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Hofstede model of cultural dimensions

Six Dimensions of Culture under the Geert Hofstede model

Renowned psychologist Dr Geert Hofstede, conducted one of the most extensive studies on the influence of culture on workplace values. Research has highlighted the importance of culture as a significant force in the context of business. However, Hofstede’s study brought out the features or dimensions of culture that can have a significant influence on work style and workplace values. It is an era of globalization and culture has emerged as a more powerful force than ever. A very large number of companies are operating in the international environment. Doing business in the global environment necessitates an understanding of the cross cultural factors that can impact work and productivity in specific regions.

The Hofstede model highlights six important dimensions which help understand why the style of business differs from culture to culture. These cultural dimensions by Hofstede were based on extensive research conducted through a decade. Based on this research, he published his model near the end of the 70s. In his model, he has defined culture as the collective programming of the mind distinguishing a group from another. Japanese differ from the Chinese in their style of business and workplace values and so do the Chinese from Americans. Dr Hofstede studied people working for IBM in more than 50 countries as a part of his study. Initially, he identified only four dimensions and later added two more. He completed the study in cooperation with Michael Minkov and his research team. The Hofstede model is a widely researched model and a large number of studies have been conducted based on this model.

The six dimensions of Hofstede model are:

Power Distance:

The basis of this dimension is how a specific society handles the inequalities in distribution of power. It expresses the degree to which unequal distribution of power is expected and acceptable for the less powerful members of the society. In societies that score high on PD Index, power is distributed more unequally and is acceptable. No further justification is generally required for this unequal distribution. The societies that score low on PD Index find unequal distribution of power less acceptable.  In such societies any unequal distribution of power may generally require justification. Such cultures generally strive for equalizing the distribution of power and to fill the inequalities that exist.

Individualism versus collectivism:

Individualism and collectivism are opposites of each other. Individualism is a characteristic of the societies where an individual’s responsibilities mainly concern himself and his immediate family. Simply put, the difference between individualism and collectivism lies in I’’ and ‘We’. The nations high on individualism have a culture that supports the I mentality whereas a culture with collectivistic values supports the We mentality. The collectivistic societies demonstrate a preference for a tightly knit framework instead of a loosely knit framework as the individualistic societies do. Groups are more important in collectivistic societies. In the individualistic societies the focus is on the individual.

Masculinity versus femininity:

This dimension of the Hofstede model defines the cultural preference for masculine or feminine values. Societies that score high on masculinity demonstrate a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness as well as material rewards for success. Such societies are more competitive. On the other hand societies that score high on femininity foster values like modesty, cooperation, care of the weak as well as the quality of life. Consensus is important in such societies rather than competition. Many times this dimension is also referred to as tough versus tender.

Uncertainty avoidance:

This dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel insecure due to uncertainty or ambiguity. The basis of this dimension is that how a society deals with the fact that future is uncertain. In simpler terms it is how the society deals with the uncertainty related with future. Does it try to control the future or lets it just happen believing it’s beyond control? So, the countries that score high on UA Index are more orthodox and generally do not welcome unorthodox ideas. On the other hand the societies that score low in this area demonstrate their preference for innovation and risk taking. What matters is practice and not principles.

Long term versus short term:

Societies that are pragmatic or score high in this dimension are more change oriented.  Their focus remains on things like persistence and modern education as a way to get ready for the future. They are known to be thrifty and long term oriented. On the other hand societies scoring low in this area maintain their traditions and norms, are frugal and also view social changes with suspicion. However, the focus is on short term gains or quick results.

Indulgence versus restraint:

Indulgence means free gratification of the natural human drives whereas restraint means that social norms regulate the gratification of these drives. In societies that are high on indulgence, the social norms are relatively relaxed and people can enjoy life freely. On the other hand, the societies that are low on indulgence and high on restraint have and follow strict social norms. Fun activities are generally regulated by the social norms.

Applications of the Hofstede model:

The Hofstede model can be applied in several areas including business, education, research and even leadership. In the context of business particularly, there are several areas where the Hofstede model can be successfully applied for generating better results. Marketing is a culturally sensitive function. By analyzing a culture on these dimensions, marketers can gain necessary insight on the culture. based on it, they can formulate strategies to successfully influence the customers there. In terms of outsourcing, recruitment and customer service as well, companies cannot be successful unless they know and value the significance of culture. Change management also requires a proper understanding of culture.  An important need for the modern business leaders is that they can develop cultural competence. In this era, companies are operating across cultures. Culturally suitable leadership styles can help leaders generate better outcomes in most markets.