Hofestede’s Cultural Dimensions

If you’ve ever worked with colleagues based in a different continent, or even just a neighboring country then you will have likely encountered cultural differences. Even if you haven’t encountered cultural differences yet, it is increasingly likely that you will have to at some point as business becomes ever more international in nature. Did you know that a model already exists to help us understand cultural differences?

It’s called Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, and using it can help us get off to a good start with new colleagues, new clients, or new projects and programs. Rather than being a strict set of rules the model is more of a aid to help you think about how to interact and approach different cultures.

Dimensions of Culture

There are five dimensions to the model:

1. Power Distance Index (PDI)

This dimension measures the distribution of wealth and power within a culture. What this dimension is aiming to show is the extent to which people within a culture submit to authority. The higher the PDI the more hierarchical the culture, and the lower the figure the more likely people at all levels are to work together.

2. Individualism and Collectivism (IDV)

This dimension concerns the relationship been a typical individual and larger social groups. The higher this score the more a culture encourages individuality and uniqueness. The lower this score the more a culture encourages conformity and interdependence.

Individualistic cultures are more likely to have people feeling responsible for taking care of themselves, people are responsible for their own identity and achievement, hiring is based on merit, and people believe everyone has a right to a private life.

Collective cultures are more likely to value loyalty to the group, including extended family and company. People value the achievement of the team because they value belonging, and because of this a persons “personal life” is often invaded by the demands of the group or organization.

3. Masculinity and Femininity (MAS)

In this dimension masculinity (a higher score) is seen as placing value on the acquisition of wealth, personal ambition, and discrete gender roles. Femininity is seen as valuing sexual equality, caring behaviors, and less strict gender roles.

Another way of viewing this is that in masculine societies men are supposed to be tough, assertive, and breed winners, whereas women are supposed to be more tender and concerned with quality of life. Conversely, in feminine societies roles intersect and overlap. Both sexes are expected to be tender and concerned with quality of life.

4. Uncertainty Avoidance Factor (UAI)

This dimension measures how a culture copes and handles uncertainty, that is, how the culture handles ambiguity. The higher the score less well the culture is at handling ambiguity.

5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO)

Hofstede’s original work contained just 4 dimensions. However, a later study noted that these 4 dimensions didn’t fully reflect the Asian perspective. As a result of this, the fifth dimension, long-term orientation was added.

This dimension measures how much value a culture places on long-term rewards. A low score signals short-term orientation and measures how much value is placed on past and present.

Traits of long-term orientation include valuing persistence, thrift, and also that leisure time isn’t that important. Conversely, short-term orientation includes valuing immediate gratification and results, spend now, and that leisure time is important.

Cultural Dimensions Example

As an example, let’s compare the cultural differences between China and the US. Each country’s score for each of the five factors is shown in the table below. Note that the range for each score is 0 to 120.

Country Power Distance Index Individualism Masculinity Uncertainty Avoidance Long-Term Orientation

China 80 20 66 40 118
USA 40 91 62 46 29

 

The interesting values to note in this example are those that differ significantly, namely PDI, IDV, and LTO.

Compared to the US, we can see that in China it is less likely that people at all levels are working together and that the workplace is more likely to be hierarchical. We can see that in china the achievement of the team and belonging matter much more than they do in the US. We can also see that Chinese culture is much more long-term orientated than that of the US.

If your a program manager or any other type of leader, then understanding these values can give you insight as to how you should interact with your team or colleagues. For example, incentivizing your team with short term rewards is less valued in China so how about appealing to people’s sense of belonging and arranging activities to strengthen the team instead? Or even making team performance more important than personal performance when determining how bonuses will be calculated?

Summary

The five dimensions of culture help us understand the makup and preferences of different cultures. By understanding how these indicators differ from those of our own cluture we can obtain valuable clues to ensure we get off to a good start when working with new and diverse team members, new clients, and new projects and programs.

To get the most out of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions you need to experiment, engage with your team, and see what works best for you.

I’ve included a list of all the different indicator values below (taken from Clearly Cultural, here).

Country Power Distance Index Individualism Masculinity Uncertainty Avoidance Long-Term Orientation

Malaysia 104 26 50 36
Guatemala 95 6 37 101
Panama 95 11 44 86
Philippines 94 32 64 44 19
Mexico 81 30 69 82
Venezuela 81 12 73 76
China 80 20 66 40 118
Egypt 80 38 52 68
Iraq 80 38 52 68
Kuwait 80 38 52 68
Lebanon 80 38 52 68
Libya 80 38 52 68
Saudi Arabia 80 38 52 68
United Arab Emirates 80 38 52 68
Ecuador 78 8 63 67
Indonesia 78 14 46 48
Ghana 77 20 46 54 16
India 77 48 56 40 61
Nigeria 77 20 46 54 16
Sierra Leone 77 20 46 54 16
Singapore 74 20 48 8 48
Brazil 69 38 49 76 65
France 68 71 43 86
Hong Kong 68 25 57 29 96
Poland 68 60 64 93
Colombia 67 13 64 80
El Salvador 66 19 40 94
Turkey 66 37 45 85
Belgium 65 75 54 94
Ethiopia 64 27 41 52 25
Kenya 64 27 41 52 25
Peru 64 16 42 87
Tanzania 64 27 41 52 25
Thailand 64 20 34 64 56
Zambia 64 27 41 52 25
Chile 63 23 28 86
Portugal 63 27 31 104
Uruguay 61 36 38 100
Greece 60 35 57 112
South Korea 60 18 39 85 75
Iran 58 41 43 59
Taiwan 58 17 45 69 87
Czech Republic 57 58 57 74
Spain 57 51 42 86
Pakistan 55 14 50 70
Japan 54 46 95 92 80
Italy 50 76 70 75
Argentina 49 46 56 86
South Africa 49 65 63 49
Hungary 46 55 88 82
Jamaica 45 39 68 13
United States 40 91 62 46 29
Netherlands 38 80 14 53 44
Australia 36 90 61 51 31
Costa Rica 35 15 21 86
Germany 35 67 66 65 31
United Kingdom 35 89 66 35 25
Switzerland 34 68 70 58
Finland 33 63 26 59
Norway 31 69 8 50 20
Sweden 31 71 5 29 33
Ireland 28 70 68 35
New Zealand 22 79 58 49 30
Denmark 18 74 16 23
Israel 13 54 47 81
Austria 11 55 79 70