Statement of Purpose and Academic Motivation
Intercultural management practices and competence has been poorly explored by the academic community from the perspective of multicultural Finnish professional life (Weber, Festing & Dowling, 2013). In spite of the fact that various cultural issues in the employment context have been studied from the purely managerial perspective, the majority of these studies relate to either migration of the highly skilled professionals (Thomas & Peterson, 2014), reflected common international trends (Van der Vijer, Hemert & Poortinga, 2008) or evaluated financial performance of the institutions, which significantly attracted employees with different cultural backgrounds (Smith, 2004).
This research, however, pursues a number of unique objectives, which have not been addressed in the similar, yet distinct research studies completed by the Finnish, American or European researchers. As it will be evident from the part III of this study, it aims at analyzing unique managerial perspectives of the Finnish professional society, which border the new European policies in relation to the immigrants from the war-torn countries of the Middle East, and politically destabilized North Africa. This research, therefore, will be seriously distinguishable from the plethora of other academic works written on this subject.
For instance, Professor Velo (2012) has profoundly analyzed the correlation between national cultures and relevant managerial practices. In his work, he analyzed the ratio between certain peculiar cultural perspectives and corresponding managerial practices, measuring the correlation by financial performance. The study found out that ‘the business performance is considerably better, when the managers manage to harmonize their governance approaches with the intrinsic features of national cultures’. In particular, it made the conclusion that lack of rapport between the expatriate employees and local workers may result in deterioration of the performance of these employees.
The work of Kuusio, Heponiemi and their associates (2013) was dedicated to the analysis of different leadership capabilities, job satisfaction and their correlation to the specific national cultures in multicultural working dimensions. The conclusion of their study was that different cultural groups prefer different leadership styles, therefore, leading to the fact with the increase of various management competences, designs and approaches. Among the most important conclusions of this work is that the overwhelming majority of managers do not adequately recognize individual and group preferences of the employees with the culturally different origin. The study highlighted that intercultural awareness is a very serious aspect for today’s managers because of extremely dynamic working environment. However, it is often ignored by the managers, resulting in cultural distresses of the foreign employees, and in a vast array of other negative outcomes.
In the meantime, a number of different studies have been entirely focused on the analysis of diversity management of the Finnish professional life. Still these research attempts had different perspectives. For instance, the work of Lilie (2011) concentrated on studying and analyzing the impacts of workplace diversity in human-resources segment of professional life. The study of Koskela (2014) was designed to evaluate the issues relating to the communication between supervisors and highly skilled employees from the developing countries in a leadership context. However, the both academics focused on analyzing various general intercultural competence issues, yet failing to take into consideration the viewpoint of contemporary strategic and operations management. Thus, it is reasonable to argue that the studies dealing with managing intercultural competence in the Finnish economy has not yet appeared on the professional segment, and the necessity of this study is justified by the following.
Firstly, the number of foreign workforce arriving to Finland is dynamically increasing. The number of immigrants is expected to reach 300,000 in 2016 only (Kuusio et al, 2013). Either the majority of these people are from the countries of Middle East or North Africa, therefore, their cultural background is appreciably different from the traditional Finnish and European contexts. A significant percentage of these people are the economically viable, and, a serious number of them are highly skilled employees (Ranjan, 2013). It is therefore not possible to disregard the necessity of integrating these people into the national economy, while the process of their integration requires competent and professional and competent cross-cultural management (Lilie, 2011). The German experience has shown that adapting traditional human resources management to the employees with Eastern cultural background is not always workable; rather it is more effective to develop the new body of managerial knowledge.
