Most of the organizations today are operating towards a global level. Therefore, the influence of culture in business is undeniable. The study of culture and its relationship with language is inevitable in order to promote healthy business. There is a need of thorough understanding of the differences in culture in order to promote healthy transactions at the work places. This would lead to the effectiveness of the organization and its growth.
This paper aims to discuss how change is managed within an organization. The company chosen for this is Western Union.
Brief History of Western Union
Western Union began selling telegram services as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company in 1851. It has changed its name to western Union in 1856 so as to mark the consolidation of the several telegraph lines of then the westernmost telegraph lines in the United States. In 1861, it has completed its first transcontinental telegraph line. In 1866, they invented the stock ticker and pioneered the electronic money transfer in 1871. In 1933, it introduced the singing telegram and the candy-gram in the 1960's. Western Union became an icon when its distinctive envelopes arrived in any occasion.
At present, it is the largest US-owned provider of money transfer services. Through a network of over 375,000 agents, Western Union provides its services in more than 200 countries and territories. In 2008, the company recorded $5.3 billion in total consolidated revenues and $919 million in consolidated net income. As a trusted brand with a long and storied history, Western Union gives millions of immigrant workers a safe way to transmit money. Despite its success and global reputation, critics have long complained about its fees, which can run from about 4% to 22% of the transaction or more depending upon the amount sent and its destination. In addition, the company's lobbying in support of immigrant friendly laws has raised the ire of people who say it profits from illegal immigration and off the backs of the poor.
Change in Management
Western Union has undergone change in management. Recently, it has adapted the diversity management as its style. Diversity management has been described as a process ensuring the advancement of all people (Sorenson, 2004) and maintaining an environment where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and respected (Jennings, 1996). In effectively managed organizations all employees feel that hard work, motivation, and the proper qualifications will lead to advancement which in turn gets more people involved, improves morale, encourages and supports positive attitudes, and increases individual creativity.
Effective diversity programs have several features in common. To begin with, diversity is recognized as a formal process that is manifested in laws, rules, and/or procedures. A central body (e.g. top level management) outlines the requirements and expectations for diversity, but leaves the details up to the individual departments. This not only ensures the support and participation throughout the company, but also allows for departments to tailor the program to meet the specific needs of their employees (Reichberg, 2001). Before beginning training, the purpose of diversity should be established.
To successfully transition to a diverse workforce, training should include all employees and not just management. The most effective approaches include integrated training in a series of seminar-type programs that focus on employees as individuals, and not as members of groups. They also emphasize that diversification is going to affect everybody, not just one segment of the company - members of minority groups need to be aware of the effects they have on the dominant group, and vice versa (Gandz, 2001).
Training should be a recurring effort, and the outcome should be monitored. Diversity management programs with accountability are most successful (Bielby, 2000). Finally, organizations need to be aware of the possibility of backlash. Not everyone favors a diverse workforce, particularly those who feel it may have a harmful effect on their own well being or status. Diversity can be interpreted in a variety of ways and can often lead to a change in the positions of power as well as a change in the expectations of employees, which in turn leads to employees fearing the outcome (Bielby, 2000).
Advantages of the New Form of Management
Diversity is a concept that has traditionally been used in both broad and narrow contexts (Kramar 2001). A broad view of diversity has implications for the prevailing organisational culture, and an appreciation of difference, whereas narrow definitions of diversity focus on eliminating discriminatory practices based on personal characteristics. A broad understanding of diversity thus affects the organisation at all levels, while narrow definitions appear to be of similar orientation as Affirmative Action (AA) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) initiatives.
Personal barriers arise due to an individual's frame of reference or beliefs and values. They are based on one's socioeconomic background and prior experiences and shape how messages are encoded and decoded. One may also consciously or unconsciously engage in selective perception or be influenced by fear or jealously. For example, some cultures believe in “don't speak unless spoken to” or “never question elders” (Longest et al., 2000). These inhibit communication.
Diversity management which is the new form of management in Western Union can help address one of the organization's main problems. The defined organizational structure of Western Union contributed in their communication problem. Since the managers of the upper management makes all the decisions for the company, members of the lower part of the organizational structure have no input. Often times, some could not understand the messages that are being conveyed. Others are misinterpreting the conveyed messages.
Communication difficulties arise from differences in cultural values, languages, and points of view. For instance, in the healthcare industry, one major barrier is language, because as many as 20 languages may be encountered among staff and patients. In the United States, more than 25 percent of the population is foreign-born, and 15 percent speak a language at home other than English (Thiederman, 1996). Since language is the most obvious cross-cultural barrier, words can be easily misunderstood in verbal communication (Dutton, 1998). Although the English language is relied on as the common business language, English words may have different meanings in different cultures.
It should be taken into note that most members of the upper management of the company are British. It was seen that their majority in the management are causing problems with the flow of communication since those receiving their messages are of different culture. More than 75% of the business communication in Western Union is preferred through the medium of oral communication. It is simply not sufficient to have the thorough knowledge of structural items of language for better and effective communication. In true sense, nuances of communication decide the success rate of communication in any field. During the process of communication apart from the structural knowledge, cultural backgrounds of the communicator and the commune also influence their verbal and non-verbal signals. However it is broadly viewed and accepted by many that people belonging to similar backgrounds are more likely to interpret each other's usage accurately. Despite this strong belief, people under identical conditions are bound to commit errors and may not decode the meaning as conveyed or transmitted by the sender. All this leads to chaos and confusion in business and life. Communication varying across cultures further distorts this problem and increase the chances of truncated message i.e. message received differ from message sent. This scenario can be seen on the very diverse human resource of Western Union.
