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Cultural Integration: Implications for business leadership and service productivity in sub-Sahara Africa |

Authors:
  • University of Westminster Business School

Abstract

The paper explores the concept of cultural integration and its implications for business leadership in sub-Saharan Africa through the lens of business leaders working in the Nigerian financial industry. Semi-structured face to face interview was used to collect data from sixteen business leaders with a bicultural background working as heads of departments and groups of organisations in the Nigerian financial industry. The data gathered was analysed using Trans Positional Cognition Approach' (TPCA), phenomenological research variant. The analysis yielded 12 participants themes and four second-level themes: promoting meritocracy-driven strategy, hard-headed approach to business operations, drivers of local organisational culture, and promotion of technological-driven service strategy. At a higher level of abstraction, these themes were interpreted as 'conflicted organisational culture mental map syndrome', an acculturation-enculturation dilemma directly attributable to business leadership practices by the study participants. Hence, cultural integration has significant implications for the studied research setting's service productivity potentials.
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Cultural Integration: Implications for Business
Leadership and Service Productivity
in sub-Sahara Africa.
Dr Obafemi Olekanma; O.Olekanma@tees.ac.uk
Teesside University International Business School, England
Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
Dr Enis Elezi; E.Elezi@tees.ac.uk
Teesside University International Business School, England
Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
This paper is part of the BAM2021 Conference proceedings ISBN 978-0-9956413-4-1
https://app.oxfordabstracts.com/stages/2923/submissions/246059/form/view
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Cultural Integration: Implications for business leadership and
service productivity in sub-Sahara Africa
Abstract
The paper explores the concept of cultural integration and its implications for business
leadership in sub-Saharan Africa through the lens of business leaders working in the Nigerian
financial industry. Semi-structured face to face interview was used to collect data from sixteen
business leaders with a bicultural background working as heads of departments and groups of
organisations in the Nigerian financial industry. The data gathered was analysed using Trans
Positional Cognition Approach (TPCA), phenomenological research variant. The analysis
yielded 12 participants themes and four second-level themes: promoting meritocracy-driven
strategy, hard-headed approach to business operations, drivers of local organisational culture,
and promotion of technological-driven service strategy. At a higher level of abstraction, these
themes were interpreted as ‘conflicted organisational culture mental map syndrome’, an
acculturation-enculturation dilemma directly attributable to business leadership practices by
the study participants. Hence, cultural integration has significant implications for the studied
research settings service productivity potentials.
Keywords: Financial Industry, Business Leadership, Service Productivity, Knowledge,
Phenomenology, Africa, Cultural Integration.
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Background
In sub-Sahara African countries, like Nigeria, communitarianism plays major roles in the
business environment, transmuting into a normative structure heavily underpinned by culture
and religion. The normative cultural structure influences practices and socialises the individual,
influencing what can be deemed appropriate and what to avoid. As Maclntyre (1981)
suggested, this cultural inclination is internalised and, by extension, shapes the individual’s
worldview. Hence, affects every facet of their business interaction and undertakings, including
how businesses are managed, the decision taken and communications with the wider society.
According to Hofstede (1991), culture is the software of the mind. Browaeys (2019) clarifies
that culture refers to the collective programming of human minds. So one group can be
distinguishable from another.
Simply put, culture is a set of learned core values, beliefs, standards, and knowledge
identifiable within a group or community. These systems of cultural attributes in the African
context are passed down from generation to generation, forming part of the building blocks
that tacitly helps to shape the individual’s approach to leading and cultivating relationships. In
Nigeria, for instance, religion (belief) has a profound influence on business strategy. The
average Nigerian business person will sprinkle his or her conversation with the phrases like
“By the grace of God”; “If God wishes”, and so on (Olekanma et al., 2011). This plays out in
business interactions, interpersonal relationships and even how services are offered to the
customer with implications for service productivity. Hence, the average African business
leader's primary focus is to cultivate relationships and friendships of the other party, even if it
is based on religious, sporting, or other explorable lines. This extends to customer engagement
channels and strategies adopted in African businesses (Olekanma et al., 2011).