Secondly, the competition in all segments of economy has become especially fierce and dynamic today (Nathan, 2011). The Finnish companies have to compete on the global scale with other European, USA and Chinese firms. The last ones are notorious for their aggressive competition and marketing strategies, and the Finnish economy has to adapt for competing in this turbulent environment. Some scholars observed that foreign workforce should not be viewed as a burden ensuing from the international geopolitical obligations of a country, but as situation, which may be easily converted into a strong competitive advantage of the country (Koskela, 2014; Thomas & Peterson, 2014) . The scholars unanimously converge in opinion that national economies should seize every opportunity to increase their international sales, especially nowadays, when supply significantly outweigh the demand (Weber, Festing & Dowling, 2013). Hiring employees with African and Middle Eastern origin seems to be advantageous and beneficial for Finland, because potentially lucrative goods and services outlets are located those regions. The companies, which skilled professionals from those countries receive a unique competitive advantage – the communication barriers between the suppliers and the customers fade (Van Vijer, van Hemert & Poortinga, 2008). Moreover, the practice shows that in many cases employees and customers of the same cultural background get on with each other better because of the similar cognitive and intellectual processes.
Overall, the purpose of this research is to help the Finnish professional community to streamline current intercultural management strategies of the Finnish small, medium and large-scale business segments. Moreover, this research will help to identify the gaps in this professional environment, and to offer viable and effective solutions, while taking into consideration the realities of Finnish business life. In contrast to other studies in this field, this research aims at developing solutions, not merely on analyzing problems or discussing impacts of the growing immigration. For the Finnish managers, its outputs will serve as a handbook in dealing with the foreign workforce.
Introduction and Background Information
Multicultural workforce with different racial origin, ethnic and cultural backgrounds is no longer a rarity in Europe in general and in Finland in particular. During the past 20 years, the number of immigrants in Finland has quadrupled, making its professional (both blue and white-collar) community increasingly diversified and internationalized (Koskela, 2014). The estimates show that the number of immigrants, who legitimately reside in Finland, has reached 250,000 in 2015. If present trends of relatively open borders persist, by 2025 half a million of the residents in Finland will be of non-Finish, and most importantly non-European origin (Kuusio et al, 2013). Thus, multiple commentators unanimously agreed on the idea that multiculturalism has become an intrinsic part of the Finnish society, and there is no way back to repeal these policies without departing from the common European course of economic and social development (Lilie, 2011; Koskela, 2014; Nathan, 2011).
Before this paper is advanced further, describing peculiar Finnish policies of immigration and attitude of the Finish society appears to be necessary. Apart from other developed member-states of the European community, Finland adheres to rather conservative course of accepting immigrants into the country (Koskela, 2014). In particular, in contrast to Germany, France or Spain where the major part of the society expressed sincere support and welcomed the immigrants from war-torn countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa, into the countries the Finnish community showed its radical stance from the very onset. In contrast to Germany, which admitted more than 900,000 migrants after the events in Syria, Finland allowed to make only 3,600 applications (Koskela, 2014). The majority of applicants were from Iraq and Somalia, showing that the ruling party of the country tends to distant Finland from the unreliable and potentially dangerous Syrian or Afghani refugees (Lilie, 2011). Yet, responding to the policies of united Europe, the government declared that the initiative to double the 2016 quota of refugees from 15,000 to 30,000 was under discussion. Moreover, the Prime Minister of the country Juha Sipila declared that he would be ready to give up one of his houses to several families of refugees, stating that Finland should exemplify how immigrants should be treated in Europe.
Yet, not the entire society shares optimism of the government. Jussi Halla-aho remarkably noted that many immigrants fail to integrate into the Finnish society effectively, highlighting that ‘the entire Finnish community starts to follow the rules of Islamic minority, rather than making this minority to abide by the rules and customs of our society’. Olli Immonen, one of the prominent figures on the Finnish political landscape voiced hopes that ‘that nightmare called multiculturalism will be defeated by a strong and brave nation’. The opinions of the Finnish community split into two almost equal parts. The research shows that roughly 54% of the population supports the politics of strict policies in refugee admittance, while the remaining 39% firmly believe that multicultural approach can transform Finnish society and eradicate its deeply ingrained social prejudices (Coelho, 2011). 7% of the responders have not formed their opinion regarding the issue insofar. While the proponents of this course argue that the immigrants will add to the Finnish workforce and increase its GDP, the opponents fervently advocate the ideas that (a) accepting more refugees results in higher crime rates and (b) maintaining reception centers is highly expensive, not to mention that (c) many refugees do not look to learn Finnish language (Nathan, 2011).
