четверг, 22 июля 2010 г.

Chinese HR Secrets

We continue publishing impressions of education at the School. Now we are offering you an interview with Sultanbek Khunkayev, a Full-Time MBA student.

- In what country and what project did you participate?
- I was in China and in one team with Dmitry Yurchenko and Yuri Kovalev. We worked with one of the largest computer equipment manufacturer in the world. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the name of the company, because the projects are confidential. We studied how different multicultural national aspects influence on business. Simply said, relations between the head office and subsidiaries.

- Were they a sort of marketing aspects?
- They were not marketing but a research of a strategic influence of Human Recourses. Now HR is widely said to be a strategic area and so forth. In fact, HR performs an incredibly strong managering function that increases even more if a head office of the company is located in one country and its subsidiaries are located in another. HR should spot cultural differences, their influence on business processes and reduce these gaps. It should work as a strategic department rather than process documents, make resumes and so on.

- Do HR departments work like this only at big corporations?
-I don’t quite agree here. I would say that even in Russia this aspect has been poorly researched. What’s the reason? Let’s take as an example those companies that must have here in Russia a subsidiary in almost every region, e.g. Sberbank. There is a perception that the USSR was a united country with a united culture. That’s not true: every region has its cultural peculiarities, and in their turn those peculiarities influence on entire business performance, on how the business should be governed, on how to communicate tasks with its employees. This aspect has not been studied even in Russia. Let alone big corporations.

- Was this work completely new or already familiar to you?
- There are several methods. In fact, this was studied by Professor Hofstede (Geert Hofstede – comment) in 1980s on the basis of IBM. He was the first to introduce an idea of social and cultural influence on business. What did people do before? Let’s look at a Korean company. They open an office, employ other Korean people and make nearly everybody learn their terminology. It seems that in Poland, for instance, at Hyundai they serve Korean food, and all teams there learn Korean. But there is another way too. To impose a foreign culture on everyone is one thing. But one can take a synergy from a foreign culture, inject their DNA in a so-called global culture of the company. It may sound as nonsense, but it’s a well-built idea actually. That’s what we did.

- Were there any other people in the corporation engaged in that, or were you in charge of the entire sector?
- Of course not. A separate subdivision is seriously engaged in this there. This is a serious aspect, so to speak.

- How can you assess the work you’ve done?
- Excellent! This is a very interesting area. Originally neither Dima, nor Yura, nor me knew anything in this area, but finally did a very useful work. We appeared to be a sort of guru.

- How is the Chinese culture?
- Fantastic! It’s very beautiful, not only from a cultural point of view, but also marvelous from an economic one. By the way, we can learn some things from them in business culture too. China is a very industrious nation. On the other hand, Russian business is more efficiency- and innovation oriented. I mean these countries have something to learn from each other.

- Is their business culture more traditional?
- Diligence, hardworking, no questions asking etc.

- They say, there are some problems in communications too. The Chinese are said to be much closed, it’s difficult to identify their true emotions.
- But on the other hand, Russians are seen in a lot of countries as too straightforward. Often very arrogant, rude and so on. I mean this view is possible for Russians. On the other hand, if we look at an investment flow to China and how long big corporations work, we’ll see that actually they can be understood. Yes, they are hardly straightforward, but it’s explained by a habit, or even their intent to avoid offending a companion, rather than their attempt to hide something. They will be polite, diplomatic, they’ll never tell problems right to your face, but hint at them instead. One should learn to understand them.

- What did you learn during that period?
- A lot of things. As regards an emerging market I’ve started to understand a lot after our work with the Chinese. I’ve understood that we can do business with them. As regards business, I’ve learnt a lot about HR. It was like a grey cloud to me before, and the fact that even this area, which is rather vague to me, can be measured, classified and arranged in terms of processes was new to me. I’ve also realized that we can build some system that will be called a “corporate culture” and used to manage employees. This was also an interesting discovery!

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