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This chapter is from the book

Globalization: Global Workplace and a Borderless Workforce

Most organizations, large and small, are involved in some form of international business activities. Larger organizations such as multinational enterprises like Apple, Inc., and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the United Nations have affiliates in various regions and countries that employ people from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.4Table 1.2 provides a snapshot of the extent of globalization in the United States.

Table 1.2 Extent of Globalization in the United States

Employment by U.S. and Foreign Multinational Corporations (MNCs)5

• 34.5 million workers are employed worldwide by U.S. multinational companies.

• 22.9 million workers are employed by U.S. parent companies in the United States.

• 11.7 million workers are employed abroad by majority-owned foreign affiliates of U.S. MNCs.

• 5.6 million workers are employed in the United States by majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign MNCs.

Import and Export Trends6

• 83,050 companies both export and import goods.

• 219,210 companies only export goods.

• 100,910 companies only import goods.

Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers7

• The U.S. labor force includes 25.0 million foreign-born persons. They represent 16.1% of the total labor force.

• 48.3% of the foreign-born labor force is composed of Hispanics; 23.7% of the foreign-born labor force is composed of Asians.

Languages Spoken in America8

• 60.6 million people (age 5 and over) speak a language other than English at home.

• Examples of languages include Spanish (37.6 million), Chinese (2.9 million), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), German (1.1 million), and Korean (1.1 million).

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, United States Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration

As Table 1.2 indicates, for most U.S. companies and for most international organizations, involvement in international labor and product markets is likely to grow rapidly in the coming years. As organizations increase their international activities, they face two important challenges:

  • Managing a global workplace: A global workplace consists of individuals from a variety of cultural, geographic, and racial backgrounds who interact and collaborate with one other.
  • Managing a borderless workforce: A borderless workforce includes individuals who have international job responsibilities and are dispersed geographically, virtually, and across countries and regions.

In a global workplace with a borderless workforce, cross-cultural and ethnic differences can influence how individuals interact with one another, approach differences and conflicts, and solve problems. Misunderstandings and miscommunication are unavoidable. The learning function has the responsibility of providing cross-cultural competencies that enable individuals to understand cross-cultural differences as well as appreciate the characteristics and benefits of multicultural and multilingual diversity that exist in a global workplace with a borderless workforce.

Types of Cross-Cultural Competencies. Cross-cultural competencies can be cultural-general,9 cultural-specific,10 region-specific, and megacities-specific:

  • Cultural-general competencies provide an understanding of how countries and cultures differ in general and the impact of these differences on individual behavior. Examples include the general dimensions on which most cultures differ such as individualism versus collectivism, power distance, masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term versus short-term orientation.11
  • Cultural-specific competencies provide an understanding of a specific country or culture, such as a country’s language, customs, diversity, history, and geography. In addition, cultural-specific competencies provide language skills.
  • Region-specific competencies focus on how and why organizations strategically view particular countries such as those represented in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Union, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) nations as one market.
  • Megacities-specific competencies focus on large metropolitan areas. A megacity is defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of ten million people. There were 23 megacities in 2011, and the number of megacities is projected to increase to 37 in 2025.12 Examples of megacities include New York City, Mexico City, London, Moscow, Karachi, Delhi, Tokyo, and Jakarta. Another implication of a global workplace and a borderless workforce is the need to localize the learning function. A country’s culture and economic ideology can influence how individuals learn and how they view the training, educational, and learning process. A single approach to training and development may not work in every region or country. As such, in certain regions and countries there can be pressure to localize the learning function to comply with local values, laws, and regulations. Corporate learning professionals must make the effort to understand local laws, practice, level of employee skills and knowledge, and employer obligations to improve the probability of achieving required learning and development objectives.
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