Global Management Tips: Motivating Across Cultures

A global manager needs to identify the needs of individual employees, within the context of the culture in which he or she is working. Recognize the personal priorities of the diverse individuals in your team and apply the appropriate motivational tools.

Focusing on Motivation
People worldwide work to satisfy their needs and wants. These vary according to the circumstances of the individual, and on factors such as cultural values. It is difficult to generalize, but research suggests that professionals in a range of countries value challenge, autonomy, and the opportunities to use their skills. Not surprisingly, lower level workers place high importance on security, earnings, benefits, and working conditions. Make sure that you are sensitive to the different priorities of the individuals in your global team.

Recognizing Motivation
Beyond personal circumstances, individuals are influenced by wider cultural values. For example, in Latin America, job status and a good personal life are key motivators. In Saudi Arabia, family esteem is more important than public recognition. In one country, a job may be viewed as an economic necessity, in another country it may be tied to self-identity. Be aware of the values of different cultures.

Looking at a Model of Motivation
This model of motivation focuses on the three basic needs that occur in any workforce. These are: the desire to achieve independence and personal accomplishment; the wish to affiliate and attain harmony; and the desire to have power and control decisions. These general motivations must then be looked at in the context of particular cultures:

1. Autonomy cultures tend to be motivated by the desire to achieve.
2. Consensus cultures are usually motivated by the wish to gain affiliation.
3. Status cultures are often motivated by the desire for power.

To understand fully what motivates an individual, take personal circumstances into account and allow for cultural changes.

Using Tools
Local knowledge enables a manager to determine the best motivators in the culture. In autonomy cultures, individual incentives are the most suitable. Use praise, promotions, and pay raises. In consensus cultures, group-based incentives work best. Distribute bonuses, formal recognition, competitive awards, and holiday awards throughout the team. Recognize that anything that enhances respect is motivational in status cultures – these include titles, position, flattery, gifts for the individual and the family, and bonuses.

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