Challenges of Managing a Multinational Workforce

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]Effective managers have been in recent times been defined by their ability to manage diversity. After all, there has been an increasing aspect of differences within the workforce which is not only limited to ethnicity or culture but also by the country of origin of the employees. With the modern technology, globalization and communication have led to the establishment of a diverse workforce in terms of their origin/nationality, culture, religion among other differences. Today, cross-border labor mobility has become a reality. However, its levels have reached considerable levels as globalization element continues to erode the national restrictions hence the establishment of global multinational workforces. With the development of HR departments, management approach for multicultural teams has become somewhat approachable. Nevertheless, managing multinational workforce has not been an easy task due to different challenges. In an effort to strike the working formula and balance between diverse workforces requires effective and ongoing monitoring which is to be supported by an understanding of locally devised regulations, cultures as well as demographics.


Multinational workforce management has become an inevitable dawn in the current century. With increasing movement of an employee around the globe, an employee from different geographical territories has come together forming a formidable workforce in multinational organizations. According to Diamond (2012), global workforce refers to an internationally established pool of workers, entailing ones employed by multinational organizations connected through globally recognized systems of production and networking, immigrant workers, telecommunicating of workers. The new development of a multinational workforce has led to unending merits to organizations, with managers required to adopt effective management skills to achieve the best from the diverse workforce (Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski, 2013). Nevertheless, multinational; organizations have over the time wrestled with the challenge of effective governing as well as global workforce management. Effective managers in the global front have been defined by their ability to manage different challenges that come with the management of the multinational workforce. This research work provides a detailed review of challenges that face managers when dealing with multinational workgroup/force.

Uncertainty Avoidance

One of the major differences that different nations and global organizations are through uncertainty avoidance. According to Ndubisi et al, (2012), uncertainty avoidance can be regarded as ‘a community’s acceptance for ambiguity and uncertainty, an aspect that reflects the extent in which members of a community or an organization can cope with anxiety through minimizing uncertainty. With reference to high uncertainty avoidance, this is characterized by the use of formality with reference to interaction with others as well as dependence on procedures and policies that are well defined and formalized. Moreover, the nations that are regarded to have high uncertainty avoidance are more resistant to change as well as being intolerance of untraditional approaches hence the society may fear the opposite (people from low uncertainty regions/nations). Example of these countries includes; Belgium, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Korea etc.

In contrast, the low uncertainty avoidance exhibits differing characteristics such as the deployment of informality when interacting with others, as they in most cases depend on informal norms. Their resistance to change is somewhat moderate. Finally, for the case of people from low uncertainty avoidance regions/nations, they possess no difficulty while interacting with people, who may be different from them. For example of low avoidance, nations include; Singapore, USA, UK, China, India etc.

Cultural Differences between Nations

With the increased diversity among the global workforce, one of the major factors that challenge the success of global workforce management is cultural differences. The cultural identity of both the nations and the employees may make it harder for companies and their management team to understand the employee’s motivations and expectations. Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski (2014), in his article identified that the culture of a nation has a direct impact on organizations way of operations, such as structure, recruitment style, and payment strategies for the employees as well as compensation patterns. For example, for countries that are ranked high on the aspect of individualism, organizations in such as culture may be forced to adopt a performance-based approach in paying their employees. However, employees who are their background is defined by less individualism, which may in turn, be resistance to such payment approach due to their cultural training (Roberts et al, 1998). Overall this may, in turn, lead to challenges for the managers who will be forced to look for better strategies to fulfill both sets of people from the different societies. A country’s business culture perfectly defines what it pertains to organizations dealing with international customers and employee to operate. For example, through the culture aspect, a nation’s business laws and policies contribute greatly to how an organization manages itself. For example, if an organization structure is strictly hierarchical, the managers need to understand this, and in turn, develop strategies to effectively impose their management skills more so when dealing with employees who may not have the experience of a strictly hierarchical setting.

In the modern business world, there is an increasing aspect of the interdependent world, and in turn, studying culture has been an inevitable aspect for global managers. This is due to the fact that, they have to think globally, as the world becomes more diverse bringing people of different cultures together as employees. Inadequate understanding of the culture factor as an important factor in global management can result in a conflict between employees and the organization policies (Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski, 2014). With global workforce made of different people from a different language, economic status, religion, it has become a challenge for managers to build organization teams that are successful in their operations. Understanding cultural differences and mitigating it, allows managers to establish a powerful workforce that is capable of implementing significant change within an organization (Diamond, 2012). It also allows managers to understand each person’s strengths and perspectives, hence enabling him to avoid racial and ethnic-related divisions. For managers to be successful, the need to have a deep understanding of cultural norms is key to developing tailored training to the employees which in turn establishes a common platform for managing a global workforce.

Talent Identification and Development

Talent identification and development is another challenge that faces multinational workgroup management. Global business organizations have HR systems focused on identifying, maintaining and developing the best-suited talents for their assured continuity and competitiveness. However, this initiative has not been an easy one for global managers (Woollard, 2010). One of the challenges with reference to talent identification and development is that there is a lack of development culture within global organizations. This, in turn, forces organizations/managers to adopt ineffective strategies which in turn may lead to sidelining of potential talents. According to Woollard (2010), one of the key issues is how an organization and its managers should develop internally so as to become globally competitive. This would be great even for employees who may choose to not work on an international level, but the key to sensitize the employee of the global business status.