However problematic the issue may seem to be, the political position of Finland in this regard is rather steadfast – Finland will accept at least 30,000 migrants this year, in addition to 250, 000 who already live in the country. Assuming that the political course of the country is not reversed during the next year, another 30,000 (or more, if the quota is reconsidered) will arrive in 2017 and many more onwards. Half of this population becomes integrated into the Finnish working communities. Moreover, present research indicates that 9% of the arriving immigrants have skills, sufficient for professional white-collars jobs (Koskela, 2014). Some of them are qualified managers, skilled software developers, medical practitioners and distinguished university professors (Chanlat, Davel & Dupuis, 2013). Another 11% meet the eligibility criteria for being employed as workers in the ‘blue-collar’ segment of the economy, being mechanics, drivers, plumbers etc. Finally, 54% of those who arrive are either children, or youth who can be trained and educated to contribute to the growth of the Finnish GDP. In the meantime, the outcomes of the global financial crisis 2010-2012 have not been overcome completely yet. Many business structures laid off up to 15% of its staff, thus making the need of foreign workforce quite questionable (Ranjan, 2013).
However strong the debates may be, these people are already in the country, and are already become an integral part of the Finnish workforce. The presence of people with other cultural background is especially notable in the large international corporations headquartered in Finland. Gradually, but steadily immigrants are penetrating into the small and medium-scale businesses in Finland. Many notable commentators argue that multicultural professional community is no longer peripheral (Browayes & Price, 2008), and unless the government decides to sever the policies of open door and to expel the immigrants forcibly, the Finnish business community has nothing, but to adapt to these economic and cultural realities (Chanlat, Davel & Dupuis, 2013).
Correspondingly, the purpose of this paper is to explore current intercultural management competence at the multicultural workforce of Finland, to analyze successful experience of the European private sector counterparts and to offer comprehensive applicable guidelines on dealing with the large=scale movement of political refugees and economic migrants to Europe. The main rationale that drives this study is that general guidelines of a typical Finnish company do not have express guidelines on how a multinational workforce should be managed. Thus, the managers and line supervisors are often incompetent in effective management of the foreign employees, while keeping in line with their cultural and ethnic peculiarities (Fang, 2005). The outcomes of this work, therefore, will be useful for the business-owners for the development of strategic policies of foreign workers management, senior and middle managers for analyzing how the new developments should be harmonized with the practice. Finally, this work may be interesting for the academic community as a cumulative compilation of the most recent attribute of today’s intercultural management.
Research Questions, Objectives and Outputs
This research pursues several intertwined research objectives and tries to answer several g research questions. Thus, the research questions logically corresponding to them. Thus, the following research objectives appear to be relevant to the academic and practical purposes of this research.
This research will investigate the scope of immigration to Finland in the employment context and try to analyze its economic impacts.
Achieving this objective will help to understand whether the great advent of immigrants is a serious issue to the Finnish community, and whether this phenomenon has significant economic outcomes. This research objective entails the following research questions.
How many immigrants already reside in Finland, and how many are expected to arrive (with relative certainty) in the forthcoming future?
What is the percentage of economically viable workforce among the immigrants, who arrived to Finland?
What the contribution of the migrant workforce to the national GDP and other economic indicators?
This research will provide a comprehensive, accurate and usable typology of the economically viable migrants.
Common Finish people do not see any conspicuous differences between the different groups of immigrants, yet they may diverge significantly (Koskela, 2014). Specifically, a qualified medical practitioner with a Harvard diploma is a far cry from a semi-illiterate artisan from a village in Somalia. This research question has the following objectives.
How can the immigrated economically viable workforce be classified (a) by occupation (b) by religious background and (c) by geographical origin?
What categories can be formed from this typology?
What professional features are inherent to each category?