Because of the great emphasis on relationships, African businesses like those in the Nigerian
environment tilt more to the collectivism approach (Hofstede, 1991), where people, most of
the time, conform to a set of customs and values, whether good or bad. At the corporate level,
it also breeds a high-power distance society where employees wait to receive orders from their
bosses or the organisation's head before consummating transactions. However, in the western
world, like in the UK, Canada and the USA particularly, where most African executives
(business leaders) go to study to acquire additional business leadership skills, the dominant
culture, individualism (Hofstede, 1991), which is more tasks driven, and strictly formal is
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prevalent. Businesses and Business leaders in the west are more attuned to legalistic
approaches, and contracts are the basis for consummating transactions. Using the process of
negotiation, Torrington et al. (2008, p.716) provide a clear western perspective. The author
noted, ‘the essence of the process is to find not just common ground between two parties but a
new relationship with greater constructive potential than the one that preceded it’. In contrast,
non-western business negotiators may be unwilling to agree to a situation where the phrase ‘no
problem’ would be taken literally because such a phrase is part of their cultural colloquial
(Moran et al., 2011). This approach, commonly associated with countries with a collectivism
culture approach like the African business environments, might present an ethical dilemma for
Westerners and people outside that culture (French, 2015). Because legalistic and contractual
obligations underpin how these western countries conceptualise and offer product and services
to their customers. In the western business environment culture, people are more concerned
about price, quality and guarantees. Hence trying to rely solely on being friendly in a legalistic
environment are of minimal use (Hofstede, 2011).
However, as Jasper (2003: pvi) put it, “All our experiences act as a springboard for developing
new skills”. Therefore, African executives who undertake these studies gain not just business
best practice acumen but also imbibe the western culture. The bicultural nature of these African
and Western-trained executives leading businesses in sub-Saharan African countries and its
implication for service productivity is an under-researched area. So, this study is particularly
interested in understanding the influences the bicultural nature or ‘imported culture’ have on
these participants approaches to leading business activities and its implication for service
productivity in the African research setting. We intend to provide the reader with insights into
the concept of cultural integration and its implications for business leadership and service
productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. The study explores that through the phenomenological lens
of the business leaders in the Nigerian financial industry, which is a significant employer of
labour. We envisage that this study would contribute new knowledge to the service productivity
management body of knowledge from the Nigerian financial industry business leaders’
perspectives. Also, we believe that the result of this study can be generalisable within the
context of African countries and other countries of the world that share similar cultural values
and circumstances with the research setting of this work.
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The next section of the paper will provide a brief transdisciplinary literature review covering
culture and cultural integration, cultural perspectives in developed and developing countries,
developing knowledge culture for identity, organisational integration, and elements of service
productivity with brief synthesis. After that, the study presents the research methodology and
discussion of the results and ends with the conclusion section.
Literature review
Culture
The internationalisation of markets and business operations has provided opportunities to
research a range of culturally related aspects. Cultural integration, cultural diversity, cultural
convergences, or divergences have been amongst the most fundamental areas in cross-cultural
management research aiming to investigate and understand the role culture, both at national
and organisational levels, has on shaping business initiatives, strategies, and practices.
According to Adler (1994), culture is understood as a developed behavioural aspect noted in
an individual or group of people by which they are identified, expressed and transmitted
through symbols, distinguishing mark and its values and beliefs. Broadly, culture embeds a
range of principles, values, beliefs, and assumptions. When displayed, it can be compared and
contrasted with different cultures. Hence provides opportunities to highlight similarities and
differences, which in a business and management context may be used for learning and
developmental purposes.
Numerous studies in cross-cultural management literature have highlighted culture as the main
barrier to successful interaction between individuals or teams of different cultures (Ely &
Thomas, 2001; Friedman et al., 2012; Zanfrini & Monaci, 2017). Cultural differences have
caused the breakdown of many business partnerships that have made economic sense due to
misunderstandings and frustrations associated with cultural differences. Nevertheless, if
handled carefully, cultural differences can also positively impact an organisation’s ability to
yield tangible results and benefits that contribute to the development of organisational
competitive advantage (Gelfand et al., 2017). Being able to draw knowledge and expertise from
a multicultural workforce is critical to business success. Thus it allows the management of an
organisation to promote decentralisation and employee empowerment at a local level
(Søderberg and Holden, 2002). Acknowledging and understanding cultural diversity is
considered a prerequisite of dealing with cultural integration and capitalising on opportunities
a culturally diverse workforce may offer.