One of the realities is that not every employee and management strategies would automatically thrive on a global level. According to Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski (2013), global interviews for organizations which are going global proves that not all employees would grasp the idea of working on global environment, and in turn this brings to one of the major challenges of global management which identifying the employees who are more likely to buy into the complexities of transitional operations and at the same time function perfectly well in a global environment. Long gone is when managers were required to have defined skills in order to thrive in international management (Albertson, 2012). Today, the global business environment is in demand of managers and his employees who understand business and able to identify where the business is headed globally, as well as cultures that need to be bridged for leaders and managers to effectively manage employees, change and conflict. One key aspect with reference to this challenge is that the magnitude of the transnational organization is big in such a way that, even getting employee details is difficult (Kummerow, Ying & Kirby, 2014). This is due to biasness, which in turn caused the overlooking of talented and possibly the best employees. For example, this would mean that, if an organization is characterized by being in high avoidance risk, it may fall for employees from the same cultural identify, overlooking the low avoidance identified ones, who may be better placed to perform excellently.

Finally, related to this talent identification and development issues, another challenge is motivating employees to a level of wanting to shift from their homes to oversee. Or different reasons, numerous talented employees does not desire to move overseas. For example, in their article, Roberts, Kossek & Ozeki (1998), argued that talent marries talent, hence spousal careers have become an increasingly a block to the overseas occupation. The difference in development between nations also prevented expatriates from shifting from one nation to another. Employees could turn down the chance to work in lesser developed nations as they are (Woollard, 2010). For example, working in West Africa a decade ago was dramatically undermined due to lack of positive appeal by the nations to potential expatriates. This was due to the heightened issue of HIV infections in the region, a situation that was hard for global managers to motivate the employees to shift to such working conditions.

Innovation Transfer & Knowledge Dissemination

According to Albertson (2012), two globally recognized information blocking aspects namely dissemination of knowledge from one nation to another as well as spreading innovation as another set of barriers for effective global management. Drawing from the early designed structures for information flow, as well as high &low uncertainty avoidance, there was the recognition of information from the center outwards. However, with globalization and the current global establishments, there is demand for information structures where all entailed units provide and receives information at the same time. For example, key information about the market and production is obtained away from the parent organization. For managers to be effective on the global front, they are in turn supposed to establish cross-functional communication which would enable effectively and up to date communication to their subjects within an organization (Rothlauf, 2015). Globalization and diversity have moved the organization from the centralized transfer of information, innovations, and knowledge and in turn, effective managers are defined by their ability to establish multi-dimensional strategies to ensure there is maximum utilization of innovations and knowledge dissemination.

Linguistic Diversity, High Training Cost & Shortage in Technological Infrastructure

One of the defining factors for success and failure in going global in the business world has been the level of development in a given nation. Today, use of online as a solution towards to raining an effective workforce by managers. However, this incentive demands an in-depth investment in technology infrastructure (Rothlauf, 2015). All nations aren’t on the same level in terms of technology advancement, so manager’s access to their workforce may be limited as well as employee access to training materials being limited at their new location. This, in turn, prevents the overall realization of the manager’s potential as well as that of his employees.

On the other difference in language has been a barrier to effective management at the global level. For example in the European region, there more than 230 languages spoken as well as the difference in a dialect which may cause misunderstanding. With employee diversity on its rise today, language mastering has become a key aspect for effective managers. Mastery of the effective ways to communicate and offer employee training has been the primary focus in an effort to bypass the barrier (Rothlauf, 2015). Finally, there is the issue of increased cost of training the employees. For a global workforce to be effective, more training is required and in turn, managers are required to provide the best training facilities and environment. Without funds, effective training may hamper the manager's overall impact as well as the contribution of his workforce.


Globalization of workplaces and the workforce has become a reality in today business and management occupation. More so, this has brought endless expansion as well as an increase in the scope of workforce management. This new development has brought along a host of new challenges with regard to workforce management, among other global expansion related challenges. Despite the development and advancement of human resource strategies, global workforce management has presented a different management related challenges. Differentiated by either being high or low uncertainty avoidance, the cultural impact has been a challenge to effective management of the global workforce. Other challenges include; talent identification and development, language, innovation dissemination among others. Nevertheless, there has been endless progress made with reference to global workforce management with different strategies working in different cases. Being an inevitable development in the modern world, leaders and managers have continued to be evaluated on global grounds on their ability to establish an effective workforce.


Albertson, D. S. (2012). Managing the Global Workforce. People & Strategy, 35(2), 59-60.

Diamond, A. (2012). Leading and Managing a Global Workforce. Cupertino, CA: Super Star Press.

Kummerow, E., Ying, L. X., & Kirby, N. (2014). Organisational Culture: Concept, Context, and Measurement (In Two Volumes). New Jersey: World Scientific.

Ndubisi, N. O., Malhotra, N. K., Ulas, D., & Ndubisi, G. C. (2012). Examining Uncertainty Avoidance, Relationship Quality, and Customer Loyalty in Two Cultures. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 24(5), 320-337.

Pirkkalainen, H., & Pawlowski, J. (2013). Global Social Knowledge Management: From Barriers to the Selection of Social Tools. Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 11(1), 3-17.

Pirkkalainen, H., & Pawlowski, J. M. (2014). Global social knowledge management – Understanding barriers for global workers utilizing social software. Computers in Human Behavior, 30637-647.

Roberts, K., Kossek, E. E., & Ozeki, C. (1998). Managing the global workforce: Challenges and strategies. Academy Of Management Executive, 12(4), 93-106.

Rothlauf, J. (2015). A Global View on Intercultural Management: Challenges in a Globalized World. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg.

Woollard, S. (2010). Managing talent across a global workforce. Strategic HR Review, 9(5), 5-10.

October 24, 2023

Business Economics


Management Workforce

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