Culture is a broad collection of beliefs and traditions that affect behavior, often without conscious awareness. While human resource managers are tasked with the challenge of following the law and implementing good policies no matter where the business is located, local culture -- as well as the culture of a business -- can create specific challenges for an HR department. This may affect certain HR policies or necessitate the development of policies that help a business avoid recurrent problems.

Hiring Decisions

The culture of the area in which your business is located can greatly affect the pool of potential employees. For example, if you start a business in a technology-rich location with lots of recent engineering graduates, you'll have better luck finding employees if you're involved in technology. HR may have to adjust hiring policies -- either by lowering or raising standards -- to accommodate for local culture. Recruiting also can be affected; in some areas, aggressive recruiting may be viewed as favorable, but it may be considered as a negative in others.

Employee Relationships

Culture can strongly affect interpersonal styles. In some areas of the world, it's considered rude to touch someone during conversation or to speak in an expressive or affectionate way; in other areas, this behavior is expected and welcomed. Similarly, a business' culture can affect interactions. Some businesses maintain a casual, fun-loving environment, while others are highly formal. HR departments may need to make policy adjustments depending upon the standards at the business. Local culture also can pose potential problems for employee relationships. For example, in a culture where frequent touching is the norm, sexual harassment can be a concern, and HR may need to institute training sessions on appropriate physical contact.


Discrimination against minorities, such as the disabled, women and people of color, can pose major problems to businesses. These hurdles can include lawsuits, rapid turnover and a hostile or uncomfortable work environment. Businesses with a male-dominated culture or with little experience with minority groups may need additional HR policies to prevent discrimination. If the business is located in a country with a history of discrimination or that treats discrimination as a cultural norm, HR may need to conduct extensive anti-discrimination training.


Businesses often establish their own cultural approach to communication, and local cultures also can affect communication styles. When communication is unclear or employees are afraid to report problems, problems may escalate quickly out of control. HR departments may need to establish clear channels of communication as well as policies that encourage employees to communicate with management and HR.