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Cultural Perspectives in Developed and Developing Countries
Cultural characteristics of nations and societies have been used to explain the differences
amongst management concepts noted across developing and developed countries. Research
shows that merely exporting' managerial practices from developed to developing countries has
not always been successful due to the lack of adapting to local cultures (Gelfand et al., 2017;
Romani et al., 2018). According to Malhotra et al. (2005), the impact of services in the global
economy continues to grow significantly and is projected to maintain a similar future trend.
Therefore, managers need to comprehend cultural differences between developed and
developing countries and their implications in the workforce and organisational dynamics.
Hofstede (2011), well acknowledged for his seminal work in cross-cultural management
literature, argues that developed countries are characterised by individualistic societies and
place emphasis on the management of competencies where responsibilities and trust are
developed due to employees reliability, trustworthiness, and performance. In developing
countries, where a collectivism culture characterises societies, the focus when hiring an
employee is to assess how well they fit within an organisation and how their skills and expertise
is reflected within the business (Malhotra et al., 2005; Gelfand et al. 2017; Danso, 2018).
Another cultural element used to analyse cultures implication in dealing with a managerial
issue is Power Distance (PD) (Hofstede, 1991). Developing countries are known to score high
in PD (Hofstede, 1991). Organisations in such societies embrace inequality amongst different
roles within an organisation. The inequality embedded within the organisation is then reflected
in the distribution of power and authority, decision making, knowledge sharing, expertise, and
competence development. Such inequalities also impact the interaction between the workforce
and different managerial responsibilities.
Research by Gelfand et al. (2017) and Danso (2018) show that employees in developing
countries' collective societies are expected to respect, commit, and comply with social norms,
while in individualistic societies of developed countries, employees respect privacy, individual
rights, attitudes and beliefs. Such cultural differences may influence the quality, speed, and
frequency of information and knowledge extracted, shared, and implemented across an
organisation through interactions between executives, managers, and employees, which will
eventually impact the organisations overall performance.
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Cultural Integration
Drucker (1999) stated that one of the most fundamental challenges for managers would be to
enhance knowledge and service workers productivity. Such a task becomes even more
challenging in a globalised economy where cultural diversity is becoming more prominent and
cultural integration more necessary in developing, implementing, and accomplishing effective
management practices in an international management context. Studies undertaken by Ely and
Thomas (2001) and Romani et al. (2018) highlight the importance of cultural integration
between local and expatriate managers and how homogenous teams have higher productivity
levels and display better organisational performance.
Cultural integration is understood as a process that seeks to ensure a co-existence of cultures
that continue to develop within an organisations settings. It is used to form a thinking model
that guides the actions and behaviours of individuals with different cultural characteristics
(Stahl et al. 2017; Danso, 2018). Romani et al. (2018) argue that cultural integration minimises
reasons that may trigger organisational conflicts due to cultural differences by allowing local
staff and expatriates to merge and combine their values, behaviours, and mentalities that impact
social interactions amongst the workforce.
Furthermore, working on cultural integration and eradicating any cross-cultural barriers,
managers will need to focus on understanding and to review the suitability of leadership
style(s), communication strategies and flows, performance management approaches, and
training and development programmes, emphasising cross-cultural management skills.
Research undertaken by Korzilius et al. (2017) and Galliher et al. (2017) highlight that cultural
integration is also facilitated by establishing core organisational values, which mirror the
characteristics of its diverse workforce and promotes the integration of different sets of
subcultures that are found within an organisation. Effective cultural integration provides
opportunities to implement organisational initiatives that support the management of
knowledge and expertise between local and expatriate staff. Effective knowledge exchange
practices amongst diverse workforce positively impact enhancing organisational creativity and
competitiveness (Korzilius et al., 2017; Galliher et al., 2017).
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Developing Knowledge Culture for Identity Organisational Integration
When discussing the cultural integration within a business environment context, Malhotra et
al. (2005) highlight the critical role organisational culture plays in synergising employees
capabilities and aligning them with strategic organisational objectives. Organisational culture
impacts the development of managerial practices needed to support the integration of
personalities, skills, knowledge, and expertise found within an organisation. Research
undertaken by Galliher et al. (2017), Korzilius et al. (2017), Al-Busaidi and Olfman (2017)
indicates that organisations should design organisational mechanisms that support the
transferability of knowledge across individuals and teams. Also, Baker (2017) argues that
employees who have had international experiences regarding education and training
programmes would be of particular value in facilitating and supporting cultural integration
within an organisation.
