Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture is a great tool to find the cultural fits in an organization. It is also a great framework to create a diverse and motivated workforce. Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social scientist who, in 1980, conducted a study of IBM employees across 50 different countries and received an immense database of data to analyze. Out of this research came two significant findings: the first is that there are six dimensions that make up the national culture and the second is that these variables remain remarkably stable over time.
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture are the set of core values that a culture upholds. It includes things like beliefs, customs, and traditions. It is passed down from generation to generation and shapes the way people in a culture think and behave. Famously Peter Drucker, the Father of Modern Day Management quoted “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”. It also emphasizes the importance of placing the right people with the right knowledge in an appropriate cultural setting.
Though the initial study was conducted to identify cultural differences of various countries, more and more organizations use these codes at an organizational level to find people of the right fit in the organization.
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture: The Culture Codes
Hofstede proposed 6 Dimensions of conflicting cultural codes that define the orientation of an individual and his collective survival in an organization. Hofstede’s cultural codes form the very background in which culture thrives and survives and collectively becomes an important constituent of something known as the “Organizational Culture”. There are basically 6 dimensions to these cultural attributions which collectively become the collective “cultural code” of an individual. These six different notions are as follows:
- Power Distance
- Collectivist vs Individualistic
- Uncertainty avoidance Index
- Femininity Vs Masculinity
- Short Term Vs Long Term Orientation
- Restraint Vs Indulgence
Why are Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture Important?
- Find the right fit for your organization’s culture
- Organizational Restructuring
- Filling key positions in an organization
- Mergers and Acquisitions
- Cultural Reorientations
- Finding Right Resonance with Customer
- New Product Development
- Brand Ethos
Hofstede 6 dimensions of culture: 1: POWER DISTANCE
The power distance index is the extent to which people are okay with inequality and power. It is viewed from the level of the follower- the lower level.
When there is a high power distance index, a culture will accept inequity and will encourage bureaucracy.
A low power distance index is an indication of a culture where people are encouraged to take part in decisions making and there is less reliance on traditional, top-down style management.
Examples: Startups and New Age Digital Organizations like to have a lesser power distance and a more open culture whereas government and bureaucratic organizations have a very high degree of power distance
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture : 2: Collectivist vs Individualistic
Societies on the individualism scale have more individualistic values, such as strong personal independence and notoriety. This type of society views group dependence with less concern and sees obligations to groups as ties that are not always desirable.
Individualism is about the pursuit of personal goals. These are defined as “I.”
Collectivism is the goal-setting philosophy that focuses the group’s goals and well-being on the individual.
Examples: Resources who are individual contributors like Design Engineers tend to have higher degrees of individualistic attitude and people in operations and production have a higher degree of collectivism. However, it is advised to have a certain degree of collectivism and “team-player spirit” when you are choosing a person to join your organization
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture 3: Uncertainty avoidance Index
The uncertainty avoidance index measures the degree to which you avoid uncertainty and ambiguity.
A country with a high uncertainty avoidance index is likely to be quite restrictive about unknown possibilities, opting to minimize them as much as possible. Rules and regulations make up an important part of the culture.
The low anxiety level is demonstrated by the absence of rules, regulations, and set plans. Ambiguous situations are welcomed.
Example: This element is particularly important in analyzing and understanding the cultural elements for a merger or acquisition or starting a new operation in a new country. Individually, there should not be any questions regarding falling on the wrong side of the law or pertaining to unethical behavior.
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture 4: Femininity Vs Masculinity
There is a tough vs. tender dimension in the masculinity vs. femininity theory, and it considers society’s preferences for achievement, attitude towards sexuality equality, and other aspects.
Masculinity includes gender roles, assertiveness, and money.
Femininity is made up of the following traits: fluid gender roles, modesty, nurturing, and quality of life.
Example: Every organization should have an equal and unique blend of both traits. The Culture originating, as a result, should not be conflicted with a specific gender. Understanding the same is also very important to creating a brand ethos and trying to understand the very nature of the products that resonate with the market. Taking both worldviews is particularly needed in a modern-day context
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture: 5: Short Term Vs Long Term Orientation
In an organizational setting, both short and long-term views are required. Short Term views particularly aim at getting things done and hold a “tactical” viewpoint. Long-term Views are strategic in nature and see an organization from the lens of achievability and charting the future course of action for an organization. Needless to say both are equally important.
Long-term orientation focuses on the future, as things such as attention to detail and perseverance are required. Long-term orientation encourages people to focus on what they can accomplish in the future and work to build a strong foundation rather than jump forward.
Short-term orientation focuses on short-term gains, involves traditionally delivering success in the present moment, and places a higher emphasis on current needs than future planning.
Example: Rationally, operational people, wage workers, and entry-level managerial positions should have a short-term view. On the contrary, senior management people must have a long-term view. The tests become very particular for recruiting to key positions.
Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture 6:Restraint Vs Indulgence
This dimension revolves around whether societies can control the impulses and desires of their people.
Indulgence is having free gratification related to enjoying life and having fun.
Restraint is a behavioral response to the suppression of gratifying needs.
Example: Someone who is artistic and heading the research may be indulgent and reward people with gratification whereas someone in operations may exercise restraint as the critical deliverables tend to centralize around efficiency and cost-effectiveness
The graphic can be detailed Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of culture study can be found here.
The Blue represents India
The Purple represents South Africa
The Green represents the United States of America
And, Orange represents the United Kingdom
How to implement it in your Organization?
We propose a simple roadmap for existing employees and new hires to understand their cultural orientations. If your organization believes in finding the right cultural fit for your organization we propose a 4 Step Process. If you are planning to implement such cultural exercises, connect with our team of experts.
If you’re from a culture that emphasizes individualism, you’re likely to view the world as a place where people are primarily responsible for their own success or failure. You believe that individuals should be free to pursue their own goals without interference from others.
If you’re from a culture that emphasizes collectivism, you’re likely to view the world as a place where people are interconnected and interdependent. You believe that individuals should work together for the common good. Similarly, other dimensions should be checked out to understand the viewpoint.
Samrat is a Delhi-based MBA from the Indian Institute of Management. He is a Strategy, AI, and Marketing Enthusiast and passionately writes about core and emerging topics in Management studies. Reach out to his LinkedIn for a discussion or follow his Quora Page