International Human Resource Management

What is International Human Resource Management?

The field of international human resource management (IHRM) broadly covers all the issues related to the management of people in an international context. As such, it typically entails a broader perspective, more human resource activities, greater risk exposure, and broader external influences compared to domestic HRM. IHRM is also influenced by several factors, including economic conditions, legislation, culture, competition, and employee relationships.

What is Culture?

Culture is essentially a group’s response to its external environment. It is manifested through people’s beliefs, values and behavior patterns.

Relationship between IHRM and Culture

Different countries are characterized by different cultures. These differences influence international business activities such as cross boarder sales transactions, cross-national negotiations, employee recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, and labor relations. Consequently, culturally insensitive behaviors and attitudes stemming from ignorance or misguided beliefs can adversely affect the overall performance of an organization.


Hofstede’s model of national culture will be used to compare and contrast the UAE culture and Australian culture in order to determine the best strategies that should be adopted in the UAE to promote organizational success. The model is founded on the six dimensions discussed below

Power Distance Index (PDI)

This dimension highlights the extent to which less powerful members in the society expect and accept that power is not distributed equally. The power distance of a given society determines how it handles inequalities among individuals. Societies characterized by a large degree of power distance generally constitute individuals who accept the hierarchical order in the society without questioning the justification for such hierarchy. On the other hand. Individuals from societies characterized by a low degree of power distance will generally demand justification for any inequalities that exist in the society.

 Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)

Individualism, which is the high side of this dimension, constitutes a weakly-knit social framework that does not impose any obligation on an individual to take care of other members in the society. Collectivism represents a tightly-knit social framework in

which individuals are expected to look after other members in the society.

 Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)

Societies characterized by masculinity are inclined towards achievement, assertiveness, heroism and material rewards for success and as such, they are often competitive. On the other hand, societies characterized by femininity place more emphasis on modesty, cooperation, caring for the less privileged, and quality of life. Such societies are consensus-oriented as opposed to being competitive like the former.

 Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

This dimension expresses the degree to which members of a society feel uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. It predicts how an individual in a society would deal with the uncertainty inherent in the future either by trying to control it or letting nature take its course. Countries that are characterized by high uncertainty avoidance are governed by rigid behavior and beliefs and do not accommodate unorthodox behavior and ideas. A society with weak uncertainty avoidance is more liberal because it is governed by loose principles

 Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO)

Societies that score low on this dimension tend to maintain time

honored traditions and are suspicious about societal change. On the other hand, societies that score high on this dimension take a more pragmatic approach compared to the former, for instance by encouraging thrift and investing in modern education as a means of preparing for the future.

 Indulgence versus Restraint (IND)

Indulgence represents a society that allows free gratification of natural and basic human drives related to having fun and enjoying life. Restraint on the other hand represents a society that suppresses gratification of needs and is regulated by strict societal norms.


The United Arab Emirates is an oil-rich Arab country with a rapidly growing economy, which has attracted several multinational corporations. The country predominantly practices the Islamic religion, which has had a very huge impact on its culture. While the government does not prohibit the practice of other religions, it restricts their spread through any form of media. For this reason, the UAE Islamic culture has remained largely intact and widespread in the country.


It is evident from figure 1 above that the UAE scores higher in power distance and uncertainty avoidance while Australia scores higher in individualism and masculinity. The higher power distance in the UAE suggests that employees in the country are accustomed to disparity in power distribution. For this reason, expatriate managers will find it difficult to encourage subordinate employees in the UAE to participate in decision making because they are not used to being consulted by their seniors.

Moreover, the high uncertainty avoidance implies that the employees are governed by norms that facilitate rigid behavior and beliefs and do not accommodate unorthodox ideas. As such, they will be less likely to make risky decisions at the workplace that might enhance the overall profitability of the company. This also means that they will not appreciate the high level of autonomy accorded to the company’s employees in Australia. The manager should therefore make deliberate efforts to encourage the employees to embrace autonomy and independence.

The different levels of individualism suggest that while expatriate managers are used to a weakly-knit social framework that does not impose any obligation on them to take care of other members in the society, employees in the UAE are accustomed to a tightly-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to look after each other. Manager should therefore go out of their way to look out for the best interests of their employees. Finally, the difference in masculinity is not very significant so the employees in the UAE will also be inclined towards achievement, assertiveness, heroism and material rewards for success.


The Hofstede Center. (2015, July 3). National Culture. Retrieved from ITIM International: International Human Resource Management

International Human Resource Management

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