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When your organization decided to go “global” two years ago, the executives didn’t know what they were getting into. While the international market was attractive for your company’s product, the overall plan wasn’t executed well. The organization was having great success selling its baby bath product in the domestic market, and once that market was saturated, the organization decided to sell the product in South America. Millions of dollars’ worth of research went into product marketing, and great success was had selling the product internationally. It was only when the organization decided to develop a sales presence in Peru and purchase a company there that the problems started. While market research had been done on the product itself, the executives of the company did little research to find out the cultural, economic, and legal aspects of doing business in that country. It was assumed that the Peru office would run just like the US office in terms of benefits, compensation, and hiring practices. This is where the strategy went wrong.
Many cultural aspects presented themselves. When executives visited the Peru office, the meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m., and executives were annoyed that the meeting didn’t actually start until 9:45 a.m. When the annoyed executives started in on business immediately, the Peruvian executives disapproved, but the US executives thought they disapproved of the ideas and weren’t aware that the disapproval came from the fact that Peruvians place a high emphasis on relationships, and it was rude to get down to business right away. When the executives walked around the office and spoke with various employees, this blunder cost respect from the Peruvian executives. Because Peru has a hierarchical structure, it was considered inappropriate for the executives to engage employees in this way; they should have been speaking with management instead.
Besides the cultural misunderstandings, executives had grossly underestimated the cost of compensation in Peru. Peru requires that all employees receive a bonus on the Peruvian Independence Day and another on Christmas. The bonus is similar to the monthly salary. After a year of service, Peruvians are allowed to go on paid vacation for thirty calendar days. Higher benefit costs were also an issue as well, since Peru requires workers to contribute 22 percent of their income to pension plans, and the company is required to pay 9 percent of salaries toward social (universal) health insurance. Life insurance is also required to be paid by the employer after four years of service, and severance payments are compulsory if the organization has a work stoppage or slowdown.
As you wade through the variety of rules and regulations, you think that this could have been avoided if research had been performed before the buyout happened. If this had occurred, your company would have known the actual costs to operate overseas and could have planned better.
Source: Based on information from CIA World Factbook and PKF Business Advisors.
The author introduces the chapter on international HRM.