This research will provide a comprehensive definition of cross-cultural management in Finnish perspective
Before approaches and strategies of cross-cultural management are analyze, the problem should be conceptually defined. It is important to ensure that the future research will employ an internationally recognized definition of this issue, and thus, to make its findings universally applicable. This part of the dissertation has the following questions:
How the Finnish academics and business practitioners understand the concept of cross-cultural management?
Is there any differences between the Finnish, common European and American understandings of cross-cultural management?
Finally, this research will evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of current cross-cultural managerial strategies and approaches used by the Finnish business practitioners.
Much of the today’s research demonstrates that many companies in Finland has either adapted successful experience of their German and French colleagues, or developed their own policies on integrating the immigrants into the economic life of the country (Kuusio et al, 2013; Nathan, 2011) . Some of these policies are exclusively private initiatives; others have some form of government support and protection (Thomas & Peterson, 2014). Some are successful, other are total failures. In order to evaluate the crux of this problem, answering the following research questions appear to be quite reasonable:
What policies are currently in use in the Finnish professional community?
Are these policies enforced in all forms of business or in some categories only?
What is the success rate of such policies? In other words, what is the percentage of immigrants, who have successfully adapted to making a career in Finland?
What are the factors, which affect the process of professional adaptation?
What are the deficiencies of the ‘adaptation and integration programs’?
How can these programs be improved?
What specific issues have business owners and line managers to consider before ‘customizing’ such programs for their unique business needs?
In general, the fusion of answers to these research questions will provide a clear, comprehensive and illustrative representation of the current states of affairs in cross-cultural management in Finland. Furthermore, accomplishing the research objectives headlined above will help to develop result-oriented, coherent and unified policies regulating the key managerial issues of the foreign workers.
This literature review presents perfunctory analysis of the problem, focusing on the most aspects of the general theory, which will be used in this research. It focuses on the four main tenets of the future investigation. Thus, the first part of this literature review explores the connection between culture and management. Its second part investigates and analyzes the main implications and perspectives of the contemporary cross-cultural management.
The Influence of Culture on Management
The researchers argue that culture influences management perspectives in the two main dimensions (Velo, 2012; Holden, 2002; Chen & Starosta, 2005) . Firstly, it is commonly understood that all management theories, conceptual apparatus and core theoretical aspects are always developed within a particular cultural context (Adler, 2008). The second dimension is more practical, and deals with the interactions between people.
The first dimension of the correlation between culture and management has been explored by various scholars (Earley, 2006). Their synergetic opinion is that the management theories and approaches, which are popular in the Western world, may not necessarily be applicable with equal efficiency to the people of other countries. Professor Earley (2006) acknowledged that eventually all managerial theories are somehow linked to cultural peculiarities, and should always ‘be taken into consideration by the managers as the issues of paramount practical importance’. This opinion is similar in Finnish, common European and American business thought.
The second dimension of culture influence on management involves interaction between different people, i.e. between the managers and the employees (Ade. Because of globalization and the policy of open borders in the modern world, the chances that a manager and an employee will be of different cultural backgrounds, are 80% higher than they were 10 years ago (Koskela, 2014). In addition, many scholars advocate the idea that the members of different cultures perceive the world around them in a considerably different way. Their reactions are also different, because representatives of different cultures have different expectations from the same managers.
The Concept and Perspectives of Cross-Cultural Management
The works of Schneider and Barsoux and Holden are one of the most explicative frameworks popular in today’s managerial circles. In contrast to other academics, who tend to compare and contrast different cultures in a professional business environment, these scholars take a considerably more profound approach.
Schneider and Barsoux speculate that culture correlates with management in several perspectives. Describing culture as an undercurrent influencer of organizational behavior, these commentators argue the idea that the culture of employee has impacts on the way the organization is structured, on its strategic planning, as well as on its human resource planning. In particular, they suggested that the cultural differences, pertaining to the workforce, should be viewed as a learning platform for the managers and supervisors.
