
proposed solutions?
5. Are the organization of the report, transitions between sections, and overall quality
of writing at an appropriate level for a consulting report?

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