Surveys in the areas of communication reveal that oral communication has remarkable impact on the career advancement of any person whether business, politics, corporate sectors, athletes or social reformers. The line of action of these professionals demands heavy exchange of complex information in variety of forms. This flow of information may be disrupted due to large number of factors and cultural bias is no exception. Culture in broader sense refers to the behavioural characteristics typical to an individual or a group. These cultural traits are unique and are reflected through both verbal and non-verbal communication. People belonging to different cultural backgrounds use different methods of communication. In an attempt to save the time Americans do not bother the use of slang whereas time is flexible for few countries, hence they avoid using slang. But this difference in ethnic diversity if not commonly shared and understood by both the ends creates a feeling of alienation especially those minority members of the Western Union organization. If both receiver and sender are on the similar or shared cultural platform they have less chances of misinterpretation than of those whose cultural backgrounds are wide apart. Culture seems to differ from person to person. Politeness, courtesy and consideration differ from one region to another affecting the output and final result. Attitudinal variation too much extent is due to cultural differences. Every man's mind is a unique filter and their communication filters when interacted with each other create frictions leading to communication barriers.
Men and women of different cultures the organization of Western Union. behaves differently and it should be understood in proper perspective. The people of the United Kingdom usually complain right away when they are unhappy about something, its members rely mostly on verbal communication to convey their messages, whereas people from high culture context, like Asians rely less on verbal communication and more on non-verbal communication. They expect others to anticipate their needs. The men of eastern countries do not properly perceive the non-verbal messages of women of western countries. What is considered to be a greeting for one may be a social taboo for other. A very helpful talk, a direct eye contact, a touch or a warm facial expression of an English man may be considered as nasty gesture by an Indian. However, in serious conditions it is always safe to respect others' feelings by acquiring sufficient knowledge about other cultures and gender problems.
Diversity in the workforce benefits society as well. Work is where adults are most likely to have contact with someone of another race on a regular basis, and where people of all backgrounds are “forced” to cooperate and get past their differences. It is through this contact that people are most likely to overcome their prejudices (Estlund, 2005).
There are other important communication tips that Western Union can adapt in order to address the communication problems brought about by the diversity in culture as well as to complement the new form of management which is diversity management. Multiple channels of communications within the organization should be used. Effective channels are meetings, talks, faxes, bulletins, memos and telephone conversations. Important messages should be repetitive.
Listening to messages should be a focus. Each message should be made across. Speaking should be made open and honest so that it can get the message across in the exact way it is intended. Feedbacks on the practices in communication within the organization should be sought. Training for effective communication skills should be provided. All levels of the organization should establish an open communication. Regular communication should be practiced by members of all levels of the organization at all times. Clear contact points for various issues should be outlined. Process to facilitate and encourage people to share information and express their knowledge as well as process to create environment of trust which empowers people to talk with less worries in seniority. Setting same goals and objectives - when people are on the same goals and objectives, they are willing to share information and try to achieve outcomes from each team meetings or discussions. This will allow better flow of information when people are trying to achieve the same thing.
Meeting agenda should be planned. The group leader must prepare meeting agenda carefully. The topics to be discussed should be listed in some logical order, in a sequence that servers the purpose of the group. The meeting agenda should be prepared and distributed in advance. The time at which a meeting is held can have an effect on its success. Scheduling a meeting for early morning suggests importance; starting at an office hour time encourages punctuality; selecting an odd starting time captures interest; and scheduling meetings for times just before lunch or at the end of the day encourages timely adjournment. Select and prepare the meeting facility. Most routine business meetings are held on-site. Off-site meetings encourage efficiency by minimizing interruptions and creates different meeting environment.
Lead the group discussion. During the meeting, the primary role of the leader is to assist the group in achieving its purpose. A good group leader server as a facilitator - someone who motivates participants to work together effectively and who secures group decisions after adequate discussion. Every member of a team should learn as much as possible about the group's purpose. If an agenda is provided in advance, information can be gathered on each topic to ensure intelligent participation. Meetings can challenge listening skills. Members should not have side conversations, gaze into space or exhibit with other behaviour that detracts from effective listening.
In the globally competitive business world nowadays, it is inevitable to have a very diverse workforce. With the present condition of human resources with intercultural backgrounds such as the case study of Western Union it is very important to have strategies in addressing the communication problems. As presented in this paper, the most effective solutions that can be employed by Western Union are subjecting its workers into diversity training that will orient each member of the human resource to understand the cultural orientation of their fellow workers especially in terms of language. Other strategies that were found effective are the use of technology in aiding the communication process such as emails, websites, as well as the practice of effective listening and feedback giving.
It is therefore just appropriate in adapting diversity management has a new form of management for this organization. Not only that it suits better for the nature of Western Union that has a very diverse workplace, it can also help in solving the problems brought about by communication.
Overall, the choice of Western Union in having diversity management as a form of change is an excellent choice with the goal of unifying an organisation that is very diverse in culture yet still strive to be productive and meet its goals.
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