Furthermore, Schneider and Barsoux attempted to investigate ‘all significant cultural assumptions’ underlying managerial theory and practice, as well as they tried to evaluate potential impact of the diverging cultures in a job setting, but not to focus on finding the best way of managing multicultural workforce. They regard a working community, where the people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds work as an organizational environment, where each element has its own unique value. In other words, they highlight that people of different cultural background should not use their cultural advantages to the benefit of the company, but not to be assimilated in the dominant cultural environment. Ghen and Starosta (2005) entirely supported this idea, writing that the individuals should preserve their unique national skills and characteristics, while the managers should ensure that the talents of multicultural employees are fully utilized.
Moreover, Browayes & Price (2008) argued that all attempts to find the best way of managing a large, intercultural workforce are always unavailing, especially in the cases when the employees are expected to utilize their creativity. Coelho (2011) commented that despotic approach of ‘equalizing’ all employees might turn out to be workable in despotic companies, where the employees execute menial tasks only. However, a typical contemporary workplace requires much dedication, creative thinking capabilities and open-minded nature. All these features are completely incompatible with authoritarian approach to corporate governance.
Accordingly, Peterson (2004), Fang (2005) and Adeyo with Lawrence (2014) emphasized the importance of raising cultural awareness in business organizations. Their rationale is that an effective cross-cultural management has two key elements. Firstly, it is important to identify ‘the underlying cultural assumptions’ of a particular cultural group. Quite often, these assumptions may be hidden. Secondly, a competent and professional manager should understand how these cultural assumptions are perceived and responded to by the others (Blessing & Lawrence, 2014). The second element of management is the pioneering feature of the contemporary intercultural management, which augments the principles of conventional cross-culture management (Witte, 2012).
The idea of ‘Knowledge’ Management in the Cultural Context
Smith, Peterson and Thomas (2008), as well as Koskela (2014) presented an unorthodox point of view in relation to cross-cultural issues in a working environment, popularity known as ‘knowledge management’. In particular, many notable scholars agree on the idea that ‘knowledge, skills and characteristics of the company employees’ constitute its most valuable resource, which helps to sustain and intensify its competitive advantage. The very idea of knowledge management purports different systematic and coordinated attempts to utilize employees’ knowledge and competence with the objective of improving performance of the organization (Smith, 2014).
Weber, Festing and Dowling (2013) articulated the idea that the perspective of knowledge management should be viewed as a revolutionary theoretical ramification in the field of intercultural management practice. In other words, they advocated the idea that culture, and knowledge, which logically emanates from this culture, should be viewed as form of organizational resource, which is convertible into financial resource, and which can benefit the organization. The theory of cross-cultural knowledge management was deeply explored by Van de Vijver, van Hemert & Poortinga (2008), who identified the following main tasks of knowledge management:
It helps to develop participative competence of the workforce;
It helps to provide, accurate, descriptive and adequate translation;
It provides cross-cultural transfer of experience, various values and knowledge;
It facilitates cross-cultural networking;
It helps to create and retain collaborative working atmosphere.
The scholars agree on the idea that all these tasks involve much interaction between the different cultures. First, participative competence is essential to ensure that the people with different cultural backgrounds are professional enough to participate in the different discussions and other working sessions. Secondly, the practice shows that sharing cultural values across the members of different cultures is not always as simple as it may seem to be, because a specific set of knowledge may be tacit and, therefore, it is often difficult to have it formalized and communicated to the members of other cultural groups.
Competences of Intercultural Managers
The commentators unanimously argue the idea that intercultural competence is an important underpinning of success in any intercultural interaction (Peterson, 2004; Earley, 2006). In the meantime, the practice demonstrates that working in the capacity of a manager in a multicultural professional environment does a considerably more complicated task than simply possess some degree of intercultural management competence. It is therefore reasonable to infer that intercultural communication competence should be positioned as a superordinate ide for the general intercultural management competence, which involves a number of other necessary skills (Chanlat, Davel & Dupius) .
Many scholars have expressed different views relating to the list of skills and characteristics, which should be possessed by a manager to succeed in a multinational working environment. A cumulative opinion of the scholarly community is that an intercultural manager should possess the following skills and characteristics:
Firstly, this manager should be able to understand and manipulate various cultural interdependencies.
