Cultural Impacts on the Managing of Knowledge Sharing Processes : A Qualitative Study of Swedish Banks in Shanghai, China
Sammanfattning: The globalization of economies and the technology development have both increased opportunities to businesses as well as challenges. Multicultural workforces and other values in the market compared with the home market lead to complexity in the management control when a business establishes abroad. Individuals’ nationalities impact their behaviors and values and it is the management’s task to coordinate the members’ activities in a way that is beneficial for the company. The banking industry is a knowledge-intensive industry, meaning the employee’s knowledge is the bank’s biggest resource. To create organizational knowledge, it is important that the knowledge is shared within the company. Effective knowledge sharing is hard to accomplish in a multicultural company since it is depending on communication between the employees which can be aggravated by cultural differences. The more distant the involved national cultures are, the harder it will be to achieve intercultural communication. The Swedish culture is very different from the Chinese culture. China’s economy has developed fast since it opened up to the world market in the 70’s. Today, several Swedish companies are established in China. The purpose with this study is to examine how the Chinese culture impacts Swedish knowledge-intensive companies established in China and to increase the understanding on how to overcome the cultural barriers that are affecting the managing of knowledge sharing. Cultural clashes can imply risk to a company if they affect the efficiency of the internal processes and must therefore be avoided. This field study was conducted in Shanghai, China at Swedish banks to see how they worked with the cultural differences. Interviews were made with staff of both Chinese and Nordic heritages to see how the cultural differences impacted their operations. The results showed that there are several cultural clashes that affect effective knowledge sharing processes within the companies. The management tries to implement the Swedish way of working in the branches, but the Chinese culture has a strong impact on the communication channels and it creates confusions and misunderstanding between the Nordic and Chinese employees. Cultural understanding and adjustment to the cultural conditions have been shown from earlier researches to reduce cultural clashes. This study supports those arguments by showing that a higher level of intercultural communication leads to increasing cultural understanding and a quicker adjustment to the organization’s way of working. The study also showed that the national culture’s impact on individual behavior was stronger to individuals that have had less foreign exchanges. The study contributes with suggestions of enlightening cultural differences more by formal meetings to increase the cultural understanding within the companies, as well as intercultural team works over department units should be implemented.
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