Cultural Differences: Different Time 'Zones' (Part-2)

The author has made an attempt to analyse the HRM practices of USA, India and Japan, in the context of cultural-differences in the perception of time. The choice of these cultures have been based on the fact that traditionally USA is recognised as a M-time culture, India as a P- time culture, while Japan is a mix of M- time and P- time behaviour. However these cultures do not exist in isolation, and the time perception in these cultures is being influenced and changed by cross-frontier trade and other interactions.
The implications of the difference in the perception of time in different cultures can be organization wide, individual directed or task centric.
Study 1:
Human resource management practices in Japan
The influence of elements of culture like collectivism, medium levels of power distance and high uncertainty avoidance, on the Japanese HRM practices can be easily seen.
The Japanese HRM practices of lifetime employment, emphasis on trainability in staffing and the high amount of stress on training, display the influence of time dimension of the culture, besides the other elements of the Hofstede study. As the Japanese consider it normal to spend years in deciding crucial issues, long term perspective to employment becomes essential to retain continuity in decisions and vision. The importance attached to continuity of employment is obvious in the practices of seniority wage and promotion (nenko system). The same issue could be attributed to the policy of enterprise unionism in Japan (for example, Aoki 1992b). The principle characteristics of enterprise unions are that membership is limited to regular employees, temporaries and part times being excluded. There is only one union in the organisation and enterprise unions generally have a co-operative attitude towards management, although in substantive terms they appear to serve their members well.
Japanese job classification is simple and broad. Thus the job assignments are much more fluid and flexible compared to the western bureaucratic norms (Cole 1979, Lincoln 1986, Aoki 1986). Employees are expected to perform a large range of job functions and accept frequent assignment change as a part of their regular day to day operations. This fits in with the concept of P-time where the simultaneous occurrence of many things is acceptable and multi-skilled labour is the norm. Multi-skilled workers besides being self-motivated and promoting dynamism in employees, also facilitate job rotation and substitution in case of absenteeism of the team members leading to reliable production.
Training is an important component of HRM in Japan and often makes use of both on-the-job- training (OJT), which are continuos as well as periodic off-the-job-training (Off-JT). This shows the future oriented mentality in Japan where the functions like Training are a part of grooming of its managers, undertaken with a far-sighted intent.

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