Secondly, a skillful manager to be capable of reacting to different cultures simultaneously, and with equal efficiency.
Thirdly, effective, efficient and professional managers should be always willing to share power.
Fourthly, an important skill of an intercultural manager is the ability of cognitive complexity demonstration.
Adopting a general approach to treating cultural differences is also important.
Finally, a professional manager should be capable of learning and unlearning with rapidity.
This research operates a combined methodology, with the focus on qualitative methods of investigation. The research involves collection, interpretation and analysis of both primary and secondary data. The fusion of these analyses will help to accomplish the research objectives mentioned above, and to answer corresponding research questions.
The use of primary sources include:
Interviews with the owners and senior managers of the Finnish corporations
The research team will complete a sample of 100 Finnish companies, located in the different geographical regions of Finland, and engaged in different industries. These interviewees will be conducted both in a live format and on-line. The research team will create specific questionnaires, which reflect the questions and objectives of this research.
Diversity and inclusion policies of the Finnish corporate segment
The members of the Finnish business community regularly publish reports about their state of affairs. The business researchers often recommend retrieving information from these sources, as it will help to understand how the business community reacts to the increase in immigration workforce.
Annual financial statements and reports of the Finnish corporate segment
Because in some industries the local force was seriously diluted with the foreign workers, analyzing annual financial statements and reports will help to analyze corporate financial performance before and after these workers were hired, hence making conclusions about the effectiveness of the implemented management strategies and approaches.
The use of secondary sources include:
Relevant academic literatures (books, journals) and theoretical opinion.
Printed and online-based commentaries of the most outstanding academics will be helpful for interpreting the data, and understanding the dynamics of this problem. The corporate segment often tends to present the information in a positively exaggerated way, showing that the process of integrating immigrants is smooth and successful, and hushing up the problems. The scholars usually focus on the most problematic areas of the project implementation. Therefore, adding their valuable opinions to this research appears to be necessary.
Reports of the government immigration authorities and Statistical Bureau
Statistical data generated by the government is usually the most accurate. Hence, this research will involve much data developed by the Statistical Bureau of the country.
Limitations of the Research
Although the research team aspires to present its findings in a most accurate, reliable and comprehensible way, not a single study is safeguarded against potential imperfections. Thus, this research has the following limitations:
It deals with the analysis of immigrants arriving from the Middle East and North African countries only. In other words, we do not discuss highly professional and westerly educated professionals in this work.
This research relies on the statistical data generated by the government agencies, and by the Finnish and international think tanks. It is natural that some statistical findings may have erroneous contents, as well as in some case the statistics may be wrongly interpreted. The research team assumes full responsibility for incorrect interpretation of the findings, but disclaims all potential challenges arising out of inaccuracy of the statistical data.
The research team acknowledges that all qualitative data is subjective. The authors of articles and books may have some sort of academic bias, advocating their own theories and criticizing the statements of their opponents.
In general, these elements constitute the main limitations of this research study, although new considerations may arise in the course of the research development.
Ethics is one of the central elements of contemporary academic and business research. Thus, the following issues pertain to this research setting.
Firstly, subject matter of this research does not contravene national and local communal values in Finland. It does not seek to identify any racially connected features of the immigrants, which may seem to be offensive to them, but aims at exploring management-related issues only.
Secondly, all research participants will be informed about the purposes of data collection. The research team will solicit their informed consent, and those, who insist on confidential use of their opinion will have their desire satisfied.
Thirdly, the research team finds it necessary to highlight that this research does not encourage any form of management practices discriminating against employees of specific cultural origin. We strictly believe that any job applicant should evaluated judging by his professional skills and expertise only.
Realization of the Thesis
In order to realize this thesis, the following steps will be followed and the following deadlines will be observed:
Thus, the entire process of thesis development is expected to take full three years and eight months.
This timescale is common for similar research studies, yet it is important to highlight that it is approximate. During the process of data collection and interpretation, some changes may be introduced, which may result in positive or negative 100-150 days error.
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