Leading and managing diversity in a cross-cultural workforce in Chinese investment organisations in KwaZulu-Natal.
At present we are living in a global market economy. As a result, international business and cooperation between two or more counties is a growing phenomenon. Global business managers and leaders are challenged to broaden their minds to create new methods of leading and managing what has become an increasingly diverse and cross-cultural workforce. This workforce will bring with it both advantages and disadvantages to global organisations. In general, the global leaders and managers will face the challenge of how to cope with workers from diverse cultures, whilst at the same time respecting the needs of workers from their own culture. There is also the problem of dealing not only with the workforce, but also with partners, competitors and customers from diverse cultural backgrounds. In global organisations the biggest challenge is how to effectively organize, lead, manage and monitor diversity in a cross-cultural workforce. More and more leaders and top managers are becoming aware of the importance of learning about various cultures, different languages, cross-cultural communication and negotiation skills in a global context. The global business environment influences the development of Chinese businesses; more and more Chinese companies are exploring foreign markets, and in recent years many Chinese investment organisations have invested in and are thriving in the South African market. Most of these are operating in the clothing or textile companies. Starting up a business in a foreign country is a difficult task for any manager or leader. They face many barriers including having to cope with different languages and with differences in culture, politics and social environments. This is especially true of the situation in South Africa, as South Africa is a richly multi-cultural country with many cultures and subcultures that observe different religions, that use different languages and that display different habits. This study will investigate how Chinese managers and leaders can be led to a better understanding of these differences so that they can formulate new organisational cultures that maximize their companies’ success in a global environment. In these case studies the sample selected will be the Chinese clothing and textile industries in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Although the leaders and managers of Chinese investment organisations in KZN have attempted to increase their awareness of the local management culture and have tried to learn more about local political, social and economic structures, they still have not placed sufficient emphasis on language training and cross-cultural knowledge acquisition. Despite the fact that they already have basic language, communication and negotiation skills with which to deal in some measure with a cross-cultural workforce, this study shows that Chinese managers and leaders have to further improve their understanding and their communication skills.