Many sub-Saharan African business leaders who have studied and lived abroad, mainly in
western countries, can apply principles of knowledge activation (Higgins, 1996; Wyer & Srull,
2014; Chigudu, 2018), when returning to work in their home countries. Knowledge activation
indicates an ability to possess and switch between local and international cultural knowledge,
thus illustrating the element of biculturalism. Like many other bicultural business leaders, it is
not clear if bicultural Sub-Saharan African business leaders will be able to use their cultural
knowledge effectively. Tarba et al. (2009) explain that bicultural business leaders may choose
to adopt a single cultural approach that may either represent sub-Saharan Africa or international
values instead of adopting and implementing both cultural values (knowledge) as and when
needed depending on managerial challenges. The tendency of choosing between cultural
knowledge is referred to as cultural frame switching. According to Friedman et al. (2012) and
Baker (2017), there is no clear evidence if employees and business leaders can switch cultural
frames or if switching cultural frames impacts business leaders behaviours. When discussing
cross-cultural integration at an individual level, Batsa et al. (2020) argue that individual
differences noted in bicultural identity integration will influence the application of employee’s
cultural systems in dealing with a business leadership task. Batsa et al. (2020) explain that most
disagreements and conflicts between individuals and teams are attributed to how bicultural
employees deal with cultural identities. Batsa et al. (2020) and Szymanski & Ipek (2020)
explain that bicultural employees may choose to see their cultural identities as compatible or
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conflicting. Choosing conflictual cultural identities sets significant barriers to developing a
constructive working environment that forms the foundations for better organisational
performance. Hence, biculturalism concepts should be paid particular attention by leadership
and managers when preparing cross-cultural training programmes focused on supporting
cultural identity integration geared towards sustainable service productivity of the
organisations.
Service Productivity
Service could be viewed as a change in the condition of a person or goods carried out by the
service provider with the agreement of the consumer of the service (Hill, 1999). Service outputs
must impinge in some way on the condition or status of the consuming units (Olekanma, 2018).
Service as an activity is an application of specialised competences (knowledge and skills)
through deeds, processes, and performance for the benefit of another entity or the entity itself
(Vargo and Lusch, 2004a, 2016). Hence, several authors suggest that defining the concept of
service productivity is problematic (Hill, 1977, Schneider, 1994; Fisk et al., 1995; Johnston,
1999; Gadrey, 2000, Rutkauskas and Paulavičienėm, 2005, Corsten and Gössinger 2007,
Grönroos, 2011, Djellal and Gallouj, 2013, Vargo and Lusch, 2016). Service productivity, as
postulated by Vuorinen et al. (1998) adopted in this work, however, can be expressed as the
quantity of output and quality of output as a ratio of the quantity of input and quality of output.
Armistead et al. (1988), Järvinen et al. (2003), and Yalley and Sekhon (2014) construe this as
the ability of the organisation to use its inputs for providing services with quality matching the
expectations of the customers. Hence, the quantity and quality of service delivered to customers
by businesses depends on the quantity and quality of input of the leaders who run these
businesses.
Synthesis of literature
The Nigerian financial industry plays a pivotal role in the economy. Currently, it is the largest
employer of white-collar and blue-collar jobs in the research setting. However, because of the
globalisation and internationalisation nature of products in the sector, the trend is to encourage
employees to acquire western ‘education’ and or alternatively attract talents from the western
countries, with a view to improving organisational service productivity and profitability. This
approach has implicitly occasioned biculturalism within the sector, people that come with
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different skills, unique attributes, and cultural values. Thus, integrating these diverse group of
individuals becomes imperative if the underpinning objectives of biculturalism are to be
achieved. Effective cultural integration provides opportunities to implement organisational
initiatives that support the management of knowledge and expertise between local and staff
with bicultural background with a view to improved organisational service productivity and
profitability outcome. While several authors reviewed (Higgins, 1996; Tarba et al., 2009; Wyer
& Srull, 2014; Korzilius et al., 2017; Galliher et al., 2017; Chigudu, 2018, Batsa et al., 2020;
Szymanski & Ipek, 2020) had highlighted the importance of cultural integration as a catalyst
for growth, when well-managed, none of these authors had focus attention on its implications
for business leadership and service productivity in sub-Saharan African countries such as
Nigeria. This work, therefore, aims to fill this knowledge gap by exploring these bicultural
study participants business leadership style and its implication for service productivity in the
Nigerian financial industry.
Research Methods
To do justice to this work, it is imperative to anchor the phenomena of study in appropriate
philosophical and theoretical roots (Creswell and Plano, 2011). The knowledge gap identified
in cultural integration literature, the subjective nature of service productivity and the focus on
the cognition of the business leaders influenced the choice of interpretivism and
phenomenology research framework adopted for this study. Phenomenology is the study of
structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The business
leaders within the study research setting subjectively engages in experience, whether on an
emotional, professional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual dimension (Addis and Holbrook,
2001; Carù and Cova, 2006; Tung and Ritchie, 2011) that have implications for the service
productivity of their organisations.
There are different variants of the phenomenological research approach. Some specific
examples include Langdridge (2007) Critical Narrative Analysis, a descriptive
phenomenological approach; Smith and Osborn (2008) Interpretative Phenomenological
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Analysis (IPA), where researchers adopting it attempt to make sense of the participants
interpretation of their own experiences, thus creating a double hermeneutic; Moustakas’ (1990)
Heuristic Approach that involves self-reflection geared towards producing a creative synthesis
of the study phenomena; and the ‘Relational Approach’ that enables the researcher to uncover
themes in the data through a process that involves dialogue with other researchers (see Finlay
& Evans 2009; Finlay 2011, 2013). In this work, the Trans Positional Cognition Approach
(TPCA) synthesised phenomenology variant (Olekanma, 2018), was adopted in this study as
research methodology because issues of cultural integration and business leadership within the
context of service productivity required both description and interpretation of the phenomena
of interest. Put differently; the TPCA approach was chosen because it facilitates the provision
of ‘descriptions’ that are ‘rich’ (Husserl, 1913/1931) and ‘full of interpretations’ (Heidegger,
1927/1962) that accurately reveal what it means to be a person in the particular world being
observed. Hence, it enables the discovery of the essence of the study phenomenon.
Phenomenologically relevant data were collected from sixteen business leaders in a sub-
Saharan African research setting within the Nigerian financial industry, using a semi-structured
interview method. All the participants were heads of critical business departments and groups
in their financial organisation. All ethical protocols that include providing participants with the
study information sheet and obtaining consent from these participants were observed. All the
names of the organisations and participants were changed to pseudo names for confidentiality.
Also, phenomenological reduction (bracketing), which in the case of TPCA methodology
involves the suspension of ‘judgements’ and ‘explanations’ were observed throughout the
research process.
Key Findings and Discussions
The data gathered from the interviews with the study participants were transcribed verbatim
to create study text. The study text was analysed using the TPCA phenomenological
methodology that involves thematic and interpretation activities. The output from the process
led to the emergence of 12 study participants themes, outlined below
Renewed focus on CPD requirement as employee knowledge quotient a challenge
Reward directly related to output not dependent on whom you know
Institutionalising the ‘relentless drive to achieve more with less’ mentality
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Use of inexperienced employees with potentials that has a connection to high net
worth individuals
Preference of innovative millennials, leading to a high level of attrition of experienced
staff
Driven work environment perceived as an unfriendly environment
Promotion of system-induced peer to peer performance-driven rivalry
Master servant leadership style dominant approach in the industry
Employee not taking responsibility for their learning a big issue
High levels of physical and cognitive absenteeism
Insistent conflict between ‘This is how we do it here’ syndrome and ‘best practice’
based on imported culture
Increased dependence on IT-savvy employees in lieu of more experienced employee
with little or no IT skills leading to internal conflicts
These study participants themes, as shown above through the process of transpositional
cognition, were further interpreted. The process yielded four second-level interpretations
‘themes as highlighted below
Promotion of meritocracy driven strategy
Hard-headed approach to business operations
Drivers of local organisational culture
Promotion of technological driven service strategy
These second-level themes were further aggregated at a higher level of abstraction, which
enables the emergence of the concept Conflicted Organisational Culture Mental Map
Syndrome’ as the essence of the study phenomenon. In other words, the study found that
business leaders with a bicultural background in the Nigerian financial industry business
leadership practices yielded acculturation and enculturation dilemma, in the form of Conflicted
Organisational Culture Mental Map syndrome which has implications for the service
productivity and profitability prospects of their organisations. The four-second-level
interpretation themes outlined above are further discussed in the next session.
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Cultural integration, as postulated by Danso (2018) is understood as a process that seeks to
ensure a co-existence of cultures that continue to develop within an organisations settings, and
it is used to form a thinking model that guides the actions and behaviours of individuals with
bicultural attributes. Consciously or unconsciously, business leaders with bicultural attributes
put in place organisational structures, practices, and cultures that make sense to them, that
correspond to their way of dealing with the world (Laloux, 2014). The four study second level
themes that include the promotion of meritocracy driven strategy, hard-headed approach to
business operations, drivers of local organisational culture and promotion of technological
driven service strategy represent thinking model, and action (business leadership practices) and
dominant culture within the research setting. Interpreted at a higher level of abstraction, these
elements portrayed a sector plagued with ‘conflicted organisational culture mental map
syndrome, principally because of lack of organisational focus on cultural integration. To
provide further insight into the study phenomena, each of the four-second level themes is
further discussed with supporting quotes from the study text of participants.
The promotion of meritocracy driven strategy theme was aggregated by issues such as
renewed focus on employee knowledge quotient, reward directly linked to output not
dependent on whom you know, and a relentless drive to achieve more with less, which
represent ‘western culture’ best practice approaches imbibed by the participants business
leaders’ while studying abroad. This practice conflict with expectations and norms within the
research environment. While not injurious to the local culture, this best practice approach
represents an affront to how things are typically done within the sub-Saharan African research
setting.
Furthermore, the bicultural dimension seems to create a divide between the leaders without the
benefit of overseas training and those that have had the opportunity to go study abroad.
Business leaders with bicultural background tend to adopt an unconventional hard-headed
approach to business leadership in the research setting. Their approaches included for instance,
the use of inexperienced employees with connection to high net worth individuals. This elicited
comments from their non-westernised counterpart such as
At the recruitment process, you find out that people that are good, and are qualified,
those don’t have the opportunity, they don’t get the opportunity, and they won’t be
shortlisted to go through the next stage of the recruitment process. However, other
people that may not even know anything but just because they are the candidate of a
customer; with a large deposit in the bank, let’s say customer’s niece is the
candidate, you don’t have a choice; just for you to retain that deposit, you just have
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to give her the opportunity, they call it strategic hiring. So, what do you expect?”
(Mrs Tithe).
However, one of the participants, a bicultural leader, countered the argument and
said
But I tell you that a sharp young guy if he has the right attitude to tap into different
available learning material, will excel, I’m sure. There are people, people that have
been here for 20years; in 20years, you have been doing the same thing, but I tell you
that it is not in tune with the way businesses are done these days. That you have seen
that lot of young professionals, young business leaders are doing excellently well,
and they will be able to turn organisations’ around where the old bosses, were not
too successful (Mr Gboyecorp).
Hence there is an endemic peer to peer rivalry. The unintended consequence of the peer to
peer rivalry is that the evidence of master-servant business leadership style now the dominant
approach in the Nigerian financial industry.
The other drivers of local organisational culture, in the research setting include local non-
bicultural employees not taking responsibility for their learning a big issue; this is even though
“the level of knowledge and skills demonstrated in the performance of their work by employees
are critical to the long-term success of their organisation and happiness of its customers”
(Newell et al., 2002, p.19). There is also the issue of a high level of physical and cognitive
absenteeism, as well as the relentless agelong conflict between ‘This is how we do it here’
syndrome and ‘best practice based on imported culture’. Bicultural dimension defines in this
work as Western legalistic and local African approach underpinned by brotherliness and
friendliness approach to business cultures seems to create a divide between what is acceptable
as the norm in the Nigerian financial industry, thus conflicting service productivity potentials
of the organisations operating within it. Some of the business leaders with westernised
background explain that
“In Nigeria, ‘respect for the elders’, is paramount; otherwise, they will tell you, you are
not friendly, your staff is rude, do you understand, which is bad for business. So that
determines the kind of staff that you put in a location and some time you need to profile
your staff as well. Some can do better in some locations than the other, some might not
be able to serve in certain locations, so those are the consideration you look at (Mr
Bojo, Mr Ijebu, Mr Kabba, Mr Wahabi).
To improve service culture and potentially service productivity prospects of operators in the
Nigerian finance industry, the business leaders with bicultural value engage in the relentless
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promotion of technological driven service strategy’. This best practice business leadership
strategy entails dependence on IT-savvy employees in lieu of more experienced employees
with little or no IT skills. This further widens the divide and creates internal conflicts as the
westernised business leaders are comfortable with digital and technological tools while their
local counterpart still sees digital tools as a status symbol and not a tool for delivering service.
Though the non-westernised business leaders are deemed to play a vital role in the sector as
they embody knowledge which they interact with (Davenport and Prusak, 1998; Davenport,
2005) to facilitate the production of products and services offered to customers; their lack of
IT skills creates a huge gap in their ability to respond promptly/rapidly to situations without
recourse to third parties such as ‘secretary’ or personnel assistants. The time lag is critical in
today’s technologically driven business environments where customers demand savviness and
online real-time services, which have implications for both service productivity and
profitability of operators. Hence there is the need for leaders to possess not only personal
knowledge (Polanyi, 1958) but also the type of knowledge that Sveiby (1997) referred to as the
capacity to act. One of the local business leaders admitted that cultural integration and its
explicit and implicit implications for service productivity and profitability of their organisation
is an issue of grave concern within the Nigerian financial industry as most local leaders are still
in denials and said
“Some of us are saying it’s an African thing, and that’s the truth. We are not
service-oriented, I am serious, we are not service-oriented, we take things for
granted, and we do not value customers, it’s a cultural thing that people need to
change their view about it. until we begin to realise that the customer has
options, he can go to the bank next door, you wouldn’t meet those customers
expectation, we wouldn’t improve service” (Mr Bojo).
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Conclusion
The study explored cultural integration and how it impacts study participants working in the
Nigerian private sector financial organisations. The study data was gathered from leaders with
executive portfolio responsibilities in their organisations to ensure the collection of first-hand
information and insight into daily activities in the studied research setting. Through methodical
phenomenological gathering and analysing the study empirical data using the transpositional
cognition approach, four key themes emerged: Promotion of meritocracy-driven strategy,
Hard-headed approach to business operations, Drivers of local organisational culture, and
Promotion of technological driven service strategy.
From the discussions about these themes, it is evident that cultural integration issues influence
the practices of bicultural business leaders within the sector. As Africans with or without
bicultural backgrounds, each business leader’s interpretation of ideals established by their
influencing culture determines how individual behaviour and belief are moulded and
transmitted. Depending on the context, it can promote organisational cohesion, thus improving
quality of service and service productivity potential or as this empirical work had shown a
cause for concern in the form of ‘conflicted organisational culture mental map syndrome’,
which is endemic in Nigeria sub-Saharan African financial organisations.
Furthermore, the output from this work depicts the cultural integration challenges faced by the
participants of the studied private sector financial organisations in the research setting. Hence,
within context contributes new knowledge to the extant identity organisational cultural
integration body of knowledge from the Nigerian study participants and private sector financial
organisations perspectives. The paper, thus, sets an agenda for practitioners and the
management of organisations in the research setting. It requires more attention to be paid to
cultural integration issues because it has implications for organisational service productivity
and long-term survival prospects.
The key limitation of this work is that study data was collected from one country, and study
participants are from private-sector financial organisations. Though this study data may have
been collected from Nigeria, one country in sub-Saharan Africa and from practitioners working
in private sector financial organisations, the key findings of the work, however, reveal themes
that can be characterised as international in nature. As cultural integration issues are not limited
Cultural Integration in sub-Sahara Africa |
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BAM Conference Full Paper 31st August 3rd September 2021
to only private sector organisations but also impacts other sectors organisations (public and
third sectors included) and countries; the authors believe that this work can be generalisable
within context. We also note most sub-Saharan African countries share similar cultural
backgrounds, a dearth of world-class educational opportunities, and economic aspirations that
require employing practitioners with bicultural characteristics. Hence, issues raised in this
paper within context can become generalisable to other sectors within the research setting and
countries within sub-Saharan Africa.
Finally, we believe the output of this work provides an opportunity for all business leaders in
the Nigerian organisations and their counterparts in sub-Saharan African countries and beyond
to reflect on the effect of cultural integration to the potentials of service productivity and
survival prospect in their various organisations and sectors. With the recent lesson learnt from
the ‘internationalisation of Covid 19’, a pandemic with no borders, this study represents a
clarion call to both practitioners and policymakers in sub Saharan African countries and beyond
to do more to facilitate greater education around cultural integration which currently seem not
to be prioritised. We, therefore, call for more studies in this area, particularly how best to
manage this identified ‘conflicted organisational culture mental map syndrome’ endemic in the
Nigerian financial organisations and other sub-Saharan African countries with characteristics
similar to those of the study research setting.
Cultural Integration in sub-Sahara